Bringing opera to the people
Our opera company, Apotheosis Opera, is bringing Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser to the stage in English translation this summer in New York. Many people are turned off by the aura of exclusiveness projected by opera, and, more importantly, aren’t interested in hearing people sing in German. This summer we are bringing opera down to earth by performing in English a work that can touch you at your core, no matter who you are. If you can’t make it to the show, you can still share in this impactful experience by grabbing a copy of the CD and DVD of the production.
Deepening the musical impact
The renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim has said that Richard Wagner knows the human soul as intimately as a couple married for fifty years know each other’s every idiosyncrasy. Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser is a perfect demonstration of this fact, as you can see from our pitch video above. The Apotheosis Opera team wondered, though, if this could go even further. If we could understand what was being sung, directly from the singers’ mouth, could we make Wagner’s music drama hit us even more deeply? We believe the answer to this will be apparent this summer.
This production of Tannhäuser fits into the broader mission of our opera company, Apotheosis Opera. Apotheosis seeks to bring fresh energy into the New York opera scene. As opera-lovers ourselves, we are familiar with the transcendent moments that can be found in the opera house, and we think it is a tragedy that they are known to so few people. We aim to change this with fully-staged, English-language productions of large-scale works in the summer, setting up just the right conditions for creating new opera nuts.
We also strive to inject new and vibrant talent into the performing world. Major roles can serve as a springboard to performers’ careers. Most singers won’t get the opportunity to perform them until they sing at some of the most established opera companies. Apotheosis Opera offers the unique opportunity to sing these roles early on in one’s career. This goal is being implemented for the first time with Tannhäuser this summer.
A student-led production
Matthew Jaroszewicz, the artistic director of Apotheosis Opera and the conductor for Tannhäuser, is pursuing a master’s in conducting at Mannes in New York. He has a habit of ignoring what a student supposedly can and can’t do. Only a year and half into his conducting career, one summer during college, he staged a production of Vaughan Williams’s The Pilgrim’s Progress in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. His experience scraping together a budget, recruiting an orchestra, finding voice talent, and putting on a good show are being put to good use this summer.
Apotheosis Opera consists of Matthew and two collaborators. Sam Bartlett, production manager, is a graduate of both the business management and music programs of Southern Methodist University and works in the Concerts department at the talent agency ICM Partners in New York. Zach Blumenstein, production manager and French hornist in the orchestra, is entering the mathematics Ph.D. program at University of California, Santa Barbara, this fall.
Ever since he discovered Wagner’s operas in his French horn playing, Zach has dreamed of playing in the pit orchestra for a production of Wagner. He thought he would never get that opportunity, since he would never play in a professional opera orchestra. Having this experience this summer will likely bring tears to his eyes. We are casting an orchestra predominantly consisting of undergraduate students this summer, people for whom the experience will be equally impactful. This is just one more way in which we are inviting more people than ever into the operatic world.
(If you would like to audition for the pit orchestra, you may! Sign up here.)
The project so far
Our production of Tannhäuser is well on its way to becoming a reality. We have cast some amazingly talented people in our principal roles. For example, check out Amber Smoke, the soprano who will be playing Elisabeth for us, singing at one of our fundraisers:
We have a beautiful theater, El Teatro of El Museo del Barrio, lined up for the production.
We have an amazingly talented young architect, Rob Magorien, designing our sets for us. Rob will soon be attending the architecture Ph.D. program at University of Michigan, one of the most prestigious programs in the country. In the design of our sets, we take inspiration from this Götz Friedrich production of Tannhäuser, performed at the 1978 Bayreuth Festival:
Ned Christiansen, a skillful fashion design student at Parsons, the New York school of design, is creating our costumes.
Become a part
This production offers you many unique ways to get closer to a powerful, moving work of art. In addition to buying a CD, DVD, or tickets to this unique English-language production, we offer numerous rewards that take you behind the scenes into the world of opera. We hope that you will join us in bringing opera to the people.
Risks and challenges
Staging an opera is a serious undertaking. It involves making a lot of things—costumes, sets, an orchestral performance—and there are numerous logistical hurdles associated with this. Not to mention staying in budget. (Note that our budget is much larger than $5000, and that this Kickstarter is only meant to be one piece of the fundraising.) We have been working out logistics for almost a year now and are more than prepared to take all the challenges head-on.
Another challenge is to create an excellent artistic product. We have utter confidence in the very talented people who are designing our costumes and our stage for us, and will work in close collaboration with them to make sure they are successful. Performance, for both the singers and the orchestra and chorus, is challenging. Our conductor, Matthew, is devoting essentially every hour of his summer work-weeks to rehearsal to make sure that our performances do justice to the spectacular music we are presenting.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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