The Peabody Opera Theatre Program mounts about eight productions each year, for a combined total of around 40 performances. The various names—Opera Workshop, Opera Outreach, Chamber Opera, and Opera Theatre—may sound confusing; they differ mainly in the size of the accompanying forces (from piano solo to full orchestra) and in the proportion of the budget that is spent upon costumes and decor:
Opera Potpourri scenes, and occasionally complete one-act operas, presented with piano accompaniment in a simple staging without decor. All in the original language, and single-cast. Generally two programs per year, with one performance of each. The Opera Workshop also produces the Opera Études, which are described more fully elsewhere.
Although theoretically a part of Opera Workshop, in that these productions are also given with piano, they differ by being performed off-campus in multiple performances to a variety of audiences. We always have one production of a standard opera in condensed form — either Hansel and Gretel or The Magic Flute — which we take around grade schools. This has two casts, and sometimes even three, who give 8–10 performances each, spread out over the whole year. Some years, we also offer a musical theater cabaret for older audiences. Internally, the outreach program provides one of the best ways for intermediate students to build up performance experience in front of eager and responsive audiences.
The Chamber Opera presents complete productions of operas calling for smaller stage and instrumental forces than our mainstage productions. These productions are given with simple scenery and full costumes; they are sung in the original languages and accompanied by a small orchestra. They tend to fall into two categories: baroque and modern. The baroque programs have included double- or triple-bills of shorter pieces by composers such as Charpentier, Purcell, and Rameau, and occasionally full-evening works such as Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Cavalli’s Egisto (in our own scholarly edition), or — from a much earlier period — Hildegarde von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum. More modern works have included Conrad Susa’s Transformations, Daniel Crozier’s With Blood, With Ink (a work originally developed at Peabody and now slated for performance by the New York City Opera), the Peter Brook adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen, and Udo Zimmermann’s Die Weisse Rose. These productions are often given in off-campus locations. All have multiple performances, and many roles are double-cast.
The Opera Theatre is the banner under which we present our largest productions, with full orchestra, scenery, costumes, and lighting, in our own hall. There is one production each semester. Inevitably, they take the largest share of the production budget. In order to provide as many roles as possible, we tend to select ensemble works rather than those which depend on one or two star roles. Accordingly, we have done a lot of Mozart and Britten, together with such landmark operas as Falstaff, Manon, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Cunning Little Vixen, and The Rake’s Progress. Most productions are sung in the original language. All are double-cast, with each cast giving two performances.
In all productions, preference in casting is given to full-time students in good academic standing.