New companies to discover: Gramercy Opera

New companies to discover: Gramercy Opera

Jenna Simeonov

“We’re new and we’re here and we’re ready to entertain.” New York-based Gramercy Opera is kicking off its inaugural season in style, starting with their upcoming gala, “Belle Nuit” on May 11. The next month, they present Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, re-imagined by Shakespeare specialist and stage director Brittany Goodwin, June 10-16 at the Upper East Side’s Mount Vernon Museum and Garden.

We spoke with co-founders Allison McAuley and Magda Gartner about Gramercy Opera’s layered mission, and what’s on the line-up for “Belle Nuit”.

For details and tickets about their gala and The Fairy Queen, click here.

How does Gramercy Opera fit into the rich opera scene in New York?

As artists ourselves, we both feel so lucky to be immersed in such an amazingly eclectic, creative and inspiring arts scene that is New York City. The Metropolitan Opera of course has always been synonymous with opera not only in New York, but all of North America and we adore it. We are also pleased to see the return of New York City Opera which is producing lesser-known works on a large scale. As a new and smaller company, we hope to find our niche with up and coming artists yet to be discovered in established Opera circles.

There are so many amazingly talented artists in New York City, our goal is to embrace them, creating beautiful art and entertaining performances. We are extremely inspired by what LoftOpera is doing in Brooklyn. We hope to follow in their footsteps on a smaller scale in Manhattan: producing exciting performances at affordable prices and encouraging younger people to make opera part of their lives.

What does it mean to be “accessible, inclusive, and engaging”?

We want to directly connect the performers with the audience. People who have never had an operatic experience will hopefully feel free to laugh, enjoy a glass of wine and feel fully immersed in the experience. We hope to do this by producing shows in intimate spaces and at times even including the audience by breaking the fourth wall or having an audience member join the cast as an extra.

Opera did not begin as an art form only for the elite. The themes of early opera are often quite risqué featuring love, lust and death. The appeal cut across all social groups. We love the storytelling aspect and want to ensure it is not lost.

Magda Gartner (left) and Allison McAuley, co-founders, Gramercy Opera.

Why have you picked Purcell’s The Fairy Queen for your inaugural production in June?

As a brand-new company, it was important for us to choose an opera outside the common standard repertoire. Rather than produce a reduced version of a larger opera, we wanted to choose something smaller that would be both manageable and of high quality. The Fairy Queen allows us to employ a small chamber orchestra of 8-10 musicians and also lends itself to a more intimate outdoor performance venue. Not often done, The Fairy Queen challenges us to be more creative without being constrained by convention, or offending standard traditions.

Part of our mission is to promote new and upcoming artists. Baroque repertoire offers the freedom to use fresher, younger voices in roles suitable to this stage of their careers. The Fairy Queen is often paired with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream where opera singers perform Purcell’s music and Shakespearian actors perform the play.

We are excited to have on our team Brittany Goodwin - a classically trained stage director who specializes in Shakespeare. With her guidance and expertise, we have reworked the opera such that our singers tell the story through portions of Shakespeare’s text with Purcell’s pieces complementing the characters’ story lines resulting in a brand new exciting work.

What can people expect from “Belle Nuit”, your gala in May?

On May 11th, we are producing our first gala at the exclusive Players Club on Gramercy Park. The evening begins at 6pm with a chance to mingle over a glass of wine, followed by dinner at 7pm. After dinner, the audience will be entertained with highlights from the world’s most beloved operas.

The Gala will feature an ensemble of talented, new artists offering selections from La Traviata, Carmen, La Bohème, Die Fledermaus, Rigoletto and of course, the Barcarolle “Belle Nuit” from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann.

Do you have any plans you can currently share for future seasons?

We have a variety of projects in the works right now including an Opera-Yoga event with Lululemon in NYC as well the NYC premier of an American children’s opera by Frank Schiro entitled Twice Upon a Birthday, followed by a school tour. There are no limits to where our imaginations will take us!

“Belle Nuit” happens on May 11, 6pm, at the Players Club; The Fairy Queen runs June 10-16, Mount Vernon Museum and Garden. For details and tickets for both events, click here.



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