Allegheny Mountain Showcase – Wow! Opera at the Pocahontas Opera House!
“I’ve always really been interested in offering opera in non-traditional ways.”
Liz Cass, co-founder of LOLA, Local Opera Local Artists who will present the first ever opera performance at the Pocahontas County Opera House on Saturday, October 12th.
“And so I thought I’ll start a small professional opera company here in Austin.”
To launch this audacious endeavor, Liz recruited her friend Rebecca Herman, a stage director. Together they formed LOLA and began planning for their 2014 debut production, a performance of Puccini’s well-loved opera La Boheme – but with a twist. It would be staged with an all-female cast.
“The all-female version had never been done in the world ever,” said Liz, “and so we produced the first ever all-female Boheme and we called it La Femme Boheme.”
The location of the first performance of La Femme Boheme was also unusual – a former film sound stage that had been converted into a bar. Liz said the large two story structure has high ceilings, great acoustics and a small stage that was perfectly suited for their work.
“One of the things we loved most about that production was it brought together people who had been season ticket holders of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and people who had literally never seen an opera before,” said Liz. “And we made it accessible because it was low key in a bar; we encouraged people to wear their jeans. There was pizza for sale and you could have beer while you were watching our show.”
Clearly this is not your momma’s opera. A 27-foot screen was used during the show and projected English subtitles as translation for the Italian lyrics. Liz says they got a variety of positive comments about the production.
“The reactions we got were everywhere from ‘I didn’t know opera could be like that’, ‘I didn’t know what to expect, but this wasn’t it’, ‘I didn’t expect to be so moved’, ‘I was so happy to be eating pizza in my chair drinking beer, listening to opera’.”
Liz said don’t be led astray by possibly preconceived notions of what opera is.
“I think our goal as performers is to demystify it quite a bit,” she said. “But it is this old art form that been around forever and it’s been refined and refined, but we know it’s really music created by humans that is really very human, so there’s a messy element to it.”
Liz is a mezzo soprano. Soprano Julia Taylor and pianist Cynthia Wilson will join her for the Pocahontas Opera House concert where she’ll perform the Habanera from George Bizet’s opera Carmen among other operatic favorites.
The trio has performed together for some time and has a local connection to Pocahontas County through Hillsboro resident Lucinda Tyler.
“One of our first performances as a group was at the home of Margo Marshall and Laura Evans,” said Liz, “who have been really instrumental in bringing us to West Virginia and also instrumental in bringing us out is Lucinda, Margo’s sister.”
Liz, Julia and Cynthia will perform a wide variety of operatic favorites at the Opera House from composers including Mozart, Dvorak, Offenbach, Saint-Saens and Verdi. Also on the program is the Flower Duet from the opera Lakme. The first ever performance of opera at the Pocahontas Opera House is Saturday October 12th. Tickets are $10.00 and the concert begins at 7:30pm.