Opera on the House
Bringing you the Best of 2013!
by Gina Razón
As a recovering traditional business woman, I must often find ways to feed my entrepreneurial heart as
I pursue a life in music. To that end, I attended the New York Foundation for the Arts’ “Artist as Entrepreneur” Bootcamp (http://www.nyfa.org) last year. The result of “bootcamp” has been the most incredible explosion of creative fire I have experienced in my life as a working artist. So when Operagasm asked me write an article about Operaverse℠, a product of that fire, I was all over it.
Opera is awesome so I’m giving it away — The concept is as simple as it is crazy
The question that plagued me after NYFA was; “Where are my values in the way I conduct my business?” I could see from where my income was coming but I could not see my values in the outcome. Why couldn’t I help other musical artists develop, pay them to perform in opera and make the performances free to the public? I couldn’t come up with a single reason except for money. I wasn’t going to let a minor detail like that stop me. Operaverse was born out of that moment of madness. Four months later, our inaugural production, Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein is complete and the planning and fundraising for 2013 in underway.
What is Operaverse?
Operaverse is not an opera company. It provides in-school outreach and low- or no-cost operatic productions to the general community. These programs in turn support and develop the artists and staff.
Operaverse provides performance opportunities, image consulting, singer/actor development classes, appreciative inquiry and other business consulting to performing artists. Operaverse helps those in the opera community with networking and by providing access to resources available in the community and nationally.
Why am I doing it?
I grew up in Washington Heights, NYC. It was a neighborhood with a hard-working, but very poor Dominican community. Many of us lived at or below the poverty line. Statistically speaking, the chances were high that I would remain there. Then magic entered my life.
On January 11, 1986, I encountered the Metropolitan Opera’s telecast of L’Italiana in Algieri starring Marilyn Horne — I was entranced. The very next week, an opera outreach ensemble came to my school and performed “Libiamo” from La Traviata. The power of those voices in that small classroom was incredible and I had memorized the chorus by the time they finished singing. Finally, lightning struck a third time. The Harlem School of the Arts sent a notice to my school asking for students interested in arts training under scholarship. Within a month, I had discovered my passion and been given the means to begin voice training.
Behind those gifts were people willing to create access to an art form that I might never have otherwise encountered. Had the cost for any of those things been even $5, it would have been beyond my reach. But free? Free, I could do.
And so, free it is.
The Business Model
We operate as a non-profit through fiscal sponsorship with Fractured Atlas, an artist service organization. Operaverse productions are not designed to make money, but they must be self-sustaining.
Our business model is, by necessity, creative. We still have to secure rehearsal space and performing venues, pay for licensing and insurance as applicable, compensate artists and staff, pay for marketing and advertising and foremost, produce high quality work. Everything we do has to be carefully considered, vetted and costed for feasibility. As you might imagine, Aida is out of the question.
Our inaugural production, Trouble in Tahiti, was selected because it was accessible, licensing costs were reasonable, it required only 5 singers and could be performed with piano (having a pianist able to make two hands sound like six did not hurt – thank you Bob Spillman). We will continue to select only works that we can afford to produce well. After all the performances are free, not cheap.
Trouble in Tahiti was completely funded through grants and individual donations. I have been amazed by what a small army of $20-$50 donations can do for a venture such as ours. One of our donors actually buys us a weekly “coffee” by donating one of his Starbucks visits to us instead. Through Fractured Atlas, donations made on behalf of Operaverse can be tax-deductible which helped a great deal.
As I mentioned before, this is more of a movement than a company but what we share with a traditional start-up is agility and reduced overhead. As we develop, costs will inevitably expand but hopefully so will our community as well. Perhaps one based upon a subscription model where supporters give a small amount regularly and perhaps become involved in other ways over time. How’s that for crazy talk.
For further information on Operaverse please come by our website www.operaverse.com. Whether you are curious, in need of support, or wanting to offer some we’d love to welcome you to our world.
Dominican-American mezzo soprano Gina Razón is recognized for her versatility, physicality and the rich warmth of her instrument. Embracing diverse roles, Ms. Razón is a chameleon on-stage, fully inhabiting the characters she portrays. A gifted recitalist, Ms. Razón infuses the song recital with a sense of immediacy and vitality. She particularly enjoys new compositions and both Latin American and twentieth century literature.
In 2012, Ms. Razón founded the Operaverse project. Operaverse exists to fulfill two mandates: To provide low- or no-cost operatic performances and to develop and support the artists creating the performances. Operaverse’s inaugural production was Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein as part of Opera America’s National Opera Week (October 26, 2012-November 4, 2012). The free performances, in three different Colorado cities, were an incredible success. Operaverse is now poised to begin free opera outreach in at-risk schools beginning in 2013. Ms. Razón is also a co-manager for Opera on Tap Colorado.
Ms. Razón’s appearances this season include: An Evening with a Diva at the Broomfield Auditorium; Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein (an Operaverse production), and A Diva after Dark, a one-woman classical cabaret. Ms. Razón will also be featured in Self-Portrait, an album of the works of Timothy Buckman scheduled for release this Spring.
Favorite stage performances include: Olga Olsen in Street Scene; Third Lady in The Magic Flute; Jenny Diver in The Threepenny Opera; Carmen in Carmen; Maddalena in Rigoletto; Handmaiden in Turandot; Tituba in The Crucible; Suzuki in Madame Butterfly; Flowermaiden in Parsifal; Lady Jane in Patience; La Viuda Soto in the world premiere of Mark Medoff’s Sara McKinnon; Ruth in Pirates of Penzance; Little Buttercup in HMS Pinafore; and the Mother, Witch and Sandman in Hansel and Gretel with CU Children’s Opera Outreach. Concert highlights include; the world premieres of a togethercoloured instant and Noche y Luna, Mar y Fuego: two song cycles written for Ms. Razón.
Ms. Razón has performed with Operaverse, Opera on Tap Colorado, Opera Theatre of the Rockies, Opera Fort Collins, OpenStage Theatre, Colorado Light Opera, Lyric Theatre Festival, Pendulum Concert Series, and The Academy Music Series. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master of Music from the University of Denver, both in voice performance.