Opera in the 21st Century

Mar 17, 2010

By Jonathan Stinson

From time to time, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘American Idol’ allow an operatic vocalist to sing on their international telecast. Without exception, these operatic performances receive a standing ovation by the sixth note, continuing through the end of the aria. This standing ovation is largely comprised of high school and college students. So why do you think a young audience of teens and twenties would react so positively to a classical singer when they bought tickets hoping to hear the next pop star? Perhaps it’s merely a fascination of the unknown. But why do audiences attend performances of any kind? In the end, ‘American Idol’ audiences are no different than opera audiences. They want to be moved, to be entertained, to connect to the music, to connect to the lyrics, to give their lives over to the performer for an evening of alternate reality.

When I watched Paul Potts’ performance of “Nessun Dorma” on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (and the standing ovation that erupted within the second phrase), two things came to my mind. First, good for him! Now there is evidence that he had a small operatic career in the past, but as a current mobile-phone salesman, he handled the aria beautifully. But the most important thing for me was that I knew from that day that the future of opera is going to be just fine. The audience LOVED his aria. They could not get over how impressive his performance was. And all this from a mobile-phone salesman. If that London audience was so impressed with Mr. Potts, maybe they should take the tube to Covent Garden and see what they’ve been missing. The young people of today love opera, just don’t know it yet.

We of the Voices in Residence at Opera Omaha represent an extremely small sliver of what will become the future of opera. It is our job not to tell them why they should like opera, but that they already do. We have toured our 45-minute opera gala to several high schools, and the kids are universally amazed at how engaging the art form can be. In short, they leave our concert with a deep appreciation of what we do. If we can reach the youth of Nebraska in the way that Paul Potts reached the youth of England, opera in Nebraska has a very bright future. The youth of America have a hidden passion for opera, and it is our obligation and responsibility to help them discover it.

Jonathan Stinson is touring Nebraska and Western Iowa with Opera Omaha’s Voices in Residence, a series of engaging, interactive, multi-media classroom performances created for students in middle school, high school or college, the performances provide a framework for experiencing the interaction of word s and music – the essence of opera. Mr. Stinson will also appear in Opera Omaha’s celebration of the great American musical So in Love with Broadway.

Jonathan Stinson is enjoying a busy ’09-’10 season as Slim in Of Mice and Men and Peter in Hansel and Gretel for Kentucky Opera, a return to Cedar Rapids Opera for the Nazarene in Salome, and as both Antonio in The Marriage of Figaro and as baritone soloist in the upcoming So In Love With Broadway concert for Opera Omaha.

Mr. Stinson’s ’08-’09 season included appearances in La bohème with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, La traviata with Opera New Jersey and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Rigoletto with Springfield Regional Opera, Cosi fan tutte with Cedar Rapids Opera, and The Marriage of Figaro for the Bay View Music Festival.

A Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2006, Mr. Stinson is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University.

Tickets for So in Love with Broadway start at just $19.

Friday | April 16, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 2:00p

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