Joint community opera expands perceptions

Cincinnati Camerata's Brett Scott

Cincinnati Camerata’s Brett Scott

Saturday, April 23, 3 p.m., Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church

Community theater. Community orchestra. Community choir.

Time-tested concepts, with numerous successful examples in the Queen City.

Community opera … uh, not so much. Until now.

An interesting amalgamation of  small performing arts organizations are joining forces in April to mount a production of “Tobias and the Angel,” a – yes – community opera by English composer Jonathan Dove.

The event will include professional soloists from North American New Opera Workshop (NANOworks) and instrumentalists from experimental chamber ensemble concert:nova. Members of Cincinnati Camerata and Woodford Paideia Academy music students (taught by Camerata member Angela Carota) will portray sparrows, the river, the fish, Raguel’s men and wedding guests.

Camerata artistic director Brett Scott, also associate professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, wanted to bring the work here to expand the community’s sense of what opera can be.

“It’s an interesting work that hasn’t been performed many times in the United States, even though it was premiered in London back in 1999,” Scott said. “And it’s a new experience for us, too. The Camerata has never performed a full opera, so it’s going to expand our repertoire, let us join forces with great local musicians, and have some fun with the kids.”

The story of “Tobias and the Angel” is from the book of Tobit, in the Biblical Apocrypha. David Lan’s libretto reads like a mystical Jewish folk-legend, and Dove’s music mixes contemporary classical sounds with accordion and klezmer music.

Dove’s work echoes that of his predecessor Benjamin Britten, whose “The Little Sweep” and “Noye’s Fludde” were intended for amateur performers and children.

NANOWorks is a 21st-century chamber opera company for 21st-century audiences, founded in 2012 by general director Kendall A and emerging composer Jennifer Jolley. They specialize in small, short samplings of new operas aimed at attracting a new type of opera fan.

Chamber ensemble concert:nova has been “reinventing the classical music experience” for nine seasons. A hallmark is creative collaborations such as “Tobias,” but producing a “modern micro opera” is “absolutely new territory for us,” said concert:nova artistic director Ixi Chen.

Cincinnati Camerata is a mixed-voice choral ensemble of 35 volunteer singers that produces several concerts each season, focusing increasingly on contemporary classical music from living composers.

In keeping with the community feel of the production, “Tobias” will be performed, not in an auditorium, but at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church.

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