UrbanArias is a six-year-old 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 of 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.
In September 2012, we began offering a spring and fall production instead of a festival, as well as numerous one-off performances at various DC-area venues. We gave the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ searing drama Paul’s Case, directed by Kevin Newbury, in April 2013, and were invited to bring our production to New York, where we presented it with the original cast in January 2014 at HERE performing arts center in Manhattan.
2014 saw the very successful productions of Jake Heggie’s chamber opera Three Decembers and Mark Campbell’s comic double bill Bastianello and Lucrezia, with music by John Musto and William Bolcom. During 2015 we were able to present TWO commissioned World Premieres: The Whole Truth by Robert Paterson and Mark Campbell, and Blue Viola by Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi.
UrbanArias performs principally in the black box theaters at the Atlas Performing Arts Center and Signature Theatre; some projects have taken us to other spaces such as Arena Stage, IOTA Club and Cafe, Strathmore Mansion, Busboys and Poets, and previously, Arlington’s Artisphere.
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 Emily Pulley, Michael Mayes, Keith Phares and Elizabeth Futral, and local favorites like Amedee Royer, Andrew McLaughlin and Melissa Wimbish, 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. Paul’s Case will also have a life beyond Arlington and New York. We are also increasingly recognized as a valuable and important contributor to the American operatic scene: Opera America President Marc Scorca mentioned us in a town hall about San Diego Opera in April, 2014 (start watching at 21:00 to catch Marc’s evaluation of opera in America today, and his shout-out to UrbanArias . . . “These companies are defining a 21st-century American opera that is not just opera on a grand scale, but opera on an INVENTIVE scale.”)
We feel that the combination of UrbanArias’ fresh, cutting-edge approach to opera and the dynamic spaces of the Atlas Performing Arts Center and Signature Theatre will help draw world-class performing artists and composers to Arlington and H Street. UrbanArias hopes to make a lasting contribution to the area’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, the Theodore H. Barth Foundation; the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Niles Foundation, and the Billy Rose Foundation.
UrbanArias is a Professional Member of Opera America.