Don't miss: the 2nd annual New York Opera Fest Peter Szep, head of the New York Opera Fest

Don't miss: the 2nd annual New York Opera Fest

Jenna Simeonov

Starting with a kickoff party on April 27th, and ending with a new works concert on June 23, the 2017 New York Opera Fest is a dizzying collection of opera, presented by the City’s most creative and iconic companies. The 20+ events offer something for everyone, from operatic classics like Falstaff to exciting new works like Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied and Robert Paterson’s Three Way.

We spoke with NYOF head Peter Szep, about the rapidly growing New York Opera Alliance, the community focus on this year’s Festival, and the events he’s personally excited about. Click here for full details and to book tickets.

What kind of reception did the first NYOF receive? 

The goal of the first New York Opera Fest was to show the wide range of offerings for opera in New York, and the festival ranged from performances on basketball courts and bars, to Lincoln Center. The first Fest received lots of coverage, with great features online, on television and radio. It also was featured in print locally and internationally. We estimate that hundreds of thousands of people got to know about New York’s vibrant opera scene for the first time.

Has anything changed or adapted for this year?

This year, we are changing the festival’s focus from Awareness, to Community. New York Opera Alliance companies often reach out to their local communities to build stronger connections with audiences and performers, but this year we are all focusing on how we can be stronger advocates and more supportive of other opera producers themselves. First, we are all getting to know each other’s work better by having ticket exchanges and open rehearsals among companies. In addition, we are also encouraging companies to advertise in each other’s programs and are making companies more aware of common themes and interests to help encourage groups to collaborate. For instance, there are many family-friendly shows that happening this year, shows that are in unusual spaces, gardens, lofts, the MET Museum or an aircraft carrier. 

Do audiences need to be seasoned opera goers to enjoy the NYOF line-up?

The New York Opera Fest is perhaps the most accessible opera festival especially for newcomers. Sometimes opera newbies are often afraid of not knowing the operas and characters and feel intimidated, but many of the performances are recent operas or world premieres, so the pressure is off. If they just want to dip their toes into to opera, we have performances that range from the bite sized, 15-minute Flash Operas with Experiments in Opera, to traditional fully-staged performances. if a newcomer to opera would be more comfortable in a social setting, Opera on Tap has two different offerings at bars, and Operamission will be performing the complete William Bolcom Cabaret Songs at The Duplex. We also offer talkbacks and master classes to see behind the scenes and offer another perspective into the world of opera.

Why do you think the NYOA has grown so quickly in the last few years? 

New York is a magnet for talented and ambitious people, and we are seeing the benefits of the flowering of civic opera companies in the 60’s onward who exposed people at a very young age to opera, and who are now grown up and want to participate and create. We are also seeing the benefits of our more connected industry. When New York Opera Alliance began forming in 2011, we thought that getting the dozen or so opera companies in a room to talk would be helpful. At that first meeting we began to realize that there were more companies out there that should be a part of the discussion. We were able to list at least 40 opera related companies in the city that the people in the room knew of and that list has continued to grow to over 100 entities of all sizes. Currently we have 43 members in NYOA, and we continue to grow monthly.

What do the NYOA and NYOF say about New York’s opera scene outside the Met?

We don’t consider us to be outside of the MET, they are a vital member of the New York opera community. The amazing thing about the arts is that it’s not limited, the more art you create the more need there is, it’s self perpetuating. And when we reach out to each other as a community it only gets stronger.

What are some of the NYOF events that you personally look forward to most?

I keep changing my mind on that, every time I learn about each of our events, I get more excited to go. So it’s more a matter of what mood I’m in today. I mean, who wouldn’t love to sit in a garden and hear Mozart? Hang at a Williamsburg studio or on a Vietnam-Era Airship? Or get to see a world premier or a rarely seen Rimsky-Korsakov, Milhaud, or Britten? This is like cotton candy to me.

For complete information about the 2017 New York Opera Fest, click right here.

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