Wonderful Evening at San Diego Opera FUSION Night
“It is essential to do everything possible to attract young people to opera so they can see that it is not some antiquated art form but a repository of the most glorious music and drama that man has created.” -Bruce Beresford
Last night, my fiancée, Amanda, and I attended the San Diego Opera at the San Diego Civic Theatre. We actually took the Coaster train downtown from the Solana Beach Station, and then the San Diego MTS Trolley to the Civic Auditorium, which was about a blog away from the Trolley stop. The San Diego Opera almost went out of business in 2014, as reported in The San Diego Reporter, and other publications. However, due to strong support from a handful of civic and community leaders, and some significant contributions, the San Diego Opera lived to celebrate its 50th anniversary year in 2015.
For several years, I’ve been invited to High Tech Night @ the Opera and declined, but last year I attended with the encouragement of some close friends and benefactors of the San Diego Opera, Leland and Debbie Sandler. Last year we saw Nixon in China, which has historical significance and was quite interesting, as covered in the Los Angeles Times. However, as interesting as this opera was, I wasn’t sold on opera. It just wasn’t my “cup of tea”. I really enjoy live concerts and musical event, and Amanda and I have attended quite a few here in San Diego and in Las Vegas. I also enjoy live theatre, and always try to see a Broadway Show whenever I go to New York City. It is one my favorite things to do. I even enjoy the symphony on a rate occasion. And have even been to the ballet, and have seen the Nutcracker a few times.
This year, High Tech Night @ the Opera was merged with the Life Science Live at the Opera into a new event called San Diego Opera FUSION Night. This is an event where top universities, venture capitalists, and industry leaders in the tech and life science community attend the opera. I thought I would give opera one more try since I really enjoy the networking with other industry leaders in technology and life science.
This year we got to see Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. And, I must say, it was absolutely AMAZING! Tosca is a traditional Italian opera, and the setting is about 200 year ago at the time of Napoleon’s reign in France. The English translation subtitles are available just above the stage, which is helpful, but distracting from the production at the same time. If you don’t speak Italian, I would say see Tosca twice. Once reading the subtitles and again just watching the production. Things that I absolutely loved in this production:
The Singing: It was amazing. There wasn’t a bad performer in the whole production. The three leads were all fantastic. Alexia Voulgaridou played Tosca. Alexia is a soprano with an absolutely divine voice. She also has so much passion and humor in her acting and singing. And she is gorgeous. She is from Greece and started her singing career in Athens. She is well know in Europe, and if she sings in the US for very long, I’m sure she will be very popular here as well. The other two main characters were Marco Cavaradossi played by a Welsh tenor, Gwyn Hughes Jones, and the villain, Scarpia, played by Greer Grimsley, an America Bass-Baratone. Both of these gentlemen were wonderful singers and actors, and delivered superb performances. The other role players and chorus cast were also terrific and brought the whole flavor of the production together.
The Sets: This Opera has three scenes and every one of the sets was really spectacular. Every detail was stunning, and totally complemented the overall production.
The High Drama Blended with Fun Humor: Puccini did a fantastic job blending drama, passion, love, anger, pain, and humor into a masterful production. I’m sure that is why this Opera is still popular all over the world after over 200 years.
The Orchestra: The orchestra music was wonderful. Part of this is due to the music being played and it’s wonderful qualities, but the conductor and every single one of the musicians were superb.
A couple of significant announcements by David Bennett, the General Director at the San Diego Opera, made prior to the production were the kick-off of a new fund raising campaign for the FUSION group in 2016, with a goal to raise $1 million. I know it can be done! Next year, the opera season is going to expand, and there will be some smaller productions at the Balboa Theatre.
The winner of the “My Voice in the Arts” contest were also in attendance last night. The San Diego Opera’s My Voice in the Arts program asks students to share their stories, interests, and perspectives by submitting written descriptions of their own personal artistic experiences. Student submissions were read by San Diego Opera staff and were evaluated by a committee consisting of local arts and civic leaders. Congratulations to all the winners!
We shared an UBER with some other friends back up to North County, and it was just a delightful evening. I’m totally sold on the opera now. I’m not sure if I will become a season ticket holder, but I am definitely going to try and see Madame Butterfly in April, which is also a Puccini opera. I will make a donation to the FUSION fund-raising campaign, and hope that the San Diego Opera is here for good!
Tell us what you think about opera, theatre and the arts in San Diego. What’s good and what’s lacking? We’d love hear your opinions.