Updated: May 19
Today's look back at 20th century opera that Marble City Opera has produced is a very special one for me, because it is where it all began for MCO. Face on the Barroom Floor by Henry Mallicone was composed in 1978, and I discovered this piece in 2013 when my friend Kevin Doherty and I met for coffee to talk about potentially performing together more. We had just sung in a young artist program production of Don Giovanni at Midwest Institute of Opera. We knew each other peripherally before that production, but that is where we became friends. Kevin was singing the role of of Don Giovanni and I was singing the role of Donna Anna. I remember staging the opening scene when Anna is chasing Giovanni and rightfully upset that he has murdered her father. The staging required me to be on my back and Kevin to be leaning over me, he looked down at me and said, "this feels a bit awkward with your husband standing in front of us," my response to this was, "Well, he told you to do it, so it should be fine!" James Marvel was directing!
This began a friendship that led to wanting to sing and perform more together. So back to the coffee shop, we were discussing potential operas that we might like to sing together and Kevin mentioned this title to me, "Face on the barroom floor," so I decided to check it out. Originally, I was looking for a soprano/baritone opera, and this one had a tenor as well, but decidedly it was a more interesting role for Kevin than some of our other options. I listened to the score and read about the opera and agreed that it would be a wonderful piece to perform. Little did I know at that moment that it would lead to an opera company forming!
Face on the barroom floor is a 25 minute opera for soprano, baritone, and tenor and is based on a poem of the same name about a painter ruined by love having lost his woman to another man. The opera tells two stories, separate in time, but parallel in story and character. An opera singer, A bar tender, a jealous lover, centuries a part telling the same old tale. It may only be 25 minutes, but it has all the delicious flavors of a juicy opera.
As we decided who we might like to join us singing the tenor role, we also began wondering where we might be able to perform this gem. As fortune would have it, I came across a listing for submissions to the Atlanta Fringe Festival under my audition listings, and we decided this could be the perfect place to perform, so I applied. Turns out on the application they wanted a company name, so I called Kevin, and he had come up with the name "Marble City Opera," which is a part of Knoxville where the marble quarries are. I wrote down the name and a month later we were listed on the Atlanta Fringe Festival's website as Marble City Opera performing Face on the Barroom Floor! I called Kevin laughing, and said, I think we accidentally just started an opera company!
We decided to perform in Knoxville before leaving for Atlanta, so we performed Face on the Barroom Floor under the company name Marble City Opera in May of 2013 at the Relix Variety Theater. We wanted to be in a bar to create the setting of the opera. I sent out hand written notes inviting people to the performance and we started a gofund me campaign to help offset our expenses. Everyone involved was paid (even though it was very little at the time). Our local arts reviewer, Alan Sherrod, heard about our project through the grapevine and interviewed us for a full page article in the Metro Pulse. (I think it was the Metro Pulse at that time, it had two names before it unfortunately was bought out by a larger conglomerate). Anyway, Alan helped put MCO on the map, and we had a full house for an audience that night and people left asking for more. -The rest is history.
Opera singers, bar tenders, painters, and jealous lovers behind us, and we're still here getting ready to begin our 8th season! Thanks for going down memory lane with me this week. What a great opera to go down memory lane with.
Pictured: Kathryn Frady, Kevin Doherty, and Boris Van Druff
A short clip from our first production being performed in Altanta.