Island City Opera opens season with "Lucia"

Island City Opera opens season with "Lucia"

Patti Cary
Lucia di Lammermoor

Tensions run high when feuding neighbors lie, cheat and sneak around to get what they want, leading to bitter betrayals with tragic consequences. No, it’s not an episode of Real Housewives. It’s the breathtaking story of Lucia di Lammermoor, by Gaetano Donizetti, and the next exciting performance presented by the newly formed and locally grown Island City Opera.

Really? Opera here in little ol’ Alameda? The answer is yes!

Lucia will be the first full production of Island City Opera’s inaugural season and will be performed at the historic Alameda Elks Lodge – a perfect setting for Lucia, which takes place among the castles of Scotland during the Age of Enlightenment.

“Love, hate, political interests, lust, greed … anything you can think of since the beginning of mankind, really hasn’t changed and neither have our stories. It’s all here,” said maestro Robert Ashens, musical director and conductor for the January performances.

What? You don’t like opera? It’s too long, boring, old fashioned (fill in the blank) for your taste? Well, Island City Opera founders Eileen Meredith, Ellen St. Thomas and Robert Boyd – along with the rest of the talented folks working to bring quality opera to Alameda – request that you reconsider.

“The themes of opera are classic, timeless, and full of emotions everybody feels,” said Meredith, an Alameda resident, soprano and executive director of the company.

The word “opera” means “the composition in which poetry, dance, and music are combined,” and Island City Opera offers Alameda an exciting opportunity to cultivate a rich tradition that dates back to the 16th century. Once considered exclusively for elite society, opera became a more accessible form of entertainment in Venice, Italy during the annual festival of Carnival. Popular productions soon spread throughout Europe and the opera “season” was born.

Lucia di Lammermoor (often referred to simply as Lucia) is a bel canto (beautiful singing) opera, performed in a style made popular in the 19th century defined by its splendid compositions and vocal pyrotechnics.

Formerly under the banner of the Virago Theatre Company, Island City Opera is devoted to “producing great opera in an intimate setting.” The company focuses on local talent, with an emphasis on supporting new, promising performers alongside artists with extensive opera experience. After visiting a recent rehearsal of Lucia, it is clear the Island City Opera is a company on a mission.

“We are about high quality music and drama together, beautiful singing and bringing music back to the schools,” said Meredith, whose daughter attends Encinal High. Ashens said Island City Opera is working hard to introduce opera to a younger audience “so that it’s not stale and that it’s always new.”

A renowned conductor, performer and unflappable ambassador of opera whose work has taken him to several world capitols and up and down the West Coast, Ashens said excellence lives right here on the Island.

“Look at the movement and the people who are the driving forces here. It’s an exciting time for this city,” he said. “The people at Island City Opera are doing things in such a quality way, they are not shirking their responsibility to the art form.”

Island City Opera hopes to bring the young and the older, the seasoned opera buffs and the curious newbies together to experience the beauty of this classic art form. Seasoned opera enthusiasts will surely be pleased to see such professional talent and thoughtful productions right here in our own backyard. Newcomers, meanwhile, will get an intimate chance to expand their cultural horizons with tantalizing tales of passion and pathos, tears and triumphs.

“We have a lot of great things planned,” said Meredith, “and we love being in Alameda. It’s so beautiful and the people are very supportive.”

It takes a village to keep the arts alive, and as Ashens pointed out, “opera is the sign of a healthy environment and a healthy community.”

Yes, Lucia will be sung in Italian, but there will be supertitles in English and a 20-piece orchestra to bring the libretto (text) to life. Step into a world where music can elevate your soul, where joy and madness often go hand in hand and nothing is really over until somebody sings.

Island City Opera will perform Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at 7:30 p.m. January 16 and 23 and at 2 p.m. on January 18 and 25 in the Alameda Elks Lodge Ballroom, 2255 Santa Clara Avenue. Directed by Olivia Stapp. Free pre-show talk given by Robert Ashens one hour before each performance. General admission seats $35; reserved table seats for Friday performances include wine and appetizers and are $55 each. Tickets and additional information are available on the Island City Opera website or by calling 263-8060.

Comments

Submitted by frank on Fri, Jan 9, 2015

This is great. It is just so important that these smaller Companies like Island City and Verismo continue to bring high quality and affordable Opera to our area.

Submitted by djs (not verified) on Sun, Jan 11, 2015

We will be there! What a wonderful amenity for Alameda!