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.”