We just got word that Opera Vista artistic director and founder Viswa Subbaraman is
leaving the group to become becoming the new artistic director for Milwaukee's Skylight Music Theatre in the 2013-2014 season.
Skylight Music Theatre has a full season (some 90 performances are planned for the upcoming year) with a broad repertoire of baroque opera, European operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan, Broadway musicals, contemporary chamber operas and original musical revues.
Via press materials, Subbaraman says, "The fact that Skylight does everything, from opera to musical theatre to operettas and revues, I really find that intriguing. One of my goals is to develop a conversation with the audience over the course of a season. I want every single production we do during a season to continue a dialogue, whether it's about heroism, revolution, fairy tales or some other part of the human experience."
Subbaraman had plenty of fans here in Houston, us among them. He was profiled in our 100 Creatives series in February. At the time, Subbaraman told us that while he would love to get back to conducting opera and orchestras, he planned to stay in Houston for the next five to seven years, working to have Opera Vista be self-sufficient.
Led by Subbaraman, Opera Vista won a Houston Press MasterMinds award in 2010.
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During Subbaraman's tenure, Opera Vista scored several coups, including the world premiere of the Thai opera The Silent Prince in October 2010. At the time, Subbaraman called the show "a Bollywood opera." The production required a live elephant onstage (Opera Vista borrowed one from a friend at the Renaissance Festival). In November 2011, the group mounted Powder Her Face, a chamber opera that chronicled the story of the notorious Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, who was known for her voracious sexual appetite. She was reportedly particularly fond of fellatio, which she performed onstage (albeit behind a screen).
UPDATE: Viswa Subbaraman says his joining Skylight Music Theatre won't require him to leave Opera Visita, at least not immediately. He'll hold both positions - artistic director for Opera Vista in Houston, artistic director and conductor for Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee - simultaneously over the next couple of years. "At least in the short term, I'll continue to act as artistic director for Opera Vista. I'll cut back on some of my conducting, but I'll conduct at least one production a year for Opera Vista. After that we'll look at a plan to either phase me out or figure out how I'll continue in both."
The two companies have some differences that will make Subbaraman's job - sorry, jobs, plural - especially interesting. "Opera Vista will continue its focus on new works," he says. "Skylight has a diverse repertoire of opera, operetta, and musical theater. Combine that with the ability to do seven productions a season, and really put all that together, it's going to be very exciting. We're already talking about potential partnerships between the two companies. We're hoping we'll be able to use people at the Skylight to guide Opera Vista. To be able to have an interaction between an established company and Opera Vista is going to be very beneficial to both, I think."
The bottom line for Subbaraman's decision to join Skylight Music Theatre is simple. "It's hard to look a company that has a four million dollar budget and has a history like Skylight and not take it seriously when it comes calling."