The New Century Opera is dedicated to presenting high-quality, traditional opera productions in the Tampa Bay area, utilizing local talent, and at affordable ticket prices. Our productions are sung in English, with piano accompaniment. By performing opera in English, we allow our audiences to relate to these wonderful dramas with the same immediacy that they would to musical theatre. Many are surprised to learn that keeping operas in their original languages is a relatively recent phenomenon, becoming standard only in the 20th century. The great composers themselves actually expected their works to be performed in the language of the audience. Verdi prepared a French version of Il trovatore for Paris, Wagner did the same for Tannhäuser, and the American premiere of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly was not at the Metropolitan Opera House in Italian, but at a Broadway theatre in English.
At that time, opera was popular entertainment, and it can be again. It is our belief that, by returning opera to the vernacular, we emphasize it’s similarity to other forms of musical drama. The use of piano accompaniment allows us great freedom in choosing repertory; we are not limited to works written for an orchestra of a particular size. Our performers are all local to the Bay Area, and are a testament to the talent available to us in West Central Florida. While fairly rare today, opera companies comprised of artists from the immediate area were once common, and allow the community to get to know the performers not only as artists, but as friends and neighbors as well.
NCO has a special dedication to the works of Richard Wagner. His operas, once the most performed pieces in the repertory, have become rarities in most American opera houses. In 1900 Wagner’s operas made up nine of the twenty most performed operas in America; today the top twenty list does not include a single one. They are victims of a sort of “catch-22;” companies are afraid to take a chance on them because of lack of audience familiarity, and audiences become less and less familiar with them as they go unproduced.
We feel that only by presenting these works regularly can we break this cycle, introducing new audiences to these great masterpieces and returning them to their rightful place as cornerstones of the repertory.
Constantine Grame & Marita Rotella, President of the Richard Wagner Society of Florida