UrbanArias is a new opera company dedicated to producing short, contemporary operas. Our mission is to expose DC-area audiences to engaging, accessible, entertaining operas, and to provide a venue at which both established and emerging composers can present their shorter works. By “short,” we mean 90 minutes or less; and by “contemporary,” we mean written within the last forty years.
UrbanArias has been producing short opera since 2010. Our debut performance was at the Kennedy Center, on a concert of American music sponsored by Vocal Arts DC. In April 2011, UrbanArias produced its first festival of contemporary opera at the newly-renovated Artisphere in Arlington to excellent reviews and enthusiastic audiences. UrbanArias presented a second festival in April 2012, which was equally well-received. Each festival included three short operas; we also give performances of mini-operas (operas 5 to 25 minutes in length) and “Opera Improv,” in which very skilled and talented singers create operas to the audience’s specifications on the spot. UrbanArias cultivates regular collaborations with both prominent and emerging composers, and our productions feature both well-known and emerging artists. We were very excited to begin commissioning works in our April 2012 season, with our production or Michael Korie and Conrad Cummings’ Positions 1956, a moving and entertaining opera inspired by instructional materials from the 1950′s – sex manuals, fitness magazines, and ballroom dancing manuals. We hope to unveil one brand-new short opera each year, and we’re pleased to be on track for the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ searing drama Paul’s Case, directed by Kevin Newbury, in April 2013.
UrbanArias performs principally in the black box theater at Artisphere; some projects have taken us to other spaces, such as the larger ballroom, which is adjacent to the black box. We are also very excited to be making our debut at IOTA Club and Cafe in summer 2012.
Our performances are structured so as to appeal to both avid opera fans and first time opera-goers:
- We perform works by composers whose music is accessible to a broad range of audience members;
- We feature prominent artists like Elizabeth Futral, and local favorites like Colleen Daly, as well as a whole host of other fantastic singers, directors and designers from across the country;
- We perform in other Arlington and DC venues to enhance our presence in the community;
- Because we produce recent operas in English, we reinforce opera’s relevance as a theatrical and musical art form to our current lives.
As opera companies across the country look for ways to attract new patrons and fill theaters, we offer a lean, contemporary, audience-aware approach. In its short life-span, UrbanArias has already served as an incubator for new works: Fort Worth Opera decided to program April 2011′s hit Glory Denied after seeing it at UrbanArias. We are also beginning to produce and commission operas in conjunction with other prominent national companies, thereby building a body of short contemporary repertoire that will fill a growing niche in the American operatic scene.
We feel that the combination of UrbanArias’ fresh, cutting-edge approach to opera and the dynamic new Artisphere will help draw world-class performing artists and composers to Arlington. UrbanArias hopes to make a lasting contribution to Arlington’s continued artistic growth and cultural diversity, as well as focusing national attention on our sophisticated, urban community.
This program is supported in part by: the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts (www.arlingtonarts.org); the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Billy Rose Foundation.