Photo By Kat Ma
I came to opera late in life, after working in rural development, conducting social science research, starting an Inc 500 company and managing a nonprofit. When it was finally time to audition for roles, I looked at the stunning competition and noted that my qualifications would not earn me the roles I wanted to sing in local companies.
And also, I wanted to dance.
So in 2007, I founded Opera Frontier, a new company where I could combine my affection for musical theater with my new-found passion for opera. Within months, I was putting on shows with some of the Bay Area’s most talented “choreographable” classical singers.
Opera Frontier’s mission is to create new works from the familiar opera repertoire, but re-imagined in ways that resonate with contemporary audiences. For example, I wanted to sing the gorgeous arias from Lucia di Lammermoor, but not as a 16-year-old pawn in a 17th- century power struggle! So, we workshopped Lammermoor, Inc – a “business tragedy” set during the 2007 global economic meltdown and featuring a few Broadway-style dance numbers. In our version, the Lammermoor sibling engage in a dramatic struggle over the fate of their family business, resulting in – well – the usual: murder, madness, and heartbreak for all!
We continue to reinvent ways to perform pieces from the traditional opera and oratorio repertoire.
Sometimes we explore situations that relate to everyday lives — from office politics and gym workouts, to waiting tables, tasting wine, and power shopping. Sometimes we collaborate with choreographers and musicians to introduce dance and cultural elements from non-western music traditions. (See, for example, Bollywood Lakme, Arabian Magic Mozart and Rejoice Abyssinia. These pieces combine opera with classical Indian/Bollywood, Middle Eastern, and Ethiopian dance and music, respectively.)
And finally, we relish challenging expectations about where opera is performed. We pop up out of the audience or the orchestra. We materialize on balconies. We interrupt fancy brunches and business meetings.
We love invitations to perform in front of live audiences where the unique connection between player and audience is enhanced by the richness of the unsampled singing voice.
But we also rely on the Internet to reach a wider audience through our YouTube Channel and other social media platforms.
In 2020, Opera Frontier entered the world of filmmaking with Activist Aria: More Perfect Union, created entirely in home studios under the constraints of the pandemic. Our success in film competitions, including a Bronze Telly Award and an Anthem Award for “Civil and Human Rights Awareness”, has opened an additional path for sharing our love for this glorious music.
We believe that under the right circumstances, the classical repertoire has the power to stir emotions and transform lives just as deeply as any other theatrical experience.
Watch, like, share, and comment on Opera Frontier as we continue “moving opera in ways you never imagined.
Opera Frontier depends on collaborators who embrace the possibilities of creating something new. We are privileged to have worked with, or featured the works of, these distinguished artists and cooperating venues:
BEAR VALLEY MUSIC FESTIVAL
DEL SOL STRING QUARTET
PALACE HOTEL, San Francisco
THALEA STRING QUARTET
NATIONAL THEATER, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
BICHU TESFAMARIAM, HELEN SHIMELES MERKEBE, ESTEGENET ASHENAFI LAGLAGO, SEMERET GETACHEW BEKANA, BETELHEM DEJENE TOLA from Circus Abyssinia
World Music Instrumentalists
ALI PARIS (Qanun), ROBBIE BELGRADE & PURAN ZACHARY GREWAL (Tabla), MICHAEL IRVINE (Sarod), KAETHE HOSTETTER (Violin), ENDRIS HASSAN (Masinqo)
SARAH BUSH, AMY LAFAILLE, TOM SEGAL, URVASHI SINHA, JAMIE RAY WRIGHT, SHERIFA ZUHUR
STANLEY FORMAN, “Victory at the Boston Marathon”, “Red Sox 70s” and his Pulitzer Prize winning image, “The Soiling of Old Glory” (StanleyFormanPhotos.com)
Painter DAVID C. BEHRENS, “Original Founding Fathers” (DavidBehrensGallery.com)
Photographer TOM OLIN, Disability History Collections, University of Toledo (UToledo.edu)
Highlights from Opera Frontier’s Performances
“All of a sudden, in the middle of the Garden Court, a couple broke into a dramatic Italian opera. The diners all paused mid-bite, surprised and delighted…”
“What a clever re-imagining of some of my favorite operas, done with panache and artistry. I wish I'd brought more friends to enjoy the evening.”
“What a rich trove of voices... A creative, irreverent, fun and immensely pleasing show!!”
“I loved the fun staging of tunes I recognized. But there were people around me who were in stitches at times, clearly appreciating opera 'insider' humor that I didn't get!!”
“Great fun. Can't wait to see more. Way to go, Opera Frontier!!”