So many people equate opera with songs sung in different languages by sopranos who could shatter crystal glassware while wearing exquisitely tailored Norwegian costumes. But when The Vintage Theatre Company debuts their chamber opera troupe in late June, there will be no viking hats worn by singing fat ladies; instead, the troupe will present an American chamber opera from the 1950s.
Founding Producer and Artistic Director Jason A. Young cordially invites audiences to enjoy the yet to be named VTC Chamber Opera Troupe's debut performance of Douglas Moore's "Gallantry," June 20-29 throughout North Central West Virginia.
"Vintage exists, number one, to bring together the finest performing and teaching artists in West Virginia," said Young. "We are having great success forming troupes of like-minded and like-talented individuals and giving them the opportunity to produce and perform the kind of art they love."
Vintage Theatre's first troupe, The Fearless Fools, emerged in April of 2013 when Steve Goff united some of the best improvisers and comedians in the area and formed the state's first and only comedy troupe set to perform improv, original sketch and stand-up comedy.
Building on the success and the model of The Fools, and hoping that audiences will continue to try the new entertainment offerings that Vintage Theatre is producing, this month will see the official beginnings of a troupe that Young says wasn't a part of the original plans for VTC.
"I have to admit, as a musical theatre guy, I had a slight aversion to the idea of opera," said Young. "However, I had the opportunity to direct a chamber opera, 'Amahl and the Night Visitors,' in Morgantown this past November, and I was pleasantly surprised at how different, accessible and fun the chamber opera genre is."
Chamber opera is a designation for operas written to be performed with chamber vocal and instrumental ensembles rather than large casts and full orchestras. Benjamin Britten invented the term and form in the 1940s.
"I am trying to bring to my community and this state things that I think they will love and things that didn't exist here when I was growing up," said Young. "Last fall, I was inspired by the amount of classical vocal talent in this area and deeply saddened that the state didn't have a dedicated opera group where that talent could be fostered and showcased."
So Young took the idea of a chamber opera troupe to his voice teachers at The VTC Academy. Joshua Stubbs and Sarah Nale began performing chamber operas as undergrads at West Virginia Wesleyan College and continued as graduate students at the Shenandoah Conservatory.
"They both were looking for an outlet to do more performing," said Young. "They made a suggestion of starting with a piece they were familiar with, and we began the process of putting all of this together."
Set in a hospital's operating room in the 1950s, Douglas Moore's "Gallantry" combines a sharp parody of a soap opera, complete with commercial interruptions, with seriously good music. It is a highly recommended one-act from one of America's foremost 20th century opera composers.
The Vintage Theatre Company cast includes Joshua Stubbs as Dr. Gregg; Sarah Nale as Lola Markham, a nurse; Jeremiah Smallridge as Donald Hopewell, the patient; and Gigi Collett as the Announcer. Gallantry is directed by Young with production design by Trina Byard and production management by Sarah Young.
Each performance of the show will also include a showcase of local vocal talent.
"'Gallantry' is only about 35 minutes long - simple, funny and entertaining with great music," said Young. "So, to complete the evening we will present a showcase of singers from the area as the opening act and then close with the chamber opera."
Opening at 8 p.m. June 20 at The Loar Auditorium on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College, "Gallantry" will also play The Manos Theatre in Grafton at 2 p.m. June 21, The VTC Cabaret in Clarksburg at 2 p.m. June 22, and The Monongalia Arts Center (MAC) at 8 p.m. June 28 and at 2 p.m. June 29.
All tickets to the show are $10, and reservations can be made by calling 1-855-VTC-8588 or by sending an email VintageTheatreCo@gmail.com.
"This is a new adventure for us at VTC, but I am confident that if people will just give chamber opera a try, like I did in the fall, they will be delighted, impressed, and entertained," said Young. "I am so confident that if someone comes to see 'Gallantry' and doesn't enjoy the show and isn't impressed by the vocal talents of the cast, I will give them their money back ... guaranteed."
The event will start with a classical voice recital before the opera featuring local singers.