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Video Published: 19 Oct 2022

An Oral History with Charles Jarden

On July 22nd, 2021, arts administrator Charles Jarden sat down with OPERA America's President/CEO Marc A. Scorca for a conversation about opera and their life.

This interview was originally recorded on July 22nd, 2021. 
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

Charles Jarden, arts administrator

Charles Jarden is approaching a 35-year tenure at The American Opera Project (AOP). After establishing AOP’s home base in Fort Greene, Brooklyn in 2000, he led the company as general director from 2002 to 2019 and now serves on its board. Jarden champions young, emerging composers in a new role as chief development officer for the Mahler Foundation.

Oral History Project

Discover the full collection of oral histories at the link below.


Marc A. Scorca: Charles, thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it. You may remember that 2020 was our 50th anniversary, and the anniversary celebration lasted for about two months before it all shut down. And one of the projects we wanted to undertake with our 50th anniversary was that we capture interviews with 50 people who've really made a huge difference to American opera over the last 50 years. So now that we're sort of back into the swing of things, we really wanted to capture a conversation with you. So thank you so much for this time today.

Charles Jarden: Thank you. I'm very flattered and proud that I've contributed. So let's see what I've done.

Marc A. Scorca: You really have. But first, who brought you to your first opera?

Charles Jarden: So my first opera, I put into two pathways. I was in a chorus in my grade school, Germantown Academy in Philadelphia, and we went to Vienna to sing one Christmas around 1977, '78. And we were in Vienna and I went to the opera with a few of us, (very few of us), and it was Penderecki's Devils of Loudun. So that was technically my first opera. Very soon afterwards, a very dear friend of my mom's (who just passed away last year at 104) took me to the Academy of Music to see The Magic Flute. So that would have been probably the Grand Opera Company at that time. So, I have those two memories as a very close, dear friend of the family, and then just a kid straying into a big fancy opera house, not even knowing what it was and seeing a pretty groundbreaking opera for its time.

Marc A. Scorca: For sure. And how did you react to that particularly? I'm thinking of the thread of you and new opera, but that's a very challenging piece. Did you just take it in as a youngster and enjoy it? Were you somehow put off by it and needed The Magic Flute to get you back into opera?

Charles Jarden: I think the strange thing about me and my personality is that I took it all in stride. It was a great production; it was a great night at the theater. So even if I was put off by music, it had Tatiana Troyanos in it; I forget who the director was: it was a fabulous night in the theater, and I reacted to that. The Magic Flute, by the way, that I saw was a semi-staged production, with Theodor Uppman and Rita Shane, and some other stars, and that equally got me, because it was a great night of singing. Already bubbling in my head, and remember I was a pianist...My first job at the Opera Company of Philadelphia was being the education pianist for Rumpelstiltskin shows. The idea that lyric theater I think was kind of bubbling in my head. I loved musicals at that point; my father and mother always took me to musicals that came to Philadelphia. So I just was like entranced with how music can accentuate a night in the theater.

Marc A. Scorca: Beautifully said. And you mentioned Opera Company of Philadelphia, and of course you and I overlapped there for a moment early in our careers. What brought you to the Opera Company of Philadelphia? How did that path happen?

Charles Jarden: That's a key moment in my development, so to speak. I went to Philadelphia, because I was enjoying learning about music at college. So I went in what was called a 'Jan Plan'. You could spend the month of January anywhere you wanted. And in my senior year, I went to the Opera Company of Philadelphia. I applied and Ed Corn greenlighted me coming, as an observer. And it was Renata Scotto's first appearance as Norma and John Alexander and a lot of other stars...Joann Grillo. And I ended up being in the show as a spear carrier, as well as being the observer for the entire period, and I got hooked by it. I was totally hooked by that Norma. It was watching Renata Scotto. I think the director was James de Blasis, formerly of Cincinnati Opera. And they were very close - those two - watching what was going on in rehearsals as she prepped this major new role for her was just fascinating to me and I loved it and I musically got it, because I was seriously studying piano at that point. So I just became smitten by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, so I applied to the Opera Company. When I left college, I applied to three places after college. I applied to Boston where Sarah Caldwell was. I applied to the Opera Company of Philadelphia and I applied to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Those were my three top choices for a job. And Philadelphia Opera gave me a job right out of college. So I started in June of '78.

Marc A. Scorca: It's remarkable because Ed Corn gave me my first job out of college, and I started in May of 1979 and certainly if Ed were alive today, he would be one of the 50 people we would want to interview. (He) was at The Metropolitan Opera before being asked to become the general director because the Lyric Opera and the Grand Opera in Philadelphia merged to create the Opera Company of Philadelphia. And he was the first general director. And he did it for a few years before leaving for Washington, DC where he became head of the brand new opera music theater program, and at the time that Ed was in Philadelphia, he was very involved with the National Opera Institute, which is how probably you and I both met John Ludwig and Ed was one of those early advocates for diverse repertoire. And of course, he ran an opera company with energy, but not a lot of technique. It was quite an experience. Talk about a volatile temper, but it's so interesting that we share that in common and Ed Corn - people don't mention him a lot - but so important to American opera.

Charles Jarden: Exactly. And, remember the Black Opera Forum? Do you remember that title?

Marc A. Scorca: I don't remember that.

Charles Jarden: He introduced this thing called the Black Opera Forum, where he was interested in getting into those neighborhoods of Philadelphia that didn't know what the Opera Company of Philadelphia was and trying to connect their heritage with how the art form of opera happened. And I remember we had symposiums; we had forums and we took performances of Pergolesi's Livietta e Tracollo into the neighborhoods. I remember being hit by a basketball and stuff like that. It didn't matter. He was trying to diversify opera - back then. And we had very quickly after that...The seeds of it were with Ed. When Margaret (Genovese) was there, we had that all black Dido and Aeneas: Simon Estes, Jessye Norman, Faye Robinson, Steven Cole...We just had this amazing feeling that we were going to try to serve - I remember that was a great word I learned from Ed and it always has stuck with me - serve the community, because we're a service organization and we happened to do art, but we needed to know our community so that we could serve it.

Marc A. Scorca: Just great to have this memory of Ed; thank you for that. So, Magic Flute, Norma: a galvanizing experience. What led you into the realm of new work, as your career commitment?

Charles Jarden: So I've been thinking about this because you asked me, and it's a long answer, so you'll have to stop me. So please do. But I think it's about personality, a lot of the job, and I think you would own that too. I was at AOP (American Opera Projects) for 32 years, and I think personality way back then played a factor because what I was getting out of Philadelphia Opera, and then moving on to Santa Fe Opera was a feeling of not - this is going to surprise you in a way - but not fitting in. The repertoire was not clicking with me. I felt like I was an interloper. And I'll give you a reason why. At Philadelphia, in the years that I was there, we covered every major category of opera that there was. I mean, you name a composer and we did it back then, thanks to people like Ed and Margaret who both were sort of shooting in the dark maybe, but they hit a lot of targets. I made a little list just quickly for Opera Company of Philadelphia: we did Rumpelstiltskin; Pearl Fishers; Tosca with Renata Scotto; Faust with Alain Vanzo; Manon with Beverly Sills; Cunning Little Vixen; Pagliacci; all the Mozart top five (Giovanni with Justino Diaz, by the way); Boheme with (Luciano) Pavarotti; L'elisir with Pavarotti; Rondine with (Diana) Soviero; Fledermaus with (Julius) Rudel; Falstaff with Renato Capecchi; Dido and Aeneas with Jessye Norman and Simon Estes; Cenerentola with Maria Ewing and Frank Corsaro; The Freelance by John Philip Sousa; Pique Dame directed by Gian Carlo Menotti; Eugene Onegin from The Met; Rigoletto from The Met added to that vast array of Western operatic canon. When I moved to Santa Fe, I was hit by even more diverse pieces: baroque opera, which I really wasn't that aware of - Monteverdi and Handel; the whole Strauss canon that John Crosby specialized in - and I got to meet all the Strausses that were still alive numerous times on their turf and on our turf. And perhaps the most important was the new living composers that are working with Santa Fe, 'cause I really hadn't worked with a living composer closely since that Rumpelstiltskin at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, but at Santa Fe, my personality and what John (Crosby) and Brad (Wollbright) threw me into was basically troubleshooting the complex environment that composers on campus were creating. And I think you know what I mean. When I tried to move an opera from AOP to another opera company, I sometimes got the response, when I asked, "Do you want the composer to come?" They would say, "Well, why? Why would the composer come out here with us?" In Santa Fe, I understood very early on that the composer on campus was a whole mishegoss that you had to deal with. And my personality threw me into that. So I dealt with Hans Werner Henze three times; I've dealt with Penderecki - in person. And I actually kept those relationships up. I visited them in Europe when they were doing premiers. Judith Weir; Tobias Picker, when he came and talked about Emmeline way early on. So those situations became in a sense, more interesting to me than the operas. I loved the personalities of figuring out how a creator who is drawing off their living experience on this planet was bringing that to this bizarre Southwestern opera company, which they all loved by the way, they all adored being there. It was really kind of a cult of personality, I think in a sense, that I loved figuring out what to do with the creators and how to make their works better and happier for them; the experiences and keeping the quality of their work; what they wanted it to be, because there's also the flip side of some of this at Santa Fe was that it was a toxic work environment, to be honest with you and became more so for me. So I gravitated to these creators because often even people like Hans Werner Henze when he was doing a new opera at Santa Fe, he was sidelined by John, because he was jealous; that was John's bipolar personality too. He loved the fact that he was doing Hans Werner Henze, but his Strauss opera that year was much more important. So we had to fight to get the orchestra rehearsals for the new operas. We had to fight to get those in between brush-ups between performances, because John wanted all those people to himself. And it became a really not good atmosphere there for me at the very end. And that, I think coupled with my idea that new opera could be handled successfully... It wasn't scary; it wasn't audacious; it was just like: this was an artwork and there was a way to handle it. So I think the way that moved into AOP was that I found a partner in Grethe Holby (who was a choreographer at the time) that engineering an opera; steering an opera; a new opera from its initial impulse to its docking at port, so to speak, could be done and I loved doing it. And it was better for me to do it in my terms rather than on somebody else's terms.

Marc A. Scorca: It was just beautifully explained and just so clear and motivating. I wanted to explore that transition from the well-resourced, world-renowned Santa Fe Opera to American Opera Projects (as it was called at the time) and what it was like to go from that stage in Santa Fe to a really small experimental startup in New York. What was that transition like?

Charles Jarden: It felt right for me because I was suddenly dealing with creators all the time, and we had some good wins back then. I got to meet Lee Hoiby the first year there. I became very close with Lee. Steve Mackey tried out his first opera with us. There were some interesting people along the way. Susan Bahtti was another one that stands out. And I quickly learned that Grethe and I could make it work. Grethe owned a piece of real estate, which was very helpful back then at 463 Broome Street. And as long as I and her, (but mostly me because I was there every day) managed the basement, which was a commercial space for a photography studio, it paid the bills for us staying in Soho completely. It wouldn't drain anybody's bank account, which was fortunate for Grethe. Grethe was not a good fundraiser. She'll be the first to admit that. So I just became, by default, the person who had to start writing the grants, and making the connections and follow-throughs with some of the people that Grethe did bring to the opera. But then I usually was the one who cemented the relationship and did the follow-through. So the lack of means in downtown Manhattan in those years really wasn't a big problem. We got reviewers. John Rockwell used to come; (Anthony) Tommasini used to come; Alex Ross used to come; Peter G. Davis used to come to our shows. Sometimes they reviewed them, sometimes they didn't. So I also understood the value of building something that was interesting enough to draw press, and as long as you funded it, even to a bare minimum, you were gonna be okay. And I felt that, and I relaxed into that, quite early on. There also was a great community of opera companies there. You remember Center for Contemporary Opera; Nancy Rhodes' group (Encompass New Opera Theatre) quickly followed by Gotham (Chamber Opera), Dicapo (Opera Theatre) even, other companies like Vertical (Player) Rep or American Lyric Theater. Then there was Beth Morrison Projects; Diane Wondisford's Music Theater Group. There was sort of this hotbed of stuff happening in the downtown area so I felt very, very supported and very much like this was good for opera and it was good for New York City, and it was all new stuff, which was being looked at with New York City eyes. So there wasn't anybody highbrow saying, "Why aren't you doing Verdi when you could do Steve Mackey?" No one was saying that to me. I think also when OPERA America decided to move to New York City, and I remember those discussions started as early as like maybe 2009/10, something like that?

Marc A. Scorca: We actually made the move in 2005. We'd begun discussing it in 2003/04. We were talking about the opera center in 2009/10.

Charles Jarden: I think that actually helped the culture of these more experimental...we used to call it off-Lincoln Center opera companies. So with your institution and its ability to draw more interest and more scrutiny to opera was really a plus. So, I never really felt AOP sputter or flounder at all. I have to admit that's one of the reasons I stuck with it. Sure there were hard times when after 9/11, or during the stock market crash (the financial crash of 2008/09), but it didn't really affect us because we were so small and so nimble and doing stuff in places that seemed to survive the crunch. For example, by then I had developed a track record with doing things at Lincoln Center Festival because ???, so Nigel Redden was a very important partner to us. We ended up (with) five world premiers with the Lincoln Center Festival. Joe Melillo at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) became a good partner. We did four world premieres at BAM. And these guys weren't doing that many world premiers. They were mostly bringing in European touring companies. So we always felt that our presence in those festivals, created an interesting and more fertile place for the staff to connect. So I built great relationships at the Lincoln Center Festival: Erica Zielinski; (Paul) King...(He still runs the production thing at The Armory).

Marc A. Scorca: Charles, when you think about an experimental company partnering with these major institutions, Lincoln Center Festival, or BAM, are there a couple of keys, couple of words of advice about establishing such partnerships? Because I think so many of our new works producers would like to see their work under the spotlight of such institutions. How are you able to build those relationships?

Charles Jarden: Well, I think the one thing that I'm still trying to convey to Matt (Gray) and Mila (Henry) is that when you go into their offices to talk about your folder of operas that you want pitch, you have to also listen. And, I'll stick out my neck and say that (with) opera company heads (of organizations), listening isn't always their best attribute. And I, I learned to work with John Rockwell and then Nigel, and then Joe, because he would look at the portfolio that I was shaking at him and pick out something that maybe was my fourth choice, because there was something about it that he liked. And so I immediately shifted gears. I could shift and I could say, "Oh, you like that piece? Hmm. That's interesting. Let's see. Maybe we can do that one for you". And that was usually a good choice because they were bringing their expertise and their knowledge of their audience to the (table). So when we did, for example, a Phil Kline opera, we helped open the BAM Fisher season, I didn't particularly think Phil Kline was a great composer for the lyric stage, but Joe did; he believed in him. I got to know Phil really well and I got to admire Phil and we had a second project with Phil. And I learned again the backstory to what Phil wanted to say through his stories was really interesting to me. And I really enjoyed getting to know the creator. This goes back to the connections that made me so inspired about being in Santa Fe; getting to know the Penderecki backstory; the Henze backstory. I got to know these people really well, and that's why we were able to steer these pieces - even some of them that were slightly troubled - to these major outlets. I would call them outlets. And Nigel brought me to Spoleto. I helped bring Huang Ruo’s first piece to Spoleto, and then we did some pretty interesting touring of our own with AOP. Building relationships in Europe, we had Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness at The Royal Opera House, and we were given 50/50 credit on that. So, there was some great relationship building; it was a good time to build relationships. You had to be there, in person, to build relationships. So I also fear that Zoom is going to put a crick in peoples' neck, cause they have to keep staring into the screen, versus when you're with somebody in person, you can decide, "Hey, let's take this meeting out to a coffee shop and finish it tomorrow". So, I had to meet five or six times with the person that took Darkling to Berlin. It wasn't just one zoom session. So, it's building relationships. I know you've heard that before, but I think it was again that backstory, (if that makes any sense) with the living composers was so personal to me.

Marc A. Scorca: It's such a key word that you put out here is 'listening' and you're so right that opera people have a tendency to show up and start speaking, and listening is such an important part of the work that we need to develop a better skill for doing. Then you moved AOP to Brooklyn and it was fascinating to watch a company that was a kind of new works laboratory, that was reaching across the country and around the world then become local, in a fashion. And I I'd like to hear about how you decided to move to Brooklyn and the benefit to you and the company (of) becoming local.

Charles Jarden: This is something I have also thought about recently. I talked to Susan Feder about it, just recently. There was always the economic factors involved. Our space on Broome Street in Soho was getting crowded by fancy boutiques on both sides of us and the finances of doing opera there were getting bigger just because it was more expensive to go to Soho. You had an audience that was expecting more elaborate productions, because they thought Soho was going to be this beautiful...So I had come to Brooklyn to see things at the Brooklyn Academy of Music way back; that was one of my job interviews after college was with Harvey Lichtenstein. That was one of the three places I wanted to work. And I just saw this opportunity along with a board member/friend of ours, Lois Schwartz, if you remember that name and Lois and I trecked over here and saw the Alliance of Resident Theaters building gutted and empty and dirty and dusty. And we both walked around the neighborhood and we both thought 'This is for AOP'. And we took it back to the board and there was a 50/50 divide: half the board didn't want to go, and Grethe was in that half and the other half wanted to go. And for some reason I won out and we went and we were one of the first two tenants in the south Oxford space and I learned (through fortuitous relationships again in the neighborhood) what a new music shock could do for the neighborhood. And I think that my realization that this full circle kind of thing - beginning with Ed Corn - is you have to serve a community. That's what your job is, as a not-for-profit who gets government money, who gets private money, that gets innovative. So I started thinking how to serve our community; how to be the go-to place on main street, whether it was Fulton Street or Myrtle Avenue; the go-to place for people who wanted a new music event. And I kind of blundered into it. I'm not saying I had this all strategized, but I remember when OPERA America had that fabulous grant - we didn't receive one of them, but that doesn't matter - I think the impetus behind it was fabulous.

Marc A. Scorca: The Civic Practice Grants, which we still have every other year.

Charles Jarden: Amazing. Amazing innovation for a service organization like OPERA America to have that. But I was thinking that, without knowing it...I was doing that back in 2000 with AOP, when we started commissioning local poets, putting things in parks. My relationship began with the Fort Greene Park Conservancy because of an opera we did in the park...with libraries, with community centers. I think I began to realize that the people walking around Fort Greene were not aware that there was a Metropolitan Opera or a Carnegie Hall necessarily. So why would there be interest in American Opera Project, unless I made it interesting to them and doing a loft opera version of Rigoletto wasn't my style. So it was doing new work, and I've learned a lesson because we commissioned some school children to write lyrics which Gilda Lyons, a composer, set to music. And we got them performed through a bizarre, fortuitous thing on the main stage at Carnegie Hall. And the parents of those kids would not let their kids come to that performance, because they didn't know where Carnegie Hall was. That also was a big lesson to me. I just assumed without any preparation that this family would be honored that their kid's lyrics were being sung on stage at Carnegie Hall. And they were not honored; they were frightened about the idea of me taking their kids to Carnegie Hall, which they didn't know.

Marc A. Scorca: That's a wonderful lesson.

Charles Jarden: So those kids never saw their lyrics performed there. But they came and their parents came even, (when) we performed them in the park. One of the first things in the park after the pandemic opening was some of the songs that these kids wrote. And now that they're teenagers and around 20, their grandparents still come and they still say to me, "Yeah, that's great music that they wrote. I thought it would be more hip hop". Gilda Lyons is not a hip hop composer, but there could have been a hip hop composer set those same lyrics. So that lesson of bringing things home, rooting it in a community, plus building the relationship with the creators, and there was another tack that I felt compelled to take, which was to bring LGBTQ stories to the front. That was very important to me and it became important to AOP. So we started with Patience and Sarah (Lincoln Center Festival). We did Jorge Martin's Before Night Falls; Paul's Case by Gregory Spears. And finally, (not finally, there's some in between) but As One, which was a really engineered piece. We took the ingredients; we took the funders and partners available, and we made it happen. The creators tell a slightly different story, which is great and fine, and I love them all for it, but it was a workshoped-to-death piece, As One. We did so many iterations and change so much because the workshop process kept giving back different answers. And we finally ended up with the As One that everybody knows and loves now, but it started off quite a different piece.

Marc A. Scorca: I was just emailing with Laura over the weekend and she was in Maine and Opera Maine for the 46th production of As One. So it really has become a beloved piece at the end of your developmental process.

Charles Jarden: It was those two ingredients. It was working with the creators closely and sometimes chaotically; it was a news story out of the papers, literally. The transgender thing was beginning to become widely known and accepted by different art forms. There's a television show. There was novels and linking that back to AOP's hometown. And that's when I was able to interest BAM in co-producing it with us.

Marc A. Scorca: I'm fascinated by your work to be local. And I also hear that you brought this work to Berlin; this work to the Royal Opera in London; Lincoln Center; Spoleto. How do you navigate the space between something that is local, and something that has that potential to be universal; that has the appeal that speaks outside of neighborhood or outside of community? How do you navigate that space?

Charles Jarden: I think, again, this word 'listen' is crucial. I always tried to get people in our workshops early on, when a piece was going to go on a trajectory like you are referring to, that was better than I was at assessing it. 'Cause sometimes there was something that really worked in a workshop and everybody went out on air; they just loved it. And I would convene a feedback session often with Matt or Mila and other creators, and we would get bad feedback. And yet I just witnessed this euphoric audience. And you've just got to learn that the pieces that had the kind of feedback, which was critical and not just all approving and positive... Those critical things. Even if there was one criticism that clicked with us at AOP, we were on it like a dog with a bone, and we would make that creative team change and adapt to these changes. So what is that really saying? It's kind of the workshopping process is king in a sense: listen to the feedback. And the workshopping process doesn't just include an audience reaction on the workshop night, it includes the feedback after. And usually that feedback came in over weeks afterwards. And when we digested that feedback and then gave it to the creators, you have to give it to them in a way that they're going to take it; and feel good about it; and own it; and come up with something better, and not put them off. I've seen workshopping situations across the country where the feedback was delivered by the company badly, and fracturing the relationships. So I think that helped. I would rely on the people around me and listened to their feedback. And a lot of those people, by the way, were Fort Greene people. We had a really nice audience here and Fort Greene is a great hotbed of artistic creation itself. It has a legacy of it. So the people that came in may not be known people with the title of 'Show Doctor' on their door. They were good people who listened to, and made a difference in the works of art.

Marc A. Scorca: So when we have done our road trips, we visited 99 companies with our virtual road trips. And part of our slideshow was showing a list of world premier operas by American companies in the 1970's. And then a list through the decades to the last: 2010 to 2020, which has columns and columns and columns: you must feel deeply rewarded by what has occurred, not only during your career, but as a result of your work. Do you think, "Wow, look at where we've come".

Charles Jarden: I do. I also see how much work there is to do still, soo that's sobering...

Marc A. Scorca: That was going to be my next question: if you were pleased, where do you see the areas where work is deleted?

Charles Jarden: So, the pandemic is a really good example: it put a lot of creators into fear mode again. How am I going to raise money to do risky experimental work? I don't think it's going to last as long as other cataclysmic events did that put people in that mode. But I often found my opera colleagues so scared. I mean the craziest thing...I have several, but one of the biggest regrets is that Patience and Sarah never has been at Glimmerglass Opera. It's crazy. And I was in Paul Kellogg's office every year saying, what about Patience and Sarah? And he loved the work. He had a whole DVD of the work. He was too afraid to do it.

Charles Jarden: He said, "My audiences will not go for this". Here's a gay man at an opera company where he's very much loved and adored, who is afraid to do Patience and Sarah, which took place around the corner from Cooperstown, and the museum in Cooperstown had artworks of one of the characters represented in the opera. So I think my issues with opera have not gone away; they've stayed. All throughout my 30-so years that I still feel that I, personally, am an interloper in this art form a little bit. It goes back to the beginning of our discussion when I felt like how all these chaotic stories, all those operas we did at the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Strauss and Santa Fe, and what did I get out of those for myself as an American? I felt like the only way I could really participate in this scheme of doing new opera and doing opera at all, was to do stuff that meant something. And so I tended to pick creators and I would hope in the future that opera companies pick creators who are engaged in life and in politics and in the social justice issues of their time. Because I think those are the operas which are going to have the longevity and make a bigger impact. I grew tired and weary of having so many operas placed on our desk for submissions that were remakes of a movie or a novel that was popular at its time. Not that that still can't have its relevance, but please put alongside of it, your current artistic mission for being an artist; being on this planet as an artist: that's what I always try to draw out of people. And in a way, it's coming full circle in our society with cancel culture and all these arguments about appropriation. If opera people listen to cancel culture and to the arguments about appropriation, they're going to become very nervous and caught up in these paralyzing arguments. So why not do stuff which is current today? The artists are there. They're salivating to do their work and bring it to a bigger platform. So just find the work - again, if it has to be engineered and workshopped, we can do that. There's money for it. Lots of money at OPERA America for it, which is amazing and other places. Engineer and make sure those works that have something to say, come to the fore. And I think, if I had to sum up lots of years and years of this, I would say partnerships (and I would include OPERA America as a good partner all these years) that allow you to take risks and try to say something relevant; keep reinventing yourself so that you are making sense in this chaotic world. That's the satisfying thing. It's not easy to do. And I pity the companies that have to rely on doing Madam Butterfly or operas that are going to be caught up in so many generations of stylization, and then this new argument of appropriation: whether it's even a Butterfly can be played by a Italianate singer. We've got to move past that, and it's easy to move past that if you do new work. 

Marc A. Scorca: In your career, have there been real or imagined mentors or role models? And I say real or imagined because sometimes there are real people you might turn to for advice. Then there are also people where you might take out the Ouija board and say, "What would so-and-so do?" Are there some people who have been those touchstones for you over the years?

Charles Jarden: Let's go back to Ed. Those experiences...what was it? Maybe three years with Ed? If you count my college Jan Plan experience with him. I think when I was at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Renato Capecchi, an Italian baritone, came and did a couple of shows. He did Cenerentola with Maria Ewing. He did Falstaff and my very first year at Santa Fe, he did, Il matrimonio segreto (Cimarosa). And by the end of that sort of five or six years I'd had with Renato, I became very, very friendly with him and his wife. And I followed him to Europe a number of times, and watched him perform at the Paris Opera in Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld. I watched him in Verona; I watched him in Rome. He was a master of the Italianate style, and he taught me a lot about singing and how to be a good singer. He was in his sixties by that time. And I clicked with Steve Osgood about that, early on about composers and the voice. And Steve was really a compatriot with me about making sure that our composers were composing for the right instrument when they came to...They didn't have in their head that a singer is a flugelhorn. This is great. This is what I've always wanted to do: compose for a flugelhorn. No, you have a soprano or you have a tenor or you have a countertenor or you have a bass, and this is what they can do. And Renato actually gave me the seeds of that, 'cause it was fascinating to see him work as an artist: such a master of his art form at that time. John Crosby, you know, love/hate relationships...wow. When I had to make every hard decision at AOP, I would think of John Crosby, because he made hard decisions every day about the Santa Fe Opera. And not only to make decisions, but to make them quickly: that was a key for me...don't let everybody hang out, waiting for you to make an important decision. We've got to make it quickly. Even if it's wrong, it's better than stringing people out over months and months and months or weeks. So, John Crosby definitely was a mentor. And then I think I just learned from so many creators over the years. You know, I think Greg Spears' approach to opera is so healthy, as a really grounded 20th century composer (as Lee Hoiby was too). They're composers who are just so healthy and they were such strong, noble individuals in society, I think to both Lee and Greg in their own way that that was inspirational to me. 'Cause I've had a lot of creators who are very myopic and they can only see their artworks, and that's fine. They're good and great stuff can come out of them. But when you talk about people that were influential, I think of creators like Lee Hoiby and Greg Spears.

Marc A. Scorca: How wonderful. What a great gallery of people to think about as you do your work. Charles, I am so grateful for your time for this discussion. So many things you have said so beautifully, and I think are not only memories of years ago, but instruction for years to come. I thank you; I congratulate you; I wish you great happiness in this next chapter of your life. And I look forward to seeing you soon.