Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

New San Diego City Opera Poised To Entertain Modern Audiences

San Diego City Opera singer Sarah LeClair in a performance of Queen of Carthage in this undated photo.
San Diego City Opera
San Diego City Opera singer Sarah LeClair in a performance of Queen of Carthage in this undated photo.
New San Diego City Opera Poised To Entertain Modern Audiences
New San Diego City Opera Poised To Entertain Modern Audiences GUESTS:Cynthia Stokes, co-artistic director, City OperaCory Hibbs, co-artistic director, City Opera

Opera outside the theater. In a restaurant, popping up where you least expect it. It's about to happen in the San Diego, but the performances are not coming from the San Diego Opera. Of brandy opera company is about to debut your called the San Diego city Opera. This new company has a different take on how Opera can and should be presented to modern audiences. Can a community that just rescued one opera company from imminent collapse support to companies? Joining me today Cory Hibbs, co-artistic director, City Opera and Cynthia Stokes, co-artistic director, City Opera. We had a real opportunity from all of our points of view to really reimagine what Opera could be. I think this is the burning question, how do we find ways to make opera accessible, to make it possible for community members who might not normally get an opportunity to attend the opera, to relate be a part of that. Also the notion of how do we create work that can live inside the community really authentic way. As opposed to being at the civic, we're doing our first peek -- piece out in the bluffs in La Jolla. And was to take it outside the theater in places where perhaps in another guys, you wouldn't expect to find anybody performing opera. Yes. That's an important piece of it as far as we're concerned. It allows us to present opera in unexpected places that are also a lot cheaper to produce opera ends we can lower the ticket price and give opportunity to people who might not otherwise be able to attend the opera because of financial reasons to now attend our productions. Tell me the kind of experience you had in creating and directing Copperas. I'm a composer, writer, actor. I consider myself a composer of operas and music are -- musical Theatre Works. For my entire life, I've been involved in this stage in music, telling stories through music which is one of the missions of city Opera. Music for stories sake is the tagline. Yes. Corey also has a PhD in composition, it's not his first rodeo. I directed opera for all over the country. We have an opportunity to you to take a look at what is and not working in opera in America right now. We're looking at innovative, different ways we could present work. We assume people, regardless of any number of things like music. They like storytelling. If we really just a look at that essential piece of its, next question is about how do we make it possible for everybody to attend? How do we share that kind of essential human part of us that we all love and feel is important. Let's hear a recording made at a preview of this new opera company. This is a presentation of the Queen of Carthage by the San Diego city Opera. [ Music ] That is from a preview of the cleanup Carthage by the San Diego city Opera. The performers are singer Sarah LeClair and on the viola, Alexis Schultz. How big is your opera company, how many singers, how many musicians? Right now, it's just Cynthia and I pulling together behind the scenes. We're in the process of putting together our first production. We're in the process of casting, designers, etc. We are partnering with the La Jolla Playhouse. It vacillates between Cynthia and I and one of our homes pulling our hair out trying to make it all come together. Having meetings and working with other people. I noticed this opera is in English. Are you looking to presenting operas that are sung in English. Yes. We have a few points we put our choices through. Part of that is the want to do operas that are new and contemporary works. Operas in English, by American composers, nontraditional repertoire. Any pieces not originally intended as opera that will put in that office space. Cleanup Carthage is an excellent example. Originally the opera is called something else. It was written 400 years ago. It's a baroque opera. What we've done is taken it and completely flipped it on its head. We have torn it apart and put it back together and created a bride of Frankenstein of an opera. It really speaks to the history and culture of our region and the people we are trying to move through music. We think it's going to be really successful. One of the things of cleanup Carthage we were interested in, the music was incredible. The libretto is really clumsy. We took a look at that. Also this notion of who is Dido? Who is this woman who has everything and can't be happy? I think that speaks to women about things that keep us from being able to enjoy our lives and be satisfied. I've interested in the fact that you have directed opera across the United States. You have seen what difference for these are doing. You say you've seen what works and what doesn't go what works? I think any arts organization that has demonstrated how it's a good neighbor, any arts organization that has demonstrated why they are essential to the committee. Not just an echelon of the committee but the community at large. The work is vibrant, compelling, will come out of that experience transport. This is what performance does for us. When we go to see a story and hear a story performed, that's what has happened to us. If we're not having that experience, I feel we need to take a look at what we're doing. So many of the companies Billy are focusing on that's, that's production but really telling great stories that have to be a song. Corey, tell us about the partnership with SDS you. I teach there in the music department. We have started this amazing new program called the music entrepreneurship program. Is joint between art and business department. Part of the program is the students have to complete internships. We're planning on bringing on interns from that program to help us and to give them an opportunity to see from the inside what way it arts organization in San Diego looks like. Everything from the administrative details all the way down to handing out programs at performances or selling tickets. These students are so smart. There the top of their class, they are so creative. We really look at any opportunity to bring any type of creativity into the organization. This would be a great way to bring in a young person's point of view for somebody who's creative and has an interest in business and arts. I think anyone who commits themselves to being an intern, it's a give and take. We are able to do is provide a certain level of expertise in what we do, this is also a big playground where come into. It was said last year by the former director of the San Diego Opera say there wasn't enough of a audience our donor base. Why do you think there is that support? I think despite the troubles that San Diego Opera had, there's a surge of support or them and they came back. We looked every dollar we are given throughout our fundraising campaign as a vote of confidence in as. Every dollar any other arts organization kids is a vote of confidence in that our form. San Diego supports multiple theater companies and organizations. I don't think there's any reason why it couldn't support multiple art companies and multiple opera companies. We're seeing this across the country that almost hundreds of different small grass roots opera organizations are popping up. To something very similar to us getting back 10 to the essential pieces of song story and producing it in a way that doesn't have a really expensive ticket price. As a mother, I want my kids to have opportunities. Want them to be able to see work and not just a dress rehearsal but to go be to the theater. I think we're really important piece of this for us is the price point that a family took go to see something and experience something together without it being a mortgage payment. When is the official debut? Queen of Carthage opens on October 9. We would be on the UCSD campus. The venue is just really stunning. It's like a grove of trees on a bluff that overlooks the ocean. We're really incorporating bats, make it very site specific piece. We are incorporating it into the show. I've been speaking to call artistic directors of the new San Diego city Opera.

It looked like San Diego would have no opera last year and soon it will have two, when the San Diego City Opera debuts this fall.

The new company has a very different take on how opera can and should be presented to modern audiences, the City Opera founders said.

City Opera plans to take their shows to all areas of San Diego County — from La Jolla to Barrio Logan.

Cynthia Stokes, co-artistic director, said the San Diego Opera's financial challenges allowed her to re-imagine what opera should be.

"It was a real opportunity form all of our points of view — to really re-imagine what opera can be," Stokes told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. "How do we find ways to make opera accessible? How do we create work that can live inside the community in a really authentic way?

Cory Hibbs, co-artistic director, said City Opera's new approach will rely less on overhead costs.

"It allows us to present opera in unexpected places," Hibbs said. "That is a lot cheaper to produce opera in."

The company’s first performance is set for Oct. 9 during the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival on the UC San Diego campus.