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Article Published: 01 Jan 2018

Seven Days of Fun

Denyce Graves
Denyce Graves (photo: Audrey Saccone)

When OPERA America launched National Opera Week in 2009, it was intended as an opportunity for companies to present entertaining free events and attract new audiences to the art form. It has since become much more: a focal point for the industry, allowing companies to showcase the role of opera in their communities and connect with loyal audiences and newcomers alike.

From October 27 to November 5, more than 300 organizations and individuals from 42 states and provinces hosted 280 Opera Week events, breaking previous records for the fourth year straight. The spirit of fun prevailed in pop-up concerts, trivia contests, opera singalongs and behind-the-scenes tours. Knoxville Opera partnered with the local zoo to present a family-oriented “BOO! at the Zoo” program; at Minnesota Opera, the costume shop hosted a seminar for stage-struck teenagers; and in Richmond, Virginia Opera’s “Tap into the Opera” program paired young-artist performances with local beers.

“Opera has a stereotype of being this elitist art form that you can’t understand, but I tell people all the time, ‘Just go,’” said mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, National Opera Week’s honorary chair, in a special welcome video. “People come to me and say, ‘I had no idea that this is what the opera was. I love this, and I want to come again and again and again.’”

For this year’s Opera Week, OPERA America encouraged companies to share videos featuring celebrated community personalities as Local Opera Week Chairs. Soprano Nadine Sierra told her story of debuting with Palm Beach Opera at age 16, while at The Santa Fe Opera, former news anchor Sam Donaldson and his wife, Sandy, discussed ways that New Mexicans can become involved in opera.

A key part of this year’s activities was Opera Advocacy Day on November 1, in which opera professionals urged lawmakers to back the policies and legislation that will sustain the art form, like tax reform and its impact on charitable giving, visa processing for foreign artists, funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and regulations on wireless microphones.

This article was published in the Winter 2018 issue of Opera America Magazine.