Feb. 21, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
A new opera company is about to make its debut in Queens.
The Queens Opera Theatre will mark its first-ever performance at the Flushing Town Hall with a free concert on April 15 at 7:30 p.m., bringing to fruition the vision of two locals looking to start a Queens-based opera company.
Executive Director Brian Gill and Artistic Director Andy Anderson have known each other and worked together in the classic art for many years sharing a “common bond and love of opera,” according to Gill, but only recently decided to put together their own company.
Anderson moved to New York in 2015 after working as the Artistic Director for the Mobile Opera in Alabama from 2008 to 2015. Upon arriving in the city, he came up with the idea of starting an opera company in Queens, given that it does not currently have one.
After pulling Gill on board last January, the two set about planning logistics, and will see their work come to life on April 15.
The event in April will be a 90-minute showcase, featuring performances from the upcoming operas the company plans to put on, as well as other famous pieces.
“It’s really a chance to introduce ourselves and the company to the community,” Anderson said. “It’s really more of a town hall than a performance, because we want to start getting feedback and get people excited so they know we are here.”
Beyond the April showcase, the company is the recipient of a Space Grant at Flushing Town Hall, and plans to put on two shows each year. The first season will feature La Boheme this fall and Rigoletto in the spring of 2018.
Shows will be cast both by Anderson and Gill pulling in talent they know, and through open auditions.
Aside from simply putting on opera performances, however, the Queens Opera Theatre has a larger goal: making opera more accessible to the public.
“We feel it is just as important to engage the current opera-loving community but also introduce and foster new audiences,” Gill said.
“So many think that art form is elitist, but we want to bring opera back to the people where it belongs,” Anderson added.
The company’s mission statement lays out its plans to be accessible to all audiences. It explains that the company emphasizes “the need to make opera accessible and affordable to all people, no matter their race, religion or origin.” It also lays out the goals of the company: “To provide professional high quality productions, to make all performances accessible and affordable to all patrons, to cultivate audience through outreach, and to advance opera knowledge and education through a multitude of patron experiences.”
Moving forward, Anderson explained that for the first few years the company intends to perform well-known operas that would appeal to broad audiences, and each show would be performed on two nights.
Once the company gains more traction, it would likely expand the number of performances and scope of shows, and include more modern, less well-known operas on the schedule.
The company also hopes to bring the concept of opera in to local schools after its first few seasons, Gill said, allowing an educational component in to its programming.
Gill suggested that they might bring in a rapper or poet to do an impression of a classic aria, and then deconstruct it with children looking at various musical forms and using it to dive deeper into character development in the opera.
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