Opera online and online only
Screenshot from HGOco website
Filming all over Houston, Houston Grand Opera has taken up the usual operatic themes of romance, heartbreak and sacrifice, and employed them in a new area: streaming videos. The first episode will air this Friday and it, like all the others to come, is based upon a true story.
will present a series of short opera films as a way of expanding its audience to entice more younger viewers with 21st century technologies and in a form that won't require a 3 to 4 hour (or more) commitment. . "Boundless" is the premiere, in 18 minutes telling the story of Alma who embarks upon a romantic relationship with a man 16 years her junior.
Houstonian Aryana Rose (not her real name) wrote the story on which this is based. It was first heard at a storytelling event by The Moth and has become a hit on the Moth's Facebook page.
As it turns out, making this great idea a reality has been a lot tougher than HGOco, the company's education and community engagement arm, anticipated.
For one thing, other than "Boundless" they've had problems finding really good true stories. "The challenge for this project is actually getting those stories themselves," says Emily Wells, HGOco programs manager. Consequently, they're not quite as far along as they'd hoped to be at this point.
Each episode is a stand-alone piece and the stories are ones that can easily be condensed, to be able to get across meanings and emotions in a streamlined setting. They are not operas that are then filmed. They are operas meant to be seen in online form and only that.
And as they learned in their first outing, opera singers have to learn how to dial it back, since they are performing for close-in cameras instead of projecting out from a stage to the hundreds of people in a live audience.
In this case it took two months to compose the libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann and three months for the music by Avner Dorman, who originally brought the idea to HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. . He wanted to explore "what are the barriers to love."
The complication as the relationship develops is that the man wants children while Alma has already been through that, has teenagers and isn't ready for a second go of it, says Wells, "She finds him a new partner," says Carleen Graham, director of HGOco.
The principal cast is small. There's four singers and some extras. Three primary and then the character of the child who comes in at the end. The music is unusual as well with three percussionists and an accordionist.
Graham and Wells say they want to hear people's stories, complete with some sort of impossible love and if there's some lines tossed in from Shakepeare's Romeo and Juliet, all the better. If you have one such true story and are willing to share it, send in your idea.
The stories will be posted on the Houston Grand Opera website.