Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Palm Beach Opera Displays Financial and Artistic Success

Founded in 1961 as the "Civic Opera of the Palm Beaches," the Palm Beach Opera is a professional opera company performing at the Kravits Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. For years the jet-set have been traveling from large cities across the country to reach this haven for the rich in an area known
Daniel Biaggi: Captain of the high C's
mostly for its golfing and yachting during the winter months. West Palm Beach is technically a municipality (the oldest in South Florida) with a population that inches toward 100,000 residents and its slightly more exclusive neighbor, Palm Beach, has only 30,000 residents during peak vacation season. Opera can be a tough sell in these parts, especially since Florida Grand Opera is operating a mere 67 miles south in Miami and the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to movie theater as part of their "Live in HD" series. In the beginning, the company performed one production annually and by the mid-1990s four fully staged operas were taking place each season. Artistically, Palm Beach Opera hit its stride during the directorship of its Principal Conductor Anton Guadagno from 1984 to 2002. The new millennium brought corporate scandals and plummeting stock portfolios for many supporters of the opera. The company had no choice but to
James Valenti: Star tenor and
West Palm Beach resident.
make bold choices for leadership in order to succeed and flourish in the coming decade. After Maestro Guadagno passed away in August 2002, the company brought Bruno Aprea in as the Artistic Director & Principal Conductor beginning in 2005 and appointed Daniel Biaggi as the new General Director in 2008. As Palm Beach Opera celebrates its 50th Anniversary this season by opening with Madama Butterfly on December 16, 2011, it is clear the artistic and financial vision of the company is beginning to pay off. Although they reduced the budget from $6.5 million to $4.7 million, trimmed full-time staff to ten positions and now present three fully staged operas with one concert performance a season (Beethoven's Symphony #9 and Verdi's Requiem were recent choices), the quality of singing has skyrocketed. In addition to meeting the expectations of audiences aurally skilled in houses like the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera, the company has to provide A-list singers alongside budding young talent that fits the budget. Recent seasons have seen veterans Ruth Ann Swenson and Dolora Zajick, as well as newcomers Angela Meade, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Nadine Sierra, James Valenti and Nicole Cabell.
Metropolitan Opera soprano Ruth Ann Swenson
at a post-performance dinner 
Now that the company has found its footing, they hope to expand beyond the typical Italian and French repertoire into 20th-century works (especially American pieces) and Baroque. For more about the cast and performance dates of Madama Butterfly at the Palm Beach Opera, click here. And if you are in the neighborhood on January 20 and 22, the company will present two Golden Jubilee concerts featuring scenes from La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, La Bohème, Carmen, Aïda, among others and will be hosted by the baritone Sherrill Milnes. The concerts will be lead by conductors Julius Rudel and Bruno Aprea with singers Angela Brown, Ruth Ann Swenson, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Brandon Jovanovich and many more.[Source, Source, Source]

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