Bringing World-Class Opera to Raleigh
Which fine art form beautifully connects an audience with hundreds of thousands of other people, people who lived in a different time and place in history? Which of the fine arts combines all of the fine arts into one seamless performance?
Answer: The opera. And North Carolinians are fortunate to have an outstanding company in the state’s capital city of Raleigh.
Since its creation in 2010, the North Carolina Opera has brought world-class performances to the Triangle area, giving residents an opportunity to see the present in light of the past.
“The themes in opera are timeless, so that even music written hundreds of years ago is completely relevant today. Opera is a reflection of this common human experience,” said Eric Mitchko, General Director of the N.C. Opera.
Like other classical forms of art in the western tradition, opera has a rich history. Its origins date back to the late 16th century in Europe. Some of the most highly acclaimed operas — including “Carmen,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” and “The Magic Flute” — date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Opera combines elements of all the fine arts — singing, dancing, theatre, the visual arts, and others — into a truly transcendent, beautiful experience.
N.C. Opera’s Director and Principal Conductor, Timothy Myers, hopes to use the performances that he orchestrates to create a new generation of operagoers.
“We have a terrific, thriving company that is undertaking a range of repertoire that attracts a broad audience, is selling out performances, and earning rave reviews,” Myers said.
The John William Pope Foundation is pleased to play a small role in fulfilling N.C. Opera’s mission. The Foundation has given $170,000 to support opera in the Triangle since 2004.
In the community
N.C. Opera was created in 2010 after the merger of two earlier companies: Opera Company of North Carolina (founded in 1996) and Capital Opera of Raleigh (founded in 2002). Its recent performances include “Carmen,” “Les Enfants Terribles,” and “Il trovatore”
In January 2013, the opera took on the monumental task of staging the first act of Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre,” with additional selections from “Tristan und Isolde,” “Die Meistersinger,” and others. The performance brought Wagner to the Triangle area for the first time. Such performances are rarely seen outside major metros such as New York City.
Operatic performances aren’t confined to the theatre halls, though. N.C. Opera brings the wonder of this fine art directly to citizens of the community through its outreach to young people and adults.
To reach students, the company travels to Wake County public schools and tailors presentations to the appropriate grade level. The adult outreach includes “Opera About Town,” which are free public performances of operatic excerpts, and “Taste of Opera,” which are performances in local restaurants.
N.C. Opera offers the Raleigh area something unique: An opera company that is established and draws talent from the surrounding community, creating jobs.
“N.C. Opera employs up to 200 people on one of its shows, bringing important economic development to our area,” Mitchko said, “but the real gift is that it touches in an absolutely direct, visceral, non-verbal way.”
A young company
Although acclaimed for its professionalism and strength, N.C. Opera remains a young company — headed by a youthful director and principal conductor. At the age of 36, Myers is one of the youngest artistic leaders in America opera.
He brings a special kind of vitality and freshness to the task. “Opera is especially important because there are few mediums that inspire us on multiple sensory levels,” Myers said. “One can enjoy a beautiful painting, be inspired by an exceptional piece of music, or appreciate sitting with rapt attention watching a play, but opera incorporates drama, music, and song into a stirring combination.”
A large measure of N.C. Opera’s future success is built on its ability to spread the word about its world-class performances. For Myers, that means reaching out to young people.
“The company already attracts a young audience as compared to many companies across the country,” he said, “but we want to continue to include dynamic performances that engage audiences both young and old.”
Mitchko said that roughly one-third of N.C. Opera’s budget comes from ticket sales. He encourages potential operagoers to check out their offerings.
“We want to continue to produce the same range of productions that interest a broad audience, and continue to grow the company to fulfill our mission of presenting operatic performances at the highest level with internationally acclaimed artists to the Triangle stage,” he said.