Fear No Art: Opera Edition

A performance and a class are perfect for folks wanting to learn more about the art form

Don't know a dang thing about opera and have no idea where to start? Boy, are you in luck these next few weeks.

It makes sense that a city like Santa Fe would arguably lead the nation in accessibility and education about opera for newbies. The Santa Fe Opera, anchored in education even beyond its robust apprentice program, is downright obsessed with making the opera house, its stars and production crews accessible to the public. The company offers youth programs, backstage tours, Instameets and more on a regular basis.

Another initiative involves making opera an accessible art form not only by inviting students and newcomers to mainstage productions, but transforming and molding the art form itself into something that appeals even to folks who think they won't like opera in the first place.

Enter Opera for All Voices, and its inaugural production going down this Saturday at the Lensic Performing Arts Center: Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun.

To put it succinctly, according to the Santa Fe opera's website, Opera for All Voices "is a consortium of North American opera companies committed to co-commissioning and co-producing new operatic works for audiences of all ages that bear the same artistic integrity and depth of storytelling as mainstage works."

This means a digestible time frame (less than two hours), it's sung in English, it has a fun storyline that can be followed by kids and adults alike, and there are dynamic musical styles involved; this one in particular features beatboxer Nicole Paris. With hefty names attached like Grammy-winning composer Augusta Read Thomas and director John De Los Santos, it definitely is an evening you shouldn't miss.

The best part? As of this writing, it isn't yet sold out! But it likely will be soon. Get your $20 tickets ASAP at lensic.org.

The Santa Fe Opera also works with its five Opera Guilds in Northern New Mexico—which sound fancy, but are actually accessible and friendly. The Santa Fe Opera Guild, which costs as low as $35 to join, offers talks, tours, special events and more, and is a treasure trove for opera nerds and "mere" admirers alike.

For the latter type of folk—those who want to get to know the art form but perhaps don't know where to start—the Santa Fe Opera Guild has teamed up with the Renesan Institute for Lifelong Learning to present "The ABCs of Opera," a three-part class on Friday afternoons (Nov. 1, 8 and 15) to teach a little more about three particularly popular productions.

The class is also close to selling out, so head to Renesan's website to sign up ASAP. At this writing, there were only 12 seats out of 50 left. It's only $45 for 12 hours of learning over three weeks.

Martha Baker, president of the board of the Santa Fe Opera Guild, and Margie McGregor, vice president of the Renesan board of directors, explained the year-and-a-half long process that produced "The ABCs of Opera:" First, a survey was sent out to Opera Guild members and Renesan students about what they most would want an opera class to cover, and a class re-hashing the basics was the runaway winner—and it also is right in line with the Opera Guild's overarching goal to guarantee the future of opera as a viable art form with a vibrant, passionate audience.

A group of folks involved in the class' organization then viewed a number of recordings of opera performances and judged by the quality of the singing, prestige, video quality and production value to decide which operas would be screened; and now the class is finally going up with lecture and discussion led by opera smarty pants and former guild board member Tom Franks.

The class series opens with The Barber of Seville from the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2005;  then continues with Aida, recorded at La Scala in Milan in 2015; then finishes with Carmen, recorded at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London in 2008. (So it's kind of "The BAC's of Opera," but the organizers felt that Barber was a better starter.) They will be projected from high-definition recordings in the theater at Teatro Paraguas, with a brief lecture ahead of time, a mid-performance intermission, and a post-screening discussion.

Unlike other Renesan courses, you can't wait until this one rolls around again—due to an agreement made in licensing the videos, the class can only run one single time, at least with these operas. If you miss this one, Renesan has other fantastic (and scholarly!) opera offerings year-round, so keep an eye on ssreg.com/renesan for other crazy-affordable options.

Stay tuned to SFReporter.com for a full review of Sweet Potato next week, and get signed up for the performance, the class or both—and get your learn on in one of the classiest mediums possible.

Santa Fe Opera's Opera for All Voices presents Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun

6 pm Saturday Oct. 26. $20. Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W San Francisco St., 988-5541; tickets at lensic.org.

The Renesan Institute and the Santa Fe Opera Guild present
The ABC's of Opera

1-5 pm Fridays Nov. 1-15. $45. Teatro Paraguas, 3205 Calle Marie. Preregistration required; call 982-9274 or visit ssreg.com/renesan to sign up.

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