At the end of August, I was hired as a publicity contractor to promote an opera commissioned by Longue Vue House and Gardens, a house museum on the edge of the city. I learned a lot from the experience, including the knowledge that keeping up a blog while promoting an opera was very difficult. I was intimidated when I started the work because I had never seen an opera. But like most art, it became more accessible when I learned more about it. And that’s why I love being a publicist– I approach artistic endeavors with the same questions as the general public and then I can inform others by explaining the things to them that I initially didn’t understand.
What I Learned about Opera
The opera, Freedom Ride takes place in 1961 New Orleans. It stars a young woman who is torn between joining the Civil Rights Freedom Riders and continuing her academic career. Dan Shore, the composer, has written a synopsis for a full opera, but only composed music for a handful of scenes. He explained to me that writing vignettes for a show is a very common practice, as it can take years to write a full opera. These vignettes are performed for audiences, in hopes that a patron will come forward and choose to support the composer so he can take the time off to commit himself to finishing the work.
After watching several rehearsals I realized that opera is actually a lot like musical theater. During a breakfast with the composer and some of the performers, they explained to me that one of the differences between opera and musical theater is that opera lyrics aren’t as key to advancing the plot as they are in musical theater. It can be hard to understand opera lyrics–whether because they’re in another language or because of the way they’re sung–so the audience learns the nuances behind the emotion from the singer’s performance.
What I Learned About New Orleans
Working on the opera exposed me to a few different pools of artistic communities that exist in this city. Within each pool was a lot of familiarity with the other swimmers (metaphor!) The composer, the opera’s soprano, piano player and chorus were all from Xavier University. Longue Vue hired a local actor as the artistic director. The actor brought in one of his colleagues to play the role of the unofficial emcee of the opera, whom he is working with on another project.
These artistic communities remind me of the nature of everything else in the city: small groups of people working together to build something. New Orleans has a lot of big players, but it seems most scenes are dense with individuals that build something together.
Also: I definitely want to see more theater and opera in the future.
I’ve got so many ideas of things I want to write about it for Kind of New Orleanian! I hope to regain my strength and fortitude for blogging (as well as YOUR RESPECT) as I flood this here blog with content, content, content.