The Vibe in the House

On Sunday afternoon, we turned the theatre over to our studio singers, fellows and interns.  75 minutes of scenes from 7 operas in 4 languages were sung, played, supertitled, and stage-managed by folks whose average age couldn’t have topped 23.  The rest of us cheered, enjoyed, and did the best we could at house management.  Even a 3:10pm severe thunderstorm that wreaked havoc with the light board and supertitle projectors didn’t faze these folks.

It’s the first time we held this event (which itself is a mere 3 years old) at The Barns, our small-but-mighty mainstage.   It was an experiment that paid great dividends, and we will be seeking to replicate it and improve on it in future seasons.  I came away with lots of food for thought, some of which I didn’t bargain on.

I’ve been puzzling out the dramatically different vibe that was present in the house that afternoon. On one hand, it shouldn’t have been a surprise.  The audience comprised mostly friends/family of the performers and a wide range of Wolf Trap donors.  They were predisposed to wish us well.  Admission was free, which also doesn’t hurt the frame of mind.  I knew all of this, but the overwhelmingly relaxed, open, dare-I-say-happy groove that pervaded the afternoon was somehow shocking.

There are folks who do enjoy their time at the opera, no doubt, but at a typical show in a typical house, we don’t usually hear from them.  We are more aware of their discontent fellow patrons, with an inner monologue of…. this-better-be-worth-the-money… I-went-through-rush-hour-hell-to-get-here… I-don’t-like-my-seats… I-hate-this-director/conductor/singer.  You get the idea, and I’m sure you can fill in some of your own.

So why, for a program of scenes with no orchestra, no sets and no costumes, were people seemingly more willing to relax and try to have a good time?  Is it all about the free ticket? Is it about low expectations being exceeded?  Is it bundled up with a personal connection to the artists and/or the organization?  Is it that the ticketed performance is a business transaction with a complicated return-on-investment mindset?

I’ll never know, but it is my mission to bottle some of it and figure out how to embed it in every show we do.



I wasn’t at this particular performance, but Opera Vivente in Baltimore recently staged similar performances with its new Opera Vivente Academy. Maybe the presence of parents and relatives of the young singers helps to explain why the audience is so pleased with the proceedings. Maybe many of us (even if we don’t know the singers) are assured and excited by the sight and sound of so many young singers willing to set out on this challenging career path and guarantee the future of the art.

Winding Down « Christopher Remmel

[…] Winding Down The scenes program came and went! Despite the stormy weather wreaking havoc on the lighting from time to time, it was an enormous success. You can read Kim Whitman’s take on the evening here. […]

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