Opera Columbus will open the season on December 18 with a daring staging of “Tosca”
Twenty-two months have passed since Opera Columbus last performed at its longtime Southern Theater headquarters.
The company has remained visible ever since – first with virtual presentations, then with performances offered at two non-traditional venues, COSI and 400 West Rich.
Under the leadership of new Managing Director and CEO Julia Noulin-Merat, who joined the company earlier this year, Opera Columbus plans to continue singing outside the concert hall: next spring, in conjunction with the The company’s 40th anniversary, “40 Days of Opera” will take place with performances throughout Greater Columbus.
But for now, it’s high time the business came home.
On December 18 and 19, Opera Columbus will perform Giacomo Puccini’s iconic 1900 opera “Tosca” in the South, its first theater performances since “The Barber of Seville” in mid-February 2020.
“To be able to come back in force, at home, I think it’s incredibly powerful,” said Noulin-Merat. “It really is as if all the stars are aligned.”
By design, “Tosca” was chosen to recognize the history of the company: Puccini’s opera was the first Opera Columbus show presented at the start of its inaugural season in 1981.
“It really is our Valentine at our origins,” said Noulin-Merat, adding that the opera’s grand scale made it an attractive choice for this return performance. “We are innovators, we do things with a twist, but at the same time, we also do the workhorses extremely well,” she said.
The plot, which takes place in Rome in the 19th century, revolves around an opera diva named Tosca (played by soprano Michelle Johnson) who gets stuck in a dead end between her lover, Cavaradossi (tenor Adam Diegel), and Police Chief Scarpia (baritone Brian Major). The show, recommended for participants 13 years and older, will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.
But the script alone is not enough to draw audiences out of the habit of going to the opera. To attract participants, Noulin-Merat decided to bet on large and daring staging.
“I no longer think it’s acceptable to just say to customers, ‘Come on, shut up for two hours, then come home,'” Noulin-Merat said. “They want more; they want food for the soul.
On the upper level of an elaborate two-level ensemble designed by Noulin-Merat, 27 musicians from the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra will play Puccini’s score. Conductor Tiffany Chang will conduct the orchestra.
“ProMusica is actually on stage with us, but they’re 10 feet in the air,” Noulin-Merat said. Although ProMusica has teamed up with Opera Columbus in the past, they have generally performed in the orchestra pit – too small to accommodate that number of players.
“Our musicians love to play opera,” said Janet Chen, CEO of ProMusica, who praised the partnership between the organizations.
“We learned to listen to each other, what to expect and really how to work together to make the performance a success,” Chen said.
Recordings of actual church bells in Rome will add to the sound power of the show.
Visual appeal will come with costumes designed by Neil Fortin, which will take inspiration from the 19th century Netflix series.Bridgerton. “
“We have these vintage silhouettes, but they will stay very fresh and modern,” Noulin-Merat said.
Of course, the most satisfying of all will be the vocals from a cast led by Johnson, who previously teamed up with Opera Columbus and the Columbus Symphony for a production of “Aida” in 2018 and will play the title role of Tosca for the first time. time.
“This is definitely an important step; it’s one of my goals in life as a soprano, ”said Johnson, who resides in Philadelphia. “I don’t shy away from challenges, and she is a challenge. “
One of the biggest challenges, Johnson said, is balancing his acting with the vocal demands of the role – without neglecting either.
“I came to opera more as an actor first and then singing,” she said. “I have to really, really try to tame my instincts to go all the way. I have to pace myself.
And besides the emotions on stage: In real life, Johnson is married to the singer playing Scarpia, Brian Major.
“We don’t work together a lot,” Johnson said. “It adds a little extra spark.”
In one look
Opera Columbus will perform “Tosca” at 7:30 p.m. on December 18 and at 2:00 p.m. on December 19 at the Southern Theater, 21 E. Main St. Masks and proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test required. Customers are encouraged to use the Bindle recording app. Tickets cost from $ 27.50 to $ 107.50. For more information, visit www.operacolumbus.org.