Ariadne comes to the Berkshire Opera FestivalInterview
After their successful inaugural production of Madama Butterfly in 2016, the Massachusetts-based Berkshire Opera Festival is gearing up for its second season, presenting Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, August 26, 29, & September 1 at The Colonial Theatre. Staged by General Director Jonathon Loy and conducted by Artistic Director Brian Garman, BOF welcomes soprano Marcy Stonikas as Ariadne, tenor Kevin Ray as Bacchus, and soprano Nicole Haslett as Zerbinetta.
We spoke with Garman and Loy about what it’s like to run an opera company in its early stages, and the fun of taking a step outside the operatic “top 10” with their second season.
What advice do you have for artists who are interested in starting their own opera company?
Brian Garman: My instinct is to say “don’t”, but I think opera needs all the encouragement we can give it, so I hate to dissuade anyone from pursuing something that’s good for the art form. But really, know what you’re getting yourself into. There are so many things that can go wrong in its infancy that can end the company before it even really gets off the ground. Be prepared that the initial stages are almost all about paperwork and not much about art. Be prepared that, at some point, fundraising will stall and things will look bleak. Be prepared not to eat or sleep much for months on end. But also be assured that if and when it actually works, you’re providing something of tremendous value to your community and the experience is immensely rewarding.
Jonathon Loy: I honestly wouldn’t advise any artist who cannot put on a “business cap” to start their own opera company. This isn’t for the faint of heart. Being an artist and having artistic vision is wonderful, but if you don’t want to deal with insurances, lawyers, grant writing, asking people for money, and every detail in between, leave it to someone else.
How do you anticipate BOF’s second season will compare with its first?
JL: I anticipate that with the Berkshire Opera Festival staff and the talent we bring in, artists and designers, that we will have similar if not greater success than last year. In addition, producing a lesser-know piece like Ariadne doesn’t worry us because the Berkshire audience is a sophisticated one. They do not need to recognize a name in order to attend a show. Exploring the entire operatic repertoire is a part of the Berkshire Opera Festival mission.
What about Ariadne auf Naxos appealed to you for this season’s pick?
JL: It was crucial for us to not define ourselves as a standard repertoire company. Part of our mission is to explore the entire operatic repertoire. If we had done, Traviata, Carmen, or Bohème, we would be stuck doing those wonderful works 10 years from now. The Berkshire audience is sophisticated and even if they haven’t heard of Ariadne auf Naxos, they will want to come and check it out. We also hope that there is already trust in our product based on the success of last season’s Madama Butterfly.
BG: So many things make Ariadne an ideal choice for us this season. First among them is that it’s one of Strauss’s great masterpieces; it’s very funny and it contains some of the most ravishing music he ever wrote. We also have a world-class cast that sings the hell out of these roles. The size of the orchestra (37 musicians) makes it a perfect choice for our performances in The Colonial Theatre. And underpinning all of this, as Jonathon mentioned, is that Ariadne serves our mission of exploring the entire operatic repertoire, rather than simply confining ourselves to the “top 10” old chestnuts each summer.
Berkshire Opera Festival’s production of Ariadne auf Naxos runs August 26, 29, and September 1. For details and tickets, click here.