Courtesy Tulsa Opera

Tulsa Opera proves its continued relevance

Tulsa Opera’s recent performance of “The Stars Align” proved entertaining even for those unfamiliar with opera but also demonstrated opera still has some tricks up its sleeve.

Tulsa Opera’s recent performance of “The Stars Align” proved entertaining even for those unfamiliar with opera but also demonstrated opera still has some tricks up its sleeve.

On February 17, 2018, Tulsa Opera hosted an elegant one-night-only gala and concert, “The Stars Align,” at the Performing Arts Center. The opera company celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, making it the 12th oldest in the country — an impressive but little-known fact about Tulsa! The show was intended to demonstrate the wide variety of styles, genres and subjects that opera and vocal music as a whole can display, to prove that “opera isn’t just for your grandma.”

“The Stars Align” starred world-famous mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, a Grammy winner who played the titular character in the New York Metropolitan Opera’s “The Merry Widow” just last month. Born in Roswell, New Mexico, Graham has traveled around the world enchanting audiences with her powerful voice, performing also with the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera (to name a couple). The anniversary concert also featured Tulsa’s own “silver-voiced soprano” Sarah Coburn, who has performed extensively with the Tulsa Opera, the New York City Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, as well as Aaron Blake, a tenor who has also performed all over the country and the world. Tulsa Opera is extremely lucky to have such well-trained, famous performers.

Classic opera pieces, from “Manon,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “La Traviata,” for example, were performed at the show alongside more contemporary pop music and musical theater pieces, like “I Will Always Love You,” “The Sound of Music” and “For Good” from “Wicked.” The kids of Tulsa Youth Opera even made an appearance to perform an absolutely adorable, and catchy as always, rendition of Toto’s “Africa.” All of the vocalists returned to the stage at the very end to lead the audience in a rousing sing-along of the Finale from “Oklahoma!” to which I still don’t know the words. It was incredible to hear opera sung alongside pop music and musical theater. Each new performance was dramatically different from the last, but they all blended beautifully and satisfyingly, reminding the audience what music is all about. Music serves many practical purposes: it gives us a way to express our feelings, unite a group, or simply entertain. It’s been around as long as humans have, and we keep coming up with new ways to make it bigger and better.

Rachel Wallis, a soprano who performs at the University of Tulsa and has worked closely with the Tulsa Opera over the past several years, describes opera as “the pinnacle of human ability” — it combines difficult singing and projection techniques that require years of training with dance, composition, storytelling and orchestra.

To people who aren’t very familiar with or interested in opera, she says, “Don’t knock it till you try it!” There are hundreds, thousands of operas out there, and it’s certainly possible to find one that speaks to you if you just make the effort to look for it. It’s tragic that many people in the United States aren’t interested in seeing operas nowadays; this has resulted in the closing of opera companies all over the nation, as well as the Tulsa Opera having to cut down from three operas a year to two from 2015 to 2017. This is the same reason that funding for the arts is being cut in public schools: it’s seen as unnecessary, auxiliary to life rather than essential. But the fact is that people love listening to stories. We always have.

Thankfully, the amazing Tulsa Opera is going to be okay. At the “Stars Align” concert, it was announced that the 2018-19 season will once again feature three operas: “The Barber of Seville,” “The Little Prince” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” which is one of the most-performed operas ever and whose message continues to speak to modern audiences despite the fact that it’s approaching its 231st birthday.

Post Author: tucollegian