Noel Koran, in his first full season as director of Tacoma Opera, has announced that the company has agreed to partner with the Tacoma Symphony to provide the orchestral score to two of the season’s three operas. The change is one of several which include morphing the Young Artists program into a mainstage opera, casting out-of region singers, programming more well-known operas and featuring Koran himself as stage director for “Così fan tutte” and “La Traviata.”
We’re really excited about this relationship,” said Koran. “We have a long-standing relationship with our own orchestra, but in this economic environment there’s a lot of focus from funding organizations on collaboration. And our best-selling production ever was “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” which was done in conjunction with the Northwest Sinfonietta.”
Koran said that he and the board had chosen the Tacoma Symphony as the opera’s main orchestra because of the primary association with Tacoma for both companies. The Northwest Sinfonietta, a smaller orchestra which plays lighter chamber works similar in size to an opera orchestra, is in fact based in Tacoma but is also resident in Seattle and Puyallup.
Koran said the company will keep its old group of musicians for one of the season’s three operas.
Other changes in store from the new director, who assumed his position full-time last January, include directing two of the operas himself and bringing in singers he knows from previous places he has worked, as well as Portland-based music director Keith Clark. In addition, the third production, “La Traviata,” will move back into the Pantages Theater after a one-year-break.
The opera’s Young Artist program, which previously offered opera experience to new professionals through an evening of short chamber works at Theatre on the Square, is transitioning into the model used by most other companies, casting young singers in minor roles throughout the season where they can learn from seasoned professionals. With Seattle Opera cutting its Young Artist program after 2014, Tacoma Opera’s has become more important to regional singers.
Koran has reprogrammed the former Young Artist February performance into a fully-produced opera in the Rialto Theater: this year “La Tragédie de Carmen,” Peter Brook’s contemporary adaptation of the Bizet classic. Though this version is less well known than the original, it still rounds out a season of opera standards, veering away from the company’s previous tradition of opening the season with a lesser known work.
“Much as I love (them,) rarely-done operas…just don’t sell,” explained Koran, who says the company had been financially in the red just before he arrived, and is now fiscally healthy and “wanting to grow.”
“I believe that smaller opera companies will be on the rise – they’re already positioned to survive and thrive in the new economic environment,” he says.
Aside from hiring more part-time staff, however, Koran is leaving other major changes until he’s been here a couple more seasons.
Tacoma Opera’s season begins November 2 and 4 with Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” in the Rialto Theater. Information: 253-627-7789, tacomaopera.com