Mark Gresham | 24 FEB 2021
Spring is the season of renewal. On Tuesday, The Atlanta Opera announced its Spring 2021 season. The company’s Molly Blank Big Tent series returns April 15 through May 9, but at a new location: the grounds of Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. Two new world premiere adaptations of famous operas will be presented: a flamenco-style The Threepenny Carmen, based on Bizet’s masterwork, and The Threepenny Opera, a reduction of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s “play with music.” As in the company’s fall productions, the two operas will be performed in repertory, on alternating nights. Both opera productions will be filmed for late summer distribution on Spotlight Media, the Opera’s digital streaming service.
Three new concerts, featuring singers of The Atlanta Opera Company Players, include Back to the Crossroads, an exploration of the country, bluegrass and blues that underpin American popular music on April 17; The Concert for Unity featuring Black opera stars, a celebration of the Black musical experience on May 8; and a third concert scheduled for May 1, Imagine Broadway, a Broadway-themed concert by the Company Players. Each concert is a Saturday matinee performance that begins at 2:00pm.
If readers sense a Kurt Weill-themed connecting thread between the Fall and Spring productions, make no mistake: it’s definitely there, in spades.
“As we continue to blaze an original path that will allow us to perform during a pandemic,” says TAO general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun, “we remain inspired by the century-old words of Kurt Weill: ‘If the boundaries of opera cannot accommodate the theater of our time, then these boundaries must be broken,’”
To the point, Zvulun talks about examining both Bizet’s Carmen and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera in this light and asking the deeper questions about just what their stories mean for us today.
“These operas tell stories of marginalized characters and a society that is on the brink of starvation. We’ve deconstructed these works and reconstructed them on a smaller scale, one more suited to our current times. Everything has to be scaled down during the pandemic. Audiences are smaller, run-times are shorter and grand operas must be pared down to focus on the essentials. We’re living in a lean, threepenny world right now, so it’s appropriate that we’re paying homage to Kurt Weill and producing threepenny operas that accommodate our present times.”
Just as the Fall 202 productions of The Kaiser of Atlantis and Pagliacci were presented in a “circus” environment, for both Carmen and The Threepenny Opera the Big Tent will be transformed into The Threepenny Bar, a bawdy East Texas barroom where the barstools are filled with thieves, hustlers, lovers and fools. (Atlanta Opera patrons will recall barroom settings were used successfully in Discovery Series productions of Maria de Buenos Aires and Charlie Partker’s Yardbird at Le Maison Rouge at Paris on Ponce.)
Six costume designs from The Threpenny Opera and The Threepenny Carmen
The cast for each production will include members of the company’s two ensembles – The Atlanta Opera Company Players and The Atlanta Opera Studio Players – as well as a number of special guests such as Atlanta theater icon Tom Key and flamenco superstar Sonia Olla. (Scroll down for complete rosters of cast and creative for both shows.)
Tickets for the spring productions will go on sale at 10 am, February 25 and can be purchased online at atlantaopera.org or by calling 404-881-8885. Tickets will be sold in both in two-person pairs and the popular 4-person “pods” from the fall Big Tent Series, with prices ranging from $25 to $110 per person. Limited, $25 “standing room only” tickets will be available for select performances. Availability is limited due to capacity constraints and distancing requirements. ■