Palmetto Opera expands its reach

acoyne@thestate.comFebruary 27, 2014 

  • If you go

    Palmetto Opera presents Teatro Lirico D’Europa’s production of ‘Carmen’

    WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

    WHERE: Koger Center for the Arts

    TICKETS: $45;


    Opera 101

    What to do if it’s your first time at the opera

    •  Read the plot synopsis in advance. There’s no such thing as a spoiler alert in opera, as these productions are centuries old. You don’t go to the opera to gasp in shock when Don Jose stabs Carmen; you go to hear some of the best classical music you can find. It will be easier to sit back and enjoy Bizet’s masterpiece if your eyes aren’t glued to the supertitles the entire time.

    •  Keep an eye on the supertitles, but not the whole time. An opera is a work of art. Yes, the music is why you go, but the exquisite sets and costumes are also worth admiring, not to mention the entertaining acting of the singers.

    •  Read the performers’ body language. You don’t need to know French or even read the supertitles to know that Carmen is convincing Don Jose to free her from arrest and run away with her during “Pres des remparts de Seville,” a bubbly and beautiful duet between the two main characters.

    •  Enjoy. Opera is an immersive experience. Don’t worry about whether you’re “getting it” or not; just sit back and absorb.

Growing up in Columbia, Kathy Newman never saw an opera. It wasn’t until she moved to New York, and then Washington, that she fell in love with the art form.

Now, as chair of the Palmetto Opera’s board of directors, Newman is on a mission.

“We’re going to bring opera to the capital,” she said.

The Palmetto Opera, formed in 2001, has been slowly doing just that. After one-production seasons in past years, the opera has expanded its 2014 season to include two shows, including Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” one of the most performed and well-known operas in the world.

The Palmetto Opera is bringing the Teatro Lirico D’Europa, a touring professional opera company, to Columbia to perform the classic production on March 1 at the Koger Center. Students and musicians from the University of South Carolina School of Music will join the cast as chorus members and extras.

“Carmen” is performed in French, but knowledge of the language of love is not necessary to enjoy the show. Supertitles will be projected in English across the top of the stage, and the high-drama plot can, at times, transcend language.

“This is about a beautiful gypsy temptress and a naïve soldier. It’s got jealousy. It’s got betrayal. It’s got tragedy,” Newman said. “It’s kind of like a soap opera.”

This will be the second major performance sponsored by the Palmetto Opera this year; the first, “An Evening with Pavarotti,” took place in January and showcased a lineup of arias the renowned tenor made famous.

The Palmetto Opera also puts on Opera Thursdays once a month at Villa Tronco, an Italian restaurant on Blanding Street. The monthly performances feature opera singers from the Midlands and across South Carolina. The performers sing classical arias and contemporary hits. This blend of old and new is aimed to attract a modern audience to the 400-year-old art form.

“We’re bringing something to the table that hasn’t been here before. The more people come and hear opera, the more it becomes part of our culture, and that is our goal, to make opera part of the culture of the capital,” Newman said. “It gives us the opportunity to not only introduce novices to opera, but allows us to showcase the opera talent we have in the Midlands.”

With that talent and the help of traveling companies like the Teatro Lirio D’Europa, Newman and the Palmetto Opera look to follow their motto: “Go slow, learn from the experts and develop an audience.”

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