Affordable. Comprehensible. Relatable. Pleasurable. Not necessarily adjectives every person would use to describe opera. Apotheosis Opera is here to change all that.
Last weekend Apotheosis Opera’s performed their inaugural production – Richard Wagner’s early masterpiece Tannhaüser; in the breathtaking New York City landmark, El Teatro at the El Museo del Barrio on the far Upper East Side. The production was fully staged (full cast and orchestra) in English as well as with English projected subtitles for those of us who don’t speak “opera”. The best part is tickets ranged from $15 – $45 dollars.
We sat down with Apotheosis Opera’s Artistic Director, Matthew Jaroszewicz for a Q&A.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Apotheosis Opera and your inspiration for starting the group?
Matthew Jaroszewicz: Apotheosis Opera was founded last fall by myself and my friends Zach Blumenstein and Sam Bartlett and the idea was originally conceived the summer before that by Zach and I. At first, we essentially decided let’s try to stage an Wagner opera. Both of us were really passionate about Wagner music and we wanted to try to do that. But it sort of grew into something much bigger than that which was an opera company that strives to attract both new audience members to opera by performing works in English to break down the language barrier and make it more accessible, and to provide young singers who are ready to take on the big dramatic repertoires for the first time. It gives them an opportunity to gain experience there where they would have a lot of trouble doing it otherwise.
Why did you select Tannhauser as the group’s first production?
Jaroszewicz: We decided on Tannhauser because it is a great combination of being both big and grand as well as musically accessible. That goes for the musicians and for the audience. Wagner’s most melodic scores. We felt that it would be best accessible for both the singer and the audience.
What do you hope the resulting impact would do to the performers and the community?
Jaroszewicz: We’re hoping to foster and attract new audience members to opera that when they see our production, they will have such a meaningful experience. They will then be encouraged to go back and attend another opera in the future.
This production was fully staged with a large cast and orchestra. What was the biggest challenge you faced putting it together?
Jaroszewicz: It was a lot of work to put together and organize that many people. We emailed a bunch of different and local orchestras and courses in NY. Almost 100 different groups and we got one person from here, one person from there. It was a real piece meal team.
Did you have any problem casting the performers? Were there flocks of people to perform an opera in English?
Jaroszewicz: It’s interesting; there were a lot of women. A lot of sopranos for the roles of Elizabeth and Venus and a couple of men for the role of Tannhauser but we had a lot of trouble casting some of the smaller bass roles. Those were actually passed much later in the process we everybody else had already started rehearsing.
What’s coming up next for you and the Apotheosis Opera? Do you plan on adding more productions?
Jaroszewicz: Our goal is to produce one production a year in the summer in English and as soon as I get back, I’m talking a short vacation. As soon as I get back, we are going to start thinking about what we want to do next.
Anything else you want to add for the fans that are fans of the opera?
Jaroszewicz: I have a lot of friends who aren’t in the music world and I ask them “why don’t you go the opera?” and 9 out of 10 told me because it’s not in English. That’s their first reason.
For more info on Apotheosis Opera’s, check out their website: http://www.apotheosisopera.org