Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point has been filling the hills of Eureka Springs with song since 1950, when it opened as a summer music camp. Over the last six-plus decades, the organization's mission has shifted: Today, it operates as a training ground for some of the most promising talent in the opera world, a place for up-and-coming opera performers to get some solid stage experience under their belts. That makes the shows its administrators choose for the season -- which, this year, include Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio," Puccini's "La Boheme" and Adamo's "Little Women" -- particularly important, says the organization's general director, Nancy Preis.
"We want to make sure that we do something that is good for the singers," says Preis. "The second thing is finding something that would do the singer some good when they're out in the job market. [After their summer here,] many will start applying for young artist programs at regional opera companies. What roles do they need in their arsenal? So every year, we'll have at least one of the blockbusters in the season."
This year, that blockbuster is Puccini's "La Boheme," the classic opera about artistic bohemian youth living in Paris near the end of the 19th century. In addition to being useful resume fodder for a young opera performer, Preis says it's one of the go-to operas a company can use to draw in people who might not yet be opera fans.
"People sometimes say, 'Oh, I don't like opera,'" says Preis with a chuckle. "A friend of mine says, 'Which one don't you like? Because there are 400 years of opera to choose from.' There are certain operas that no one can resist, [because] the music has been played so often. That's why 'Boheme' is such an easy sell -- it was the opera in [the 1987 Academy Award-winning movie] 'Moonstruck'."
Once the blockbuster is chosen, says Preis, the organization looks for something that's "a little off the beaten path."
"In that regard, we're looking at American operas -- we've made a commitment to try and do one American opera a year," says Preis. "They might be a little more difficult to sell or sing, but that is our challenge. This year, that choice is 'Little Women.' We're doing something fun with that -- I've hired an actress who does presentations of historical women, so for 30 minutes, she'll become ['Little Women' author] Louisa May Alcott for our July 7 performance of 'Little Women' at 1:15. We'll couple that with a piano sonata written in honor of the Alcotts. They were an enormously influential American family."
The third choice -- and the first opera performed -- is a bit of a wild card. "The Abduction from the Seraglio," says Preis, is "Mozart at his silliest."
"We're performing it with a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme," she says, and adds that faculty member David Ward will be taking the part of the lead pirate. "We couldn't find a student that could sing that role -- it's for a really mature voice. David Ward is so funny, and he's sung this role several times before. The whole plot is silly: Two women get abducted by a pirate and are imprisoned on Captiva Island, off the coast of Florida, and their boyfriends try to come and rescue them -- even though the women are far more capable of rescuing themselves."
Preis says the organization works hard at outreach to the community as it tries to attract audience members who might not be familiar with opera. The company has 15 performances of its children's opera, "Monkey See, Monkey Do," which will be seen all over Northwest Arkansas and southern Missouri.
"The kids all come with mommies and daddies, and they all say, 'I want to come and see an opera!'," says Preis. "And I say, 'Well, that's the idea!'"
In addition to the opera performances, the organization will also present two chamber music concerts -- July 14 at the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista and July 15 at the Eureka Springs City Auditorium -- and two Broadway cabaret performances, one July 10 at the Fayetteville Town Center and the other July 16 at Eureka Springs' Basin Park Hotel.
"My goal is to make Eureka Springs a destination for opera," says Preis.
Opera in the Ozarks
Summer 2019 Season
Adamo’s “Little Women” — 7:30 p.m. June 21, 26, 29 and July 2, 12, 18; 2:30 p.m. July 7
Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” — 7:30 p.m. June 22, 27 and July 1, 5, 8, 11
Puccini’s “La Bohéme” — 7:30 p.m. June 25, 28 and July 3, 6, 9, 13, 19; 2:30 p.m. June 30
WHERE — Inspiration Point, 16311 U.S. 62 near Eureka Springs
COST — $10-$30
INFO — 253-8595
FYI — For additional performance information regarding the Broadway cabaret and chamber music concerts, visit opera.org.
NAN What's Up on 06/16/2019
Print Headline: 'A Destination For Opera'