Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Get to know our new Executive Director, Anne-Carolyn Bird!

Where are you from? 

This is always a tricky question for me: I’m an Air Force Brat! Oddly enough, that itinerant childhood prepared me for the life of a professional opera singer in many ways: I can be instantly at home anywhere and with anyone, I love travel but am also a homebody, and I learned German at an early age. I have lived in Utah, Washington, New York, Georgia, Illinois, and Maine – to name a few!

What was the first opera you saw or experienced?

My first experience with opera was probably the recording of Amahl and the Night Visitors that my father played around Christmas time. We were more of a folk music family than classical, but quotes from Amahl were always part of our daily life. First opera I saw live: something dark and gloomy at the Atlanta Opera circa 1993; clearly I wasn’t ready to discover opera. First opera the made me fall in love with opera: the Zeffirelli film of La traviata with Teresa Stratas and Placido Domingo.

How did you know you loved performing/opera/classical music?

When I was 10, I played the Maud, the no-nonsense cleaning lady, in a performance of The Capricious Pearls with the Loring Air Force Base Children’s Theater. At one point, something I said made the audience laugh – and I was hooked! After being part of the theater and music crowd in high school, I truly discovered opera in college when I realized that opera combines all the arts that I love – music, dance, theater, visual art, storytelling. It’s an incredible art form, truly boundless in its scope and reach.

What were your favorite roles / performing experiences?

Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro is hands-down my favorite role (See next question!). As for experiences: sharing the stage of the Metropolitan Opera with Anna Netrebko in Manon and L’elisir d’amore and with Bryn Terfel for his final Figaro; premiering John Musto’s Inspector at Wolf Trap; and working with director RB Schlather on David Lang’s Little Match Girl

Passion.  Meeting David Bowie after a performance of Golijov’s La pasion segun san Marcos was also a highlight! For the past several years, I have enjoyed learning the role of supporting and creating opera from the other side of the stage. I look forward to building on everything I’ve learned and experienced in my career to help UrbanArias grow into its next decade – and beyond.

Tell us about your family!

I met my husband, Matt Burns, when we were singing Figaro and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at Grand Rapids Opera in 2007 – and we were married within the year! In non-pandemic times, he is on the road performing about 60% of the year. In addition to his operatic talents, Matt discovered a passion and penchant for the finer points of the wine business several years ago, and when not performing he works at Total Wine and is the founder of Magnum Opus Tasting Concerts. We have two precocious children: Henry, age 10, and Gloria, age 5. Henry loves dinosaurs, dragons, music, magic, and being silly with his dad. Gloria (aka GG) loves sparkles and frills and unicorns, getting dirty, being in kindergarten, and snuggling with her mom.

What song do you have on repeat right now?

It is an eclectic mix at our house! We love piano-based songwriters, so lots of Billy Joel, Ben Folds, Regina Spektor; also early 00’s pop like The Shins, New Pornographers, Feist, Sufjan Stevens. Of course, the Beatles! The soundtracks to a dozen animated films, and my guilty secret: Harry Styles.

Sharin Apostolou and Ryan MacPherson: On lip-synching, trust and a full life.

It’s a special time for soprano Sharin Apostolou and her husband, rockstar development director and tenor Ryan MacPherson, and UrbanArias is thrilled to get to be part of their joy.  They chatted with us about making art and having a life in the pandemic. 


Your special circumstances make you ideal for this project.  How did we get so lucky?

Sharin: John De Los Santos and I were chatting months ago and he brought it to me. He and Bob Wood are two of my absolute favorite collaborators so I jumped at the idea (after I warned him that I might look quite different when we’d be filming.) Also, getting to perform with my husband is always such a treat!

How has the pandemic been for you guys?

Ryan: As I’m somewhat “retired” as a performer, and now working in Arts administration as the Director of Development for the Charlottesville Symphony, it was a welcome return to singing and performing. It was also wonderful to work with a lovely small group – one that included many friends that I have known over the years.

Sharin: I won’t sugar coat it- it’s been HARD. Many of us are afraid. Months of work and income vanished overnight and it keeps coming in waves. And that’s only the practical part. We prep for months for our engagements and we want to create something amazing for the audience. That’s all gone, too. Everything has been so uncertain. It still is, really. It’s exciting to be a part of projects like this that are thinking outside the box! 

You play a married couple, expecting their first child.  Obviously, you relate!

Ryan: While based within a pandemic, I felt a wonderful connected honesty with regard to the relationships. Many of the struggles and comforts found with Ricky and Kat are reflected in my everyday life within our marriage. 

We all are experiencing this frustration of being locked in one environment that is limiting, but never changes – like the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. It just takes one person to help you change your perspective and make it all ok.

Sharin: Kat and her partner Ricky have both lost their jobs and are staying at her parent’s house. She and her mother happen to also be on opposite sides of the political ideological spectrum. It’s also the dead of summer and the A/C is broken. And she’s pregnant. She’s very frustrated with her set of circumstances, to say the least. How do I relate? While my husband has stayed employed (thank goodness!) and we stayed in our own apartment, I tick the rest of the boxes- preggers and all! I think many of us are going through this pandemic with loved ones who feel or think differently about it. I’m sure there will be many moments that you can relate to. 

Was this your first opera-on-film? What was it like to make The Roost

Ryan: I’ve recorded quite a few albums, and have been in a couple of movies – but the way that we put this together was completely different. We recorded the music in our own home, without rehearsal, and in a very short amount of time. There is an incredible amount of trust that allows all of us to do this. They trust we will learn it and do our best, and we blindly give tracks that are dry, without music in the background, and completely out of context to the action that we would be shooting later. As we submit those tracks, we put our trust in the music staff and audio personnel to make us sound great!

And lip-syncing to your own voice and cadence is another completely bizarre challenge. At the end of the few days that we had to shoot, we were utterly exhausted. It felt like we exercised a muscle that had never been used. 

Sharin: I mean, I’ve done recorded auditions and self tapes but this was TOTALLY different and unlike anything I’ve ever done. It was incredibly eye-opening and MUCH harder than I was expecting. I’ve been performing on stage professionally for over 15 years and I felt like such a neophyte. I feel SO fortunate that I knew and loved everyone involved in this project because they all received at least one text or email that started with “this may be a stupid question but…” There was a steep learning curve, to say the least! 

It’s pretty unusual to have so many companies working together on one project. Your careers are so wide-ranging – have you worked with any of the other Decameron artists in other settings?

Ryan: I met Bob Wood at the Santa Fe Opera when I was a young artist in 2003. Bob was our chorus master for some incredibly difficult pieces – I was so impressed with his professionalism and musicality. His vision and talent have not only grown but provide a true gift to the DC community through Urban Arias.

I’ve known Emily Pulley for about 17 years, and have had the pleasure to share the stage with her about as many times. From Opera Omaha to Central City Opera, to Virginia Opera – working with her is like coming home to a cherished family.

Sharin and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary Sharin Apostolou and Ryan MacPhersonthe day after we wrapped shooting. We met on the job eleven years ago and love every chance we have to sing together. To have the gift of a piece that reflects our time and celebrates the real-life joy of expecting our first child is a gift that we will always treasure.

Sharin: Yes! Emily Pulley, who plays my mom, and I have known each other since my first professional job. I was lucky enough to do Florida at Urban Arias with Bob a few years ago and this is my fourth project with John De Los Santos (Le Comte Ory at LoftOpera and South Pacific and Camelot at Charlottesville Opera.) And, Ryan and I have been together for 11 years and married for 7. I hadn’t worked with Marc Migó but I LOVE singing his music. 

As for other companies, yep! Michael Ching, who wrote Dinner 4 3 for Fargo Moorhead Opera, conducted me early in my career and we’ve stayed friends ever since. Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi and I met when I was still in grad school and I performed a piece of theirs and, thanks to social media, stayed friends through the years. As for the other singers, we’re a small community and like a family. For purely selfish reasons, I hope we get to do these in person just so I can see Jorell Williams, Briana Elyse Hunter, Kate Jackman, Josh Kohl, and Katie Henly.  It’s going to be one heck of a party! 


And a special word from Ryan:

I’m now a development director so I want to make sure that everyone out there knows that we can’t do this without their support. Great cities have great art and we have a duty to keep them going. Fill your life with music and support your local arts organization!

Thanks Ryan – we couldn’t agree more!


Get your tickets for The Roost here and join us on October 16 for the premiere!
Tales From A Safe Distance will be available on-demand until December 31.

John de los Santos and Marc Migó: On collaboration and finding artistic joy in lockdown

Director and libretist John de los Santos and composer Marc Migó collaborated to create The Roost.  John’s steady vision and Marc’s gorgeous music really gives buoyancy to the inner worlds of the characters while clearly propelling a taut and sexy storyline. The two discuss collaboration, working with old friends and staying inspired in quarantine.



How did you two come to write The Roost?  What spoke to you about the project?

John De los Santos, Director

John: Bob Wood first contacted me about writing a piece for the Decameron Opera Coalition in May. He had produced another piece of mine called Service Provider in 2017, and wanted to see if I could write and direct another operatic comedy about the difficulties of modern quarantining. I had worked with composer Marc Migó at Juilliard the previous year, and thought he would be an excellent partner in this new collaboration. I’m happy to say that despite the difficult times we are in, working on The Roost has been a career highlight that I will never forget. 

Marc: My good friend and librettist John de los Santos suggestedComposer Marc Migó the idea to me, and I found it really appealing! Not only did it present a rare opportunity of working on a commission during the pandemic, but the subject of the Decameron that John chose was irresistible. I don’t know what I would do if I could not create, especially in the context we are living in. Working on The Roost allowed me to channel a much-needed optimism, a message of enduring love and understanding. Writing this work and collaborating with the librettist, conductor, singers, etc., was truly a therapeutic and unforgettable experience.

We love that sense of optimism, especially since the performing arts are taking such a beating. What’s it been like being an artist during a pandemic?

Marc: Technically speaking, quite the same; being a composer is quite a reclusive occupation per se. However, emotionally it has been very different, for obvious reasons.

John: It’s been disappointing in many areas, but has also presented challenges that have resulted in tremendous artistic growth. While many jobs have been lost or postponed, there have been several new connections made with other artists who are all dealing with the same uncertain situation. All of this unforeseen networking will undoubtedly yield a number of unique pieces to premiere once it’s safe to perform live again.

Describe your work on The Roost (without giving away too much!). What do you want the audience to gain from your choices or perspective?

John: When I began to write the libretto for The Roost, I set three goals. First, I had to find a story within the one hundred contained in the Decameron that would translate to a modern audience in a digital format. Next, I needed to create comic potential in not just the narrative, but equally in the capacity for the music. And finally, I wanted to touch on the interesting relationships COVID has forged within our politically divided country. Whichever side we are on, we must ultimately rely on and work with each other to beat this pandemic and rebuild.

Marc: In this very unusual and troubling time, I wanted to provide the chance for the audience to laugh, to feel accompanied by some very relatable characters, and to experience the terribly missed “being outside” feeling. I think of The Roost as a nurturing experience, a chance to cleanse our distress through the beauty of music, along with the wit and warmth of the story.

We’re grateful the two of you had worked together previously!   Do you know any artists in either The Roost or the other nine Decameron Opera Coalition companies? 

Marc: I know very well John de los Santos, the wonderful librettist for the Roost! I have been very lucky to get to know him during my first year of Doctorate at Juilliard. I feel we immediately connected, and I hope this will be the first of a series of fertile collaborations!

John: I had directed Sharin Apostolou in three productions prior to The Roost, and was friends with her husband, Ryan MacPherson. The most interesting thing was staging intimate scenes for a husband and wife team, while we were all masked and trying to remain as distanced as possible. I’ve also directed Katie Henley (The Sky Where You Are, An Opera Theatre) and Briana Elyse Hunter (The Late Walk, Bare Opera), and worked with conductor Eiki Isomura (Seven Spells, Opera in the Heights.)

Was this your first opera-as-film project? What was it like?

Marc: It definitely was! However, the only way it has been different from other operatic projects I have undertaken is in having to work with a very visual libretto, which in the end is quite a subtle difference. I believe the score must incorporate all essential stage directions, so that music and image really go hand by hand. 

John: This was the first time I had written and directed an opera for film. The turnaround for the entire project was very quick, so we all had to learn as we went and trust that our expertise in performing and producing opera would carry the process. Our amazing team of sound engineer Gordon Nimmo-Smith and film editor Tom Rubeck was essential in navigating the learning curve. The trickiest parts were synching the recording with the singers’ lips and filming outdoors in the cold without shivering on camera. The best parts were laughing with the cast and crew at all the bloopers and getting to film for a week in beautiful Charlottesville. 


Get your tickets for The Roost here and join us on October 16 for the premiere!
Tales From A Safe Distance will be available on-demand until December 31.

Emily Pulley: On opera drones and the Jaclyn in all of us.

We love having soprano Emily Pulley at UrbanArias. She’s a great actress who sings her face off, and she’s a seriously funny lady. She also speaks with eloquence about the art form – watch the video below! Emily brings depth and nuance to every role she sings, whether it’s deranged Alice in Part 2 of Daniel Felsenfeld’s She, After or a frustrated daughter in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers.                                                          


How did you become involved in The Roost? What spoke to you about the project?

I received an email from Bob Wood this summer and was delighted to have the opportunity to work with him again. I thought the idea of connecting our present situation to a 14th-century work written during the time of a plague was intriguing, and I loved the idea of collaborating with so many different companies to create streaming content.

What’s it been like being an artist during a pandemic?

You play Jaclyn, Kat’s mother, in The Roost. Tell us about her.

As I told our fearless director, everyone knows at least one “Jaclyn!” We can all relate to her frustration with the restrictions we’re facing during these times, but she is so wrapped up in her own feelings that she can’t find it in herself to think about what may be best for others as well. My goal was to make her sympathetic by revealing her vulnerability and fear – not to justify her behavior, but perhaps to shed some light on her motives and show that she has the potential to change if she can find inspiration and purpose outside her own version of reality.

Was this your first opera-as-film project?

This was my fourth tech-based opera project, but it had the most complicated degree of production, with multiple locations, day and evening shoots, drones(!), etc. We’re all gaining expertise and seeing new possibilities, and, as much as I’m longing to get back on to a stage with an in-person audience, it’s interesting to be a part of that experiment.

I hear Bob and I aren’t your only UrbanArias friends…

I was thrilled to hear that Sharin (Apostolou) and Ryan (MacPherson) were going to be my daughter and son-in-law in this project! I had worked with them both individually (Sharin was at Central City with me back in 2006, and Ryan was Remendado to my Micaela in Opera Omaha’s Carmen in 2003 and Alfredo to my Rosalinda in Virginia Opera’s Die Fledermaus in 2012). This was my first time to collaborate with them as a couple, and it was beautiful to watch them respond to each other, both on and off camera.

Get your tickets for The Roost here and join us on October 16 for the premiere!
Tales From A Safe Distance will be available on-demand until December 31.

“Tales from a Safe Distance” unites indie opera companies in a first-of-its-kind digital production.

From UrbanArias Executive and Artistic Director Robert Wood:

Last May, Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi approached me with a crazy idea – put together a coalition of opera companies to create a multi-part online opera, with each part based on a story from Boccaccio’s “Decameron.”

Each company would commission a new opera that would be a “chapter” of the larger piece, and Peter and Matt would write a framework that tied the whole thing together with one character from each short opera – like Boccaccio’s group of friends quarantining together outside Florence. Of course, I trust Peter and Matt, and we were dying to commission again at UrbanArias. This felt like a really manageable way to put together something high-quality and inventive that was also original and current.

Since 90-minute live opera was out, I thought, 13-minute online opera can be in. So I called up John de los Santos, whose short opera Service Provider our audiences had enjoyed so much back in 2017, and he was eager to write the libretto and direct. Then he recommended the wonderful young composer Marc Migó Cortes, who was just finishing his studies at Juilliard. Marc’s music was great, and his score for our new opera, The Roost, is fantastic – really well-crafted and beautiful.

I’m so grateful to all of my colleagues at other “indie” opera companies across the country for coming together to form the Decameron Opera Coalition – I think we’ve put together a really interesting array of modern storytelling through song. And now we’re filmmakers, which is also a lot of fun, if an entirely different skill set from the ones we already had.

Learn more about The Decameron Opera Coalition, “The Roost,” and “Tales from a Safe Distance”

Keeping Opera Current

There’s no shortage of conventional wisdom that the arts generally, and opera specifically, must be “relevant” in order to survive. UrbanArias is a testament to this – on a basic level, we strive to appeal to new audiences by removing barriers of length and language which might impede people from embracing the art form. But we also intentionally program many works which deal with issues of today or the recent past, and which are set in our own recognizable, contemporary American world.

Our whole 2017-18 season deals with modern subjects – from a strange neurological disease in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, to cross-fostering experiments between species in Lucy, to our very current struggles with race relations in this country in Independence Eve. In each of these pieces, though, my primary attraction was to the storytelling and the score. I feel very strongly that opera is nothing without a good story. Conceptual pieces can be really cool from time to time, but I want something I can sink my teeth into, something that will move me. Independence Eve‘s invention of three “everyman” Black/White duos presents us three compelling tales of racial tension and injustice. It’s not a pandering “issue opera”, although it deals with a timely and sadly timeless issue; like good verismo, it takes three “slices of life” and shows us three interactions between a Caucasian tenor and an African-American baritone which illustrate the difficulties we’ve had as Americans recovering from the less savory parts of our history and finding common ground.

It would be easy, for instance, to write a generic indictment of white reactionary behavior during the civil rights era, but Daniel Neer’s libretto instead tells us a story – a story about a black boy, Louis, who sneaked into a store in the segregated South to catch an up-close glimpse of a baseball player he admired. He also eyed a large barrel of candy. He didn’t take anything, but the white shopkeeper sure thought he was up to no good – and threw him out so violently onto nearby railroad tracks that he landed on his head and never regained hearing in one ear.

That’s the story a grownup Louis tells us, and it’s immediately gripping. Why do people treat each other so badly? And why does skin color play such a huge role in that poor treatment? And why does the white man he tells it to automatically assume that Louis’ true intention was to steal the candy?

Another scene in the opera tells a story with even more direct relevance to our time: the story of an African-American stockbroker strip-searched in the lobby of his own condo building by police who thought he looked suspicious because he was wearing sweats. That scene, originally titled “Stop and Frisk”, is plenty current. But it’s not that currency alone that drew me to it – it’s the way the characters are drawn, the sympathy with which both the lawyer and his clueless white friend are portrayed.

Great art should make us have conversations, and there is a lot to unpack in Independence Eve. But it’s the human quality of the narrative, not just the issue, that fosters those conversations. And it’s the music, not just the situation, which moves us. Composer Sidney Boquiren is also telling us a story with the score – he augments the feelings engendered by the text in each scene. He heightens the emotional impact of the boy being thrown out of the store with the eloquent beauty of his musical phrasing, and the tender turn of melody; similarly, he magnifies our tension when the African-American stockbroker tells us what the cops did to him, through the use of driving rhythm and spiky harmony.

All of this is to say that relevance is important to convince more people that opera is meaningful to them – but that relevance has to come through good, well-crafted work. I was beguiled and moved, saddened and uplifted by this opera when I first encountered it in workshop, and I hope you will be too.

– Bob Wood

Origins – some notes about LUCY

When composer Tom Cipullo recommended I take a look at a new piece called Lucy by John Glover and Kelley Rourke, I was immediately interested – Tom is one of my favorite composers, and a suggestion from him is worth paying attention to. So I asked for a perusal score and a recording, and learned that Lucy was about . . . a chimpanzee.

“Tom!” I thought to myself. “Come on. Animals onstage? Did you send me this because I cut Josephine Baker’s cheetah from Josephine? Is this a little dig? I thought you were over that.”

But I did take a look and a listen, and it wasn’t long before I decided to produce the opera. Lucy is based on a real story, as you’ve read elsewhere on this website – the real story of Maurice Temerlin, and the cross-fostering program at the University of Oklahoma. Temerlin and his wife, Jane, adopted a chimpanzee at birth, and raised her in their home, with their biological son, Steve. This story was the subject of a great piece on RadioLab, which you can listen to here: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91705-lucy/.

It’s an amazing story – and a very sad one. I’m probably not alone in thinking that adopting a chimp to study the primate mind sounded like a fascinating idea, without thinking through what it might mean to try and introduce a member of another species into a way of life that was so different from her natural one. As humans, we’re intrigued by our similarities to apes, but our differences are indeed enormous.

That’s the story the opera tells: the incredible but harrowing journey undertaken by Temerlin, and the unintentional (but wholly foreseeable) havoc it wrought on Lucy. It’s a challenging story to tell onstage (much less without a chimpanzee . . . and no, there is not actual chimp in the opera), and that’s where John and Kelley’s brilliance comes in.

The libretto opens vistas of thought to the audience, and implicitly asks a wide range of moral, ethical, and practical questions, but still remains remarkably succinct. Kelley’s words portray the experiment vividly, but it’s always clear that we’re only seeing it from one side: his. We can try to imagine what Lucy herself thought about it all, particularly when she was transferred to a park in Africa after the situation in the Temerlin’s home became untenable. And yet, to the very end, she saw us – humans – as her people, and whenever one came to visit her, she would react with great joy. Kelley breaks down this complicated tale by taking discrete events more or less sequentially – how quickly Lucy learned to walk, her potty training, her large signing vocabulary, her proficiency with tools, her growing inability to contain her emotions – and crafts a series of numbers which unfold not unlike a song cycle, showing us her development over the years.

When I first started exploring the opera, I was (of course!) relieved that the chimp is not physically in the show, but I wondered if I would miss her presence. Composer John Glover has included her, though, in an inventive way: she is represented in part by a toy piano in the small orchestra. The toy piano has a sound somewhere between a glockenspiel and wind chimes, and evokes a sweet and childlike quality which turns out to be wonderfully appropriate for Lucy. Just as a child can swing quickly between rage and calm, frustration and delight, so too the toy piano part is written to be by turns simple and dissonant, reflecting Lucy’s mood.

The opera is in three parts. Each begins with an an unaccompanied solo for baritone, and then the orchestra joins in. The overall sound of the piece traces an arc from pleasing harmony in Lucy’s early years, veering towards dissonance as she grows up and the interactions between her and the Temerlins become increasingly strained, back to an aching beauty as Temerlin remembers the good moments while contemplating her ultimate fate. I like how John doesn’t shy away from portraying ugliness and violence in the score when the story calls for it, but I also appreciate (as I’m sure you will in the audience) how lovely much of the writing is, and how approachable.

Our origins – the subject is perhaps one of the deepest we can contemplate. This story and this opera give us glimpses of where we came from, and how tantalizingly narrow the gulf between us and other primates seems – and yet how broad it truly is. Lucy gives us insight about what it means to be human – which art, literature, and music can do so well. I am grateful to the authors for bringing this story to life, and writing it for the operatic stage.

– Bob Wood

Meaty Roles Make Happy Singers

We’re now in our second week of rehearsals for AFTER LIFE/JOSEPHINE at UrbanArias, and I am again struck by what a pleasure it is to work on another opera (or operas) by composer Tom Cipullo. In particular, our cast of excellent singers are really enjoying sinking their teeth into his work. Why is that, you might ask? It’s pretty simple.

Tom writes music that is both challenging AND gratifying to sing. Put another way – he knows how to write powerhouse moments for the voice. People talk a lot in new music about “whether composers understand how to write for the voice”; this usually has to do with how the composer constructs a part, where he or she places it within a singer’s range, and how well she or he understands what a given vowel is likely to sound like on a particular note. Does a composer make a singer stay uncomfortably high (or low) for pages at a time? Does the whole role feel like one long relentless climax? Or is there variety in the writing which allows the artist to keep massaging her sound, to recover from the more strenuous passages and reset for the next difficult one? Certainly, singers can rise to all kinds of crazy challenges, and they do – but a good opera composer knows how to pace things well so that a performer doesn’t feel like he’s hanging on by his fingernails all night.

Tom takes it one step further: he not only knows how to pace and structure a sung role, but he also knows how to let singers show off. And let’s be honest, what singer (or any performer, for that matter) doesn’t want to show off from time to time? One big reason, in my opinion, that the operas of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and others have stood the test of time is that they present singers with tough but surmountable challenges that are exciting for an audience to hear achieved. High notes are thrilling – but they’re even more thrilling when they’re sung with utmost confidence, perhaps held long enough to carom around the skull a few times, and then released effortlessly, sending their energy right into the audience’s hearts. Soft passages will draw an audience in, making them crane forward in their seats. Ensemble writing lets us hear not one, but several fantastic, unamplified voices at the same time – and in harmony.

It’s like anything else in theater or music – certain things just work. We know they work. The trick is to do them in a different or new way, but one that does not rob them of their original, visceral power. Tom does that in spades, which is why opera singers all over the country love him. And it’s also terribly fulfilling for the audience. When you hear AFTER LIFE/JOSEPHINE, you will know you came to an OPERA.

I seem to write when there’s bad weather.

Hi all,

As many of you will know, we had a bad storm in the DC area last weekend. Although we at the UrbanArias Corporate Offices kept power throughout, our internet inexplicably went down on Tuesday . . . right as I was about to write an eblast about our very exciting upcoming performances.

So now I’m at IOTA, the excellent cafe, bar and performance club where we’re doing our next show, typing away to get the website updated and the eblast going. Thank goodness their wireless is working!

Stephen Negrey, IOTA’s owner, is super friendly, and very accommodating – he’s happy to let IOTA be my office in this time of distress. Plus, it allows me to negotiate our deal face to face. I feel very comfortable that I just charmed the hell out of him, so I’m anticipating a good cut.

In all seriousness, we have a fantastic show planned for August 5th here at IOTA, called “Blind Dates.” You can read more about it on the site here. We’re giving four mini-operas written around the subject of dating, and they’re all very funny. One of them is text of actual Craigslist ads set to Mahlerian music. IOTA is traditionally a club which features bands, but they have a solid commitment to classical music as well, so we are a natural fit. Even better, it’s a five-minute walk from my house. It’s a great feeling to be part of Arlington arts institutions coming together.

I highly recommend their food, and their beer selection is also excellent. Please join us on August 5, and you will see how good it is. Plus, we’re doing “opera improv,” so when you’re properly sauced, you can suggest all kinds of inappropriate scenes for us to turn into operas.

Bob Wood

Susan’s (that’s Madame President to you) Favorite Things

As we head into our second season, I am astounded by the talent we have amassed. I am also astounded by the hard work, dedication and far-thinking approach of my colleague (and, full disclosure) dear friend Bob Wood. And as a musician, I am also still astounded that he patiently got me through my piano final at good old Northwestern, and that he didn’t laugh too hard at me in conducting class as I stood at the podium, trying desperately to keep the horns in check and cue the violins without falling off the little step. Conducting is no joke, people; wait till you see Bob in action – watching him work is one of my favorite things.

I have been told to STAY AWAY from backstage (and backstage is definitely one of my favorite things) this year and let the people who are good at this kind of thing actually do their jobs; no more “Undercover Boss.” My duties last year included crew wrangling, mistress of the keys, organizing large and cumbersome instrument cases in small shared spaces, errand girl, caterer, wig control, steaming and pressing, minor stitching and the dreaded but exciting quick changes – with a great team and gracious actors it all worked out, but it’s a good thing my blood pressure is actually a little low. (If you do Insanity for a workout then you have an idea of what my life was like last season.) I loved being in the thick of it and making it all happen and I will miss it, but it is high time I left the running of that part of UrbanArias to our production stage manager for the season, the lovely Jocelyn Henjum, and our technical director Brad Porter. Brad was with us last season and was instrumental in figuring out how to hang the precipitous yet stunningly beautiful projection screen; clearly he can handle anything, and we’re very lucky to have him back.

A few more of my favorite things for the upcoming season:

· Vale Rideout More full disclosure – Vale was my Raoul in Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg, Germany a million years ago – “Raoul! Es ist nicht mehr vie fruher Raoul!” Never mind what it actually means – just know it makes Christine sound like a barking dog in a corset. Glad to be working with you again, friend.

· A workshop of our commission Positions 1956 (it’s a commission – how cool is that? – Conrad Cummings and Michael Korie are working as I type). This one of the main reasons we founded the company and it is gratifying to see our first effort get off the ground. More on this in my next post….

· Caroline Worra is coming back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. If you had the good luck to see her in Glory Denied last year, you know she is a fantastic singing actress. We’re confident she will kill it in Before Breakfast.

· A 15 piece orchestra conducted by Bob, not by me.

· Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel…Favorite things, get it?

· And we are grateful for our awesome and generous donors – keep it coming! Get your friends involved – check out our Kickstarter campaign.

Check back for more of Madame President’s favorite things, and get your tickets for 2012!

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