Hoping audience appeal will fight the recession, Opera Carolina will turn to big box-office names - Mozart, Verdi and Gilbert and Sullivan - in its 2010-11 season.
The season will open in October with "Cosi fan tutte," Mozart's comedy about two young men who test their sweethearts' faithfulness by taking on disguises. Next February will bring Verdi's "La Traviata," the story of a Parisian courtesan who gives up her chance for love. The season will end with Gilbert and Sullivan's social satire "H.M.S. Pinafore."
"Cosi fan tutte" will take care of an oversight on Opera Carolina's part.
It's part of the troika of operas - the others being "Don Giovanni" and "The Marriage of Figaro" - that Mozart created using texts by the Italian author Lorenzo da Ponte. Yet Opera Carolina hasn't staged it in nearly 20 years - "which is crazy," general director James Meena said.
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"It's as much of a masterpiece as 'Don Giovanni' or 'Figaro,'" Meena said.
"Traviata" includes some of the most beloved music in opera. "Pinafore" boasts the double appeal of Arthur Sullivan's bubbly music and William S. Gilbert's tart lyrics.
"Traviata" has financial benefits besides its box-office power, Meena noted. Because Opera Carolina owns the sets and costumes it will use, it won't have to rent any. That will save $30,000.
Opera Carolina has in recent years typically presented four operas a season. But as the recession hit ticket sales and contributions, the company cut back to three this season - though it added a touring production of Gershwin's popular "Porgy and Bess."
Even though the economy may show signs of stabilizing, Meena said, Opera Carolina will stick to the three-opera format next season.
"We need to take a position that is extremely conservative," Meena said. "Opera and the performing arts won't see any uptick for at least two years. We're always the first to get hit (when the economy suffers) and the last to recover."
Opera Carolina has two more productions this season. Verdi's Shakespeare-based drama "Otello," May 6 and 8, will star tenor Carl Tanner, who just portrayed Don Jose in Bizet's "Carmen." "Porgy and Bess" will close the season May 14-16.