By Robert Croan
“Even in this time of COVID and other calamities, our need for music and art is ever present,” says Susan T. Danis, Florida Grand Opera’s general director and CEO. “We are excited to be performing in intimate yet socially distanced spaces that are perfect for a unique storytelling experience.”
In the time of COVID-19, an opera set during the AIDS crisis comes through a lot like a parable. Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, which opens FGO’s Season of Specials and Shorts on Saturday and Sunday, seems even more timely today than it was when the work premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2008.
Heggie’s opera, originally a vehicle for mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, centers on a famous actress who cannot accept that her son is gay, nor that her daughter is devastated by her husband’s infidelity. FGO’s production, adhering to CDC requirements for social distancing, will be at the Miami Theater Center rather than the company’s larger Arsht Center home base. Three Decembers is the first of three evenings of chamber works that will substitute for the season of full-scaled operas canceled because of the pandemic, with the star turn taken by mezzo-soprano Emily Pulley.
The themes of loneliness and dysfunctional family life continue in Daron Hagen’s New York Stories, a trilogy of domestic duo-dramas slated for Feb. 13 and 14; and also in the double bill of Leonard Bernstein’s now-classic Trouble in Tahiti and Thomas Pasatieri’s comedic sendup, Signor Deluso, March 20 and 21.
Other events cover a wide range of opera and musical theater in diverse neighborhood venues. Soprano Angela Brown will present her tongue-in-cheek black perspective on opera with Opera from a Sistah’s Point of View. Among other things, the singer streamlines Tosca’s fending off rape by stabbing to death the villain, into a single line: “Scarpia wanted to take me for pizza and I didn’t want to go with him.” [Feb. 28 at 3 and 7:30 p.m.]
An Evening of Spirituals, Jazz and Opera is slated for March 13, while zarzuelas and Latin-American music will be featured in separate programs on Feb. 5 and March 26. Elizabeth Caballero, a Miami favorite, is featured on the February event.
FGO’s annual Songfest, showcasing its Young Artists Program, will include Broward as well as Miami-Dade locations, with a wide range of operatic styles, from the baroque and Verdi, to 21st-century musical theater and the Great American Songbook.
For more information, please visit the opera company’s website at fgo.org.