The BOF Pandemic Season
This year has been a challenge for the arts community in so many ways. Social gathering has been viewed as a pariah in this covid world, a primary aspect of the arts and certainly of opera, and in response to the pandemic, many of our counterparts made the heartbreaking decision to shutter their doors and plan for next year. Here in the Berkshires, that took a large portion of our dynamic community and put it on a shelf. Many of us wondered how we will fill the empty space where so much art fulfillment once stood. The creativity and resourcefulness shown in moving to online outlets has been truly transformative the world over as we have evolved into new avenues for sharing our common passions for art and beauty. But people still yearn for community and connection, for the experience that can only be afforded through live performance.
Our Fifth Anniversary Season Awaits You
Throughout these past several months, Berkshire Opera Festival found itself in a truly unique position. Without our own opera house, our overhead is low and our office is lean. We are still a fairly small company with a modest production season, and also unlike our more established arts brethren, our season is comprised of just three days in August, a uniquely sweet spot in the covid timeline. So we watched, and we waited. We stayed open to possibility, and we were nimble. We looked for ways that we could keep at least one arts staple performing in the Berkshires this summer. But we had to be smart about it. We needed to know what safety measures would be required by state and health officials, and then see how those would be implemented at our venue, the Colonial Theatre. And then see if they would work for us.
We faced the necessity to cancel critical fundraising and marketing plans this Spring, and despite this, we searched to find a way to put on an operatic production under a health-challenged economic vice grip, and still provide the kind of high quality performance that our patrons have come to expect. The artists who perform with us travel here from their busy performing lives around the country, but this year they have seen their performing venues close up one by one, creating an economic crisis in their field. So we asked ourselves, how can we support these talented artists? How can we reimagine our season so that we don't shutter our doors like so many others? We made the decision fairly early on in the quarantine to pay our artists, regardless of what happened to our season. We were committed to keeping our artists afloat.
We read about a theatre production of Phantom of the Opera in South Korea that has been operating safely to a 1600-seat house week over week, and we saw that it could be done. So, like a tiny little life raft out in the covid sea, we kept our opera hopes alive, and we refined our production of Don Giovanni so that the glorious music of Mozart could still ring through the rafters of the Colonial Theatre this August. The painstaking work of reimagining this year's production was nothing short of heroic for co-founders Brian Garman and Jonathon Loy. We had to trim some of our staff and our pageantry, which was most regrettable, but we are happy to have found a solution for our opera company's Fifth Anniversary Season. Our life raft has found its shore.
In response to social distancing protocols, BOF's Mainstage production of Don Giovanni has pivoted from a fully-staged opera to a semi-staged concert, and we want to help clarify what those changes will look like. Brian Garman will still lead his orchestra and chorus, following the full repertoire as Mozart wrote it. But our musicians need more room to be socially distanced, and as a result, we will have orchestra members on stage. Our amazing performers won't be acting in close proximity to one another, but will rather be spread out across the stage, in order to still amaze us with their operatic prowess. Our chorus members will be relocated with care and dramatic flare in-tact, and our audience's ears will not suffer a moment's loss of programming. But our staging took the brunt of the reimagining toll, and there will be no scenery to speak of, no Don, Leporello or Donna Anna costumes, there will be no staircase descending into hell. Jonathon Loy will find a way to safely tantalize us with modest visuals, but it will be a mere reflection of the tremendous designs that he and set designer Deane Prouty had once created. Our imaginations will have to fill in the rest, and with an infamous classic like Don Giovanni, that certainly will not be hard to do.
Don Giovanni will be presented in two acts, as Mozart created. The Don is still a cad, and the Commendatore still comes back from the dead. Mozart's music has always lead us through the libretto, and our ears will remain attuned to the flow of the music, and the shifts in emotion. We will still be transported through the beauty of opera, as is our goal.
Berkshire Opera Festival is remarkably thankful for our partners at the Colonial Theatre, who have gone to exhaustive lengths to help us make this production possible, and who have worked with us throughout these difficult months and have shown the kind of amazing resilience that has brought us to the advent of possibility. The requirements of masks and revised entrance protocols and disinfecting stations will all be new, and revised seat spacing will certainly feel different to avid theatre-goers, but all of these steps will have been poured over for months, with safety at the fore and a will for finding our way through this together. We look forward to sharing this absolutely unique and historic production with you this August. This production will serve as the benchmark for what is possible in this covid era. Grab your tickets while you can. As one of the very few tickets in town this Summer, these three dates will most certainly sell out. And if you still have any lingering questions, we want to hear from you. Our opera community is our true opera home, and your input is always welcome.
“A spirited, musically excellent Don Pasquale opened Berkshire Opera Festival's fourth season [...] The strong, vivid effort drew a justified ovation from the crowd, confirming Berkshire Opera's "destination" status."
- David Shengold, Opera News
BOF was the 2019 recipient of the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association Award for Outstanding Production Running Fewer than 6 Performances!