As we're wrapping up packages to give to those we love this time of year, I can't help but think how much there is to be grateful for, even at the end of what has been a terribly difficult and tumultuous year for so many people in our community, state, country, and world. Unfortunately, there is likely still so much more suffering and loss ahead of us all, and yet there is still time to be grateful and to celebrate the joyous gifts around us. So, I'd like to take this time to reflect back on the year through Marble City Opera's eyes.
January 2020 began with a concert of arias and art song with text or characters by Shakespeare at St. John's Cathedral, performed by soprano Whitney Myers, myself, and pianist Danny Brian. Whitney is an amazing collaborator and singer, and we were fortunate enough to perform this concert in Knoxville and in Oklahoma! Next up for MCO was two sold out performances of our first children's opera performance, Pinocchio, at the Lawson McGee Library downtown Knoxville. Not only was this a long time dream to offer free performances of a children's opera, but a great opportunity to provide a performance opportunity to our young artist opera singers in our community.
February 2020 took us to new heights with the World Premiere of Shadowlight by Larry Delinger and Emily Anderson. This project was not only widely successful as an opera performance and production, but also as a collaboration between so many community organizations brought together by The Delaney Project, and sponsored by wonderful organizations like The Links Corporation; Knoxville Commissioner, Evelyn Gill; Sylvia Peters; The Knoxville Museum of Art; the Aslan Foundation; SunTrust now Truist; The Oliver Hotel, and The Beck Cultural Center. An opera about lost local talent, African-American painter, Beauford Delaney. This project was easily one of the most meaningful productions I have ever had the privilege of being a part of.
March 2020 began with a Celebration of Women's Suffrage Concert in collaboration with the Roane Choral Society. The female performers, Kayla Beard, Ashley King, Aubrey Odle, and Ellen Sudarsan sung works by female composers, accompanied by Berndatte Lo, celebrating the 100 anniversary of the women's right to vote.
And then it happened. The world shut down for covid-19. After three strong months of engaging performances, we were suddenly at a stand still that we could not have then understood or imagined what the ramifications of the virus would have upon the rest of the season, let a lone the entire year. Therefore, we were fairly silent during the month of April, hoping and waiting for a return to normalcy. As the weeks went by, we realized we would need to transition, improvise, and innovate what it meant to perform live, and to reach new audiences for opera.
In May, we returned, but not to the stage, as our production of Pagliacci had to be postponed due to covid, but we returned to our audiences online. Using Facebook, we reached thousands of current and new subscribers and followers of Marble City Opera by offering a Behind the Scenes Series of interviews with artists who had worked for MCO. On May 29th, our original opening night for Pagliacci, we offered a streaming version of our World Premiere performance of Shadowlight, and viewers around the world tuned it to see this wonderful new opera.
In June, we continued our Behind the Scenes series, as well as blog posts about Marble City Opera's beginnings and adventures in producing new operas, and an online concert version of our outreach event Pint Sized Opera. Many local and regional singers participated by singing their favorite arias, and we streamed the performance online.
In July 2020, we implemented and announced our 2020-21 hybrid season of in-person and online productions. We developed new rehearsal procedures and covid protocols to keep everyone safe with our first production during the pandemic. (It is notable that our production of Pagliacci at the TN amphitheater was the first opera performance in the US after the pandemic began.) I created a mitigation plan and worked with the city, the TN Ampitheater, and the artists to create a safe environment to perform in-person. We continued to offer behind the scenes episodes, blogs, and informational videos about our upcoming production and the precautions we were taking. July and August were by far the most challenging months of the pandemic for me and Marble City Opera. Tough conversations were needed in order to be able to move forward and there were many challenges along the way.
August 2020 brought our first in-person opera performance during the pandemic. Our postponed production of Pagliacci opened on August 13 at the TN amphitheater to a live audience in-person and online! Audience reviews were off the chart.
"You all have certainly set a high bar for safely produced performances during a pandemic!"-kp
"your performance, and those of your colleagues, made me largely forget that you were not in close proximity." -MH
"What a beautiful and absolutely chilling performance" - MT
"The love duet between Nedda and Silvio in which they never come with six feet of each other may be the most erotic thing I have ever seen on stage." - AE
And many more. We had successfully produced an opera during the most difficult challenges we had yet to face, while keeping all our audience members and artists safe!
September was Larry Delinger month, as we offered streamed performances for free on Facebook of two world premiere performances of his operas that we premiered in 2014; Amelia Lost and Talk to Me Like the Rain. Another Behind the Scenes with the composer was offered between the showings of these two operas.
October brought new board members, organization, and a continued strategic plan to bring engaging online content as well as safe in-person and online performances. This included several behind the scenes episodes of Winterreise by Schubert, including, text readings, performances and interviews leading up to the production.
In November we presented a staged production of Schubert's Winterreise in-person at Trentham Hall, First Baptist Knoxville and online. Blayne Ziegenfuss took the audience on this hero's journey through the wintery ice and snow after loosing his love. Video projections and supertitles helped tell the story that was so beautifully sung by Ziegenfuss and played by Brandon Coffer. Also, in November we announced our commission of a new opera, I can't breathe written my managing director, Brandon Gibson and composer Leslie Burrs. Scheduled to have its world premiere in 2022, the opera is an examination of grief, loss, and hope in the face of social injustice.
Now here we are in December. We've just wrapped up the end of the year with another Pint Sized Opera Online featuring many talented local singers on YouTube, and we are ready to go into the new year with a vaccination hovering over us. Hopeful that the leaders in our community, state, country, and world will make decisions that will save lives and keep us safe while maintaining a good economy. It has definitely been a year, and we are so grateful to our loyal patrons and our new patrons who have continued to follow us, subscribe to our youtube, watch our free events, buy tickets to our performances, make donations, and generally participate throughout the year! You are keeping us going, and we hope that in return we are bringing you some joy, some comfort, some escape, and a little entertainment.
It you'd like to catch a replay of any of our online interviews or performances visit us at https://www.marblecityopera.com/view-online-content
We're also offering a Holiday Gift set for our productions. Purchase the link to see any of our productions from this year including Shadowlight, Pagliacci, and Winterreise.
Wishing you all the happiest of holidays and merriest of Christmas's. Stay safe. Stay warm. We miss you and can't wait to see you again in the New Year with more online and in-person performances of opera. Next up is Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale in collaboration with the Knoxville Symphony on February 7th. Followed by a Comedy! The world premiere of Royal Flush by Frank Pesci on March 11, 12, & 13. Stay tuned for cast and production info!
We appreciate you all so much. Hang in there. We'll see you soon!
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