It's an Opera Night (And Weekend) in Pittsburgh

Jul 12, 2013

It will be a weekend full of opera performances in Pittsburgh, but they will be far from the grand Eurocentric affairs you might imagine.

The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh began its second annual Summer Fest last weekend, but it hits its peak over the four days that began Thursday. In all, there will be eight different operas performed along with several concerts of Mozart’s works and free cabaret performances.

“Opera Theater has a little mantra, which is ‘up close and personal and we do everything in English,’” said Theater director Jonathan Eaton.

The works are being performed in The Twentieth Century Club in Oakland, which Eaton said is as much of an experience as the operas if you have never been in the building.

“The art deco theater seats about 600," he said. "It’s a lovely intimate sort of experience much more like going to standard spoken theater than going to a grand opera.”

The fest includes some well-known works like Jacques Offenbach’s "The Tales of Hoffmann," and a few lesser-known pieces including "Shining Brow," which tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s professional and personal life. Four world-premiere 15-minute operas will also be offered in late night settings. The “Night Caps International” series will be offered in the fourth floor Beaux Arts Ballroom of The Twentieth Century Club.

“It’s a sort of leave the kids at home event,” said Eaton of the short comic operas. “One of them is written by an up-and-coming young Chinese composer Yanwa Guo, another by a very well know French composer Monic Cecconi-Botella. We have an American-Lebanese one by Roger Zahab and also a gospel opera by Dwayne Fulton who is minister of music out at Mont Ararat Baptist here in Pittsburgh.”

A full rundown of the performances can be found at the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh website.

All of the performances are sung to live music and Eaton notes that many of the musicians are local including WQED Host Anna Singer who performs in "A Little Night Music."

Eaton said one of the goals of the fest and of the company in general is to make opera a little more approachable for everyone.