This past weekend, TOI single-handedly cured me of my opera snobbery.
Having first connected with opera when I lived in Vienna, I fell in love with the pagentry of it all: grandiose opera houses in marble, supertitles translating romantic languages, patrons dripping in jewels. I loved the culture and antiquity of it all. Unfortunately, the same things I love about the opera are some of the very things that intimidate others away from it.
And there lies the beauty of TOI: they strip away the trappings and the barriers of opera to focus on the transcendent music and exceptional local talent. And they do so beautifully.
When asked if I was interested in attending the most recent TOI performance, I replied, “of course!” while quickly and discreetly consulting Siri, “What is the Tidewater Opera Initiative?” After learning from their website that they’re a 503c non-profit which showcases local talent, giving them an opportunity to hone their craft in more modern lyric opera, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect…
… From the moment I walked into The Govenor’s School for the Arts in downtown Norfolk, I was enchanted by the entire experience. Gone were the imposing 1,000+ seat opera houses where you need your opera glasses and hope your nose doesn’t bleed while you sit in the upper-upper balcony, replaced by a very intimate setting. Given a general admission ticket, audience members can pick their own seats in a 3 row bleacher. Sitting in the front row, I felt like I was part of the opera–it was easy to connect and immerse yourself in the performance. And to be simply amazed by the talent, quite literally, right in front of you.
The 4th season of TOI features a double-bill of Gian Carlo Menotti operas: The Old Maid and the Thief, and The Medium. Each an hour long and sung in English, they compliment each other well: The Old Maid and the Thief has a bit of a comedic air as the mature, unmarried old maid and her young housekeeping maid, plot to keep a young man with them, while The Medium is a delightfully dark tale of a fake medium who upsets the spirit world.
Whether you’re an aficionado, or a novice curious to experience an opera, TOI performances are wonderful. TOI eliminates many of the hurdles of attending an opera while sacrificing none of the quality. Worried about the cost, having to dress up, or sitting through a seemingly never-ending performance in a stuffy environment? Don’t be. With tickets ranging from $15-20 and with general admission seating, there’s not a bad seat in the house. You can keep your suits and gowns in your closets while enjoying the relaxed and friendly environment of the Governor’s School for the Art.
Best of all, you’re supporting local talent and great programs for aspiring artists.