Today, Virginia Opera’s Artistic Advisor, Robin Thompson, is joining us with details on the First of Firsts series and how it’s going to make Virginia Opera’s production lineup even more dynamic and entertaining. The 2012-13 Season begins with the second opera in this series, THE PEARL FISHERS.
What is First of Firsts?
What a joy it is to bring to you the second installment in the company’s First of Firsts series, an initiative meant to expand the repertoire of Virginia Opera. As a general description, the title certainly sounds good and every mention of it gets an enthusiastic response. But what does is actually mean? In real terms it means that the first opera of every season will be a new production (designs and staging being seen for the first time) of an opera joining the company’s repertory for the first time. That’s actually three firsts: first in line, first being seen and first being heard, but we had to shorten it for simplicity’s sake.
Can you explain the rationale of this type of programming?
On the surface, you can think of First of Firsts as being a great thing for our audiences – and it is. Planning and performing seasons that balance the old and the new while mixing the distinctive national traditions of this sprawling art form we call “opera” is artistically sound. It’s in direct response to the many requests from our audiences for programming with more musical and dramatic variety. But there’s more to it than that.
For the company, these new productions provide opportunities for co-producing with like-minded American opera companies and increase the company’s holdings available for rental. The company’s Emerging Artists can acquire a wider variety of professional experience, something that makes them more attractive to other companies for future engagements. The musicians in our chorus and two orchestras are inspired by a wider range of compositional styles and music-making possibilities, and our staff has the opportunity to work with conductors, directors and designers from different traditions. In short, everyone wins.
How does The Pearl Fishers fit in with this programming strategy?
In many ways, THE PEARL FISHERS is ideal choice for this season’s First of Firsts opera. Bizet’s precursor to Carmen is the romantic outpouring of a young composer that’s overflowing with passionate melody. The three roles that make up the story’s dramatic center are ideal for younger singers. The work itself is in the midst of a renaissance in popularity with performances popping up everywhere. In the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons alone, 91 performances in 21 productions, Virginia Opera’s included, are being staged in as many cities across eight different countries. Plus, we’re pleased to say that negotiations are currently underway for Virginia Opera’s production to soon be seen at a major American opera festival. Everyone is winning with First of Firsts!