Opera Bob Opens His Drawers
Opera has a rather elitist reputation--would that be stating the obvious? Fortunately for us, companies all over the country are breaking down barriers and creating more authentic experiences for opera goers and Opera Bob certainly lends an authentic new slant to a--well, still-rather-stuffy world.
Opera Bob’s Fringe show, “Opera Bob Opens His Drawers – Secrets Revealed!” features lesser-known pieces from well-known composers; the Opera Bob crew’s goal is to hook you in right away and to take you on an emotional journey. There is no need to read the libretto, prepare yourself for a night out, nothing—just sit back, relax, and go along for the ride.
“Excuse me, who? Opera Bob? Who is Bob? And what is Opera Bob?” I’m so happy to tell you.
Opera Bob is a brand new organization here in the Twin Cities determined to give the many locally educated and locally residing singers a shot at what they trained for: opera. It’s not a big secret that so many singers train for 4 to 6 to 8 years or more and then…then what? Good question! Janet Fried, General Manager of Opera Bob is one person working to change that.
As an instructor for audition technique classes for post-graduate school students, she has witnessed a significant drop in confidence of various singers after graduate school, as they are only auditioning and no longer singing in productions and using their full-fledged talents and vocal abilities on a daily basis. Fried would like to see more young singers actually performing in the field they have trained so hard for, and has helped found Opera Bob as a means to do exactly that.
“But who is Bob?”
The name Opera Bob actually comes from this group’s quest for a name. Of course, for the Fringe everybody needs a name for their show and what was first introduced as just a funny idea became their name and quest. Fried, the Director Will Graham and a few others got together and chose a name that invokes what they do (namely sing opera) and something new to the current opera scene—Everyman.
“Everyman at the opera?”
Yes, Virginia, Everyman belongs at the opera.
“If we want to invite new audiences to opera, we need to do things a little bit differently, and not be so elitist. Opera companies around the world are trying to do that, to do different types of repertoire, to have different people direct [e.g. Woody Allen recently directed “Gianni Schicchi” at the LA Opera], and opera’s not something that people gravitate towards naturally; you have to be invited to it.” (Janet Fried) Who doesn’t want to spend an evening with their friend Bob?
In many ways, this new organization has proven itself to be not only very musical, but very creative. Bob, their mascot (see above), graces the web page as well as their fundraising events. (Is there anything more positive for a singer than her or his own mascot?!) Although many of them had taken part in Fried’s audition techniques class, the cast for Opera Bob Opens His Drawers are the founding members of the organization, who, according to Opera Bob’s PR Director Jill Dawe, are a complete team of collaborative artists. And let’s be frank—it takes a lot of creativity for performers (who also work day jobs and/or several jobs; please see my other article on this topic) to 1) create a show, 2) put a show together, 4) get it in the Fringe, and at the same time to 4) create a brand new organization from scratch. An established pianist and piano instructor in the Twin Cities, Dawe has discovered that the organic evolvement of the group into the organization has been every bit as creative and artistic as music itself. Dawe quickly drew parallels between polishing a piece of music and the development of Opera Bob as an organization; it’s obvious what “the notes and rhythms are, but what is the phrasing—do you want it to go here, or do you want it to go here?” She said they are shaping the organization specifically, or maybe they’re just making it up as they go. “The Fringe is supposed to be a stretch. And it is!”
Dawe told me about a challenge night at the Fringe, something new to me. They may have a “Bob Night,” where everyone in the audience named Bob would be on-stage for the final piece. So, Bob, what do you think?
Opera Bob can be seen at the U of M Rarig Center (330 21st Ave S., Minneapolis):
Sat, Aug 1 at 8:30 pm
Sun, Aug 2 at 10:00 pm
Mon, Aug 3 at 7:00 pm
Wed, Aug 5 at 7:00 pm
Sat, Aug 8 at 1:00 pm
Will Graham, Director
Eric McEnaney, Music Director
Phil Fried, Composer
Janet Fried, General Manager
Tricia Van Ee, Parker Anderson-Genne, Anna Brandsoy, Obed Floan, Angela Keeton, Tara Laberge, Maggie Lofboom, Chandler Molbert, Noelle Noonan
“Emphasizing opera's core values of music, voice and character, Opera Bob will present seldom-performed opera sung by emerging professional singers. The productions will give talented singers opportunities for growth and experience, and local audiences opportunities to hear exciting repertoire and voices.”