The second annual Midtown Opera Festival launches on Friday and, according to Opera Memphis' general director Ned Canty, "Memphis is gonna be bursting at the seams with opera."
The 10-day festival was conceived by Canty as a nexus for opera fans and the opera curious, where both groups could mix and sample a variety of classical and contemporary works in bite-sized chunks. In addition to several free concerts, kids' shows, and panel discussions, this year's ticketed events showcase works by Mozart, Richard Wargo, and Gian Carlo Menotti. The Midtown operapalooza kicks off with a world premiere of five short operas created by Memphis playwright Jerre Dye, who collaborated with a wish-list of contemporary composers to tell the story of the long-abandoned Sears Crosstown building.
Dye doesn't know if he'll make it back to Memphis to watch Ghosts of Crosstown, his first foray into opera come to life in the shadow of the hulking Sears building that inspired it. He's currently in Chicago working with the Route 66 Theatre Company's extensively reworked production of his play Cicada, which opens next week.
"I'm so glad I did this," Dye says of his collaboration with Opera Memphis. "First of all, I got to be a writer, which is what I like to do. But how can I describe the collaboration with all these composers?
"They were all so different," he says, explaining what a mental workout it can be adapting your process to the needs of five unique composers. Steven Osgood of the Metropolitan Opera is heading up the creative team, which includes composers Anthony Davis, Kamran Ince, Nathaniel Stookey, Jack Perla, and Zach Redler with Maestro. Dye worked with Ince on the piece "Abandoned," which has been selected as a best new work by Opera in America (OIA) and will be performed at OIA's conference in June. "Abandoned" is sung from the perspective of the Sears building, alone at night, pleading with the sun to return.
"Ghosts of Crosstown" at Sears Crosstown Building Friday, April 4th. Pre-show talk at 6:30 p.m., curtain at 7:30 p.m.
"The Double Bill: The Impress and The Music Shop" at Playhouse on the Square, Saturday, April 5th. Pre-show talk
6 p.m., curtain at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the Midtown Opera festival, go to operamemphis.org.