Arts Desk

Aria Code: A Guide to D.C.’s Semipro Opera Companies

bel cantantiPlenty of TV watchers have noted how closely Netflix’s political drama House of Cards resembles an opera, but until now, no one’s tried to make an opera that looks like House of Cards. That’s what D.C. Public Opera will do when it debuts at the Mayflower Hotel next month, joining an already-crowded field of semiprofessional initiatives that want to make the reputationally fusty form accessible to D.C.’s income-disposing millennials. Whether you’re looking for obscure Spanish titles, young upstarts performing in a national park, or arias sung in your favorite dive bar, you’ve got options.

Bel Cantanti
Founded 2003
Mission: Present semipro full productions and concerts of favorite operas for local audiences featuring local vocalists.
Appeals to: Patrons seeking a live, low-cost alternative to D.C.’s larger opera showcases
Next performance: Bach’s Coffee Cantata and Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, March 28 and 30 at Randolph Road Theatre

D.C. Public Opera
Founded 2014
Mission: A modern, D.C.-inspired take on traditional opera. The company's first show is Mozart’s Don Giovanni, staged at the Mayflower Hotel and inspired by House of Cards. They follow it in May with Schubert’s Lieder, the story of a deployed soldier and his wife sung in German with spoken English text.
Appeals to: Opera noobs. And seasoned operagoers looking for a new twist on centuries-old stories.
Next performance: Don Giovanni, April 26 at Mayflower Hotel

Opera on Tap D.C.
D.C. chapter launched February 2014
Mission: Bring opera to young Washingtonians in their natural habitat: dive bars. Opera singers started this program in New York nearly a decade ago to practice their craft; it’s since expanded into 15 cities around the U.S.
Appeals to: People who want their opera in small doses and won’t commit to a big, three-act production.
Next performance: April 7 at Vendetta Bocce Bar

wolftrap operaWolf Trap Opera Company
Founded 1971
Mission: Give young vocal artists the opportunity to perfect their craft in a professional setting before they go on to perform in prestigious venues around the world.
Appeals to: Opera hipsters, who can claim they discovered these talented performers before the Metropolitan Opera did.
Next performance: Handel’s Giulio Cesare, June 27, 29, and July 1 at the Barns at Wolf Trap

urban ariasUrbanArias
Founded 2010
Mission: Put on short (less than 90 minutes), contemporary (written in the last 40 years) operas to curious audiences in smaller venues.
Appeals to: Newer opera fans with short attention spans.
Next performance: John Musto’s Bastianello and William Bolcom’s Lucrezia, June 6, 7, 13, 14, and 15 at Artisphere

The In Series
Founded 1982
Mission: Showcase lesser known operas, with an emphasis on Spanish-language programming, in small settings at venues around D.C.
Appeals to: Audiences seeking something new without the grandeur of a bigger production.
Next performance: The Romantics: Schubert and Goethe, April 12 and 13 at Heurich House Museum

Riverbend Opera Company
Founded 2009
Mission: A nonprofit opera company that aims to connect music lovers and performers in northern Virginia through the presentation of early 20th century Italian operas.
Appeals to: Opera die-hards who appreciate rarer works, especially by Puccini.
Next performance: Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, June 2014

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  • CR

    This is actually just a sample of companies in the DC area - there's also the Victorian Lyric Opera Company, Opera NOVA, Singer's Theater of Washington, Loudoun Lyric Opera, the occasional Opera International, and maybe a couple of others that I'm missing.

  • MoHub

    Thank you, CR for mentioning VLOC, which has been producing light opera—and the occasional grand opera—for almost 40 years.

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