New Opera Project Showcases Interlochen Student Collaboration

Crescendo issue: April 2014
So much of the art that happens on the Interlochen campus is a result of collaboration.

One of the finest examples of this began in March 2012 when a meeting took place at Interlochen's Writing House. From that meeting sprang the New Opera Project, an initiative that includes contributions from writers, composers, and vocalists in an effort to release new operatic works to the world. The culmination of this collaborative effort thus far will be showcased on April 18 and 19 at Traverse City's InsideOut Gallery when students present three original short operas "The Lottery," "Senescence," and "Yellow’s Bruises." 

The production and performance were made possible through a partnership between the Arts Academy and Traverse City's own Parallel 45 Productions, a firm whose board is made up completely of Interlochen alumni and associated people, including the Parallel 45 board president Erin Anderson.

"Interlochen's instructor of voice and opera theatre, Scott Skiba, came to us as a partner because our mission in the realm of theatre has a lot in common with the goals of this project," says Erin. "Parallel 45 takes familiar stories and re-invents them for a contemporary audience. Inventive new works, adaptations and re-imaginings are the core of our artistic ethic."

The evening will begin at 7 p.m. with original chamber music performed in the gallery. At 8 p.m., the curtain will rise in the theatre for the world premiere of The New Opera Project. At 9 p.m., guests will hear the eclectic popular music of Interlochen’s Singer-Songwriters while they mingle with the dynamic young artists and performers from around the globe.

“The idea is to take opera to new audiences in unique, inspiring, and engaging environments. We want to shatter the myth of opera as out of touch, opulent and irrelevant,” Scott explains. 

"This type of project in this type of collaborative atmosphere prepares the students for the real world," he continued. "For arts organizations, theatre, dance, orchestra, and especially, opera - which is very expensive to produce - collaboration is a means of survival. Combining resources, sharing expenses, administrative overhead and talent, enables two or more organizations to produce work that they could not produce on their own. There may always be the juggernaut companies like the Met and Lyric, however there's a new breed of opera company that is mobile, flexible and adapting to the market that will support opera in a 21st century way."

Skiba designed the process-based New Opera Project with his Interlochen colleagues, composition faculty member Dr. Cynthia Van Maanen and costume designer Mika Perrine.

"This production is quite progressive in musical content and the format of presentation. It's also presenting the work of high school aged artists in their first attempts at writing 'opera.' I want to invite the audience to experience and participate in this production. Perhaps they won't like it, but at least it will expand the horizon of what opera can be. 

For more information on the performance and the project, visit here.