A sense of history and legacy will soar out from Norton Hall as the Chautauqua Opera Company celebrates the 90th anniversary of both the Chautauqua Opera and the venue itself.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, June 23, the Chautauqua Opera’s 16 Studio Artists will lead audiences from Odland Plaza to Norton Hall, with a repertoire spanning 90 years.
“The idea came to me as I looked through this vast amount of repertoire that has been performed in that building by that company, over 90 years,” said Steve Osgood, the general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera. “How can we share and celebrate all the sound that has echoed through there?”
For six weeks each season, the artists who choose to participate pull Chautauquans into the art form through Opera Invasions.
Singers travel on a pre-planned route performing certain musical phrases with little to no rehearsal.
These events are meant to introduce audiences to opera in a playful way without overwhelming them with information.
In this first invasion, Osgood endeavors to bring every opera performed on the Norton Hall stage since 1929 to life, showcasing different genres and styles.
“We will go through, essentially, each season spending about 20 seconds in each season with the 16 Studio Artists spread all throughout the audience in Norton Hall,” Osgood said.
Once at Norton Hall, the singers will be interspersed throughout the crowd, fully immersing the audience in all 90 years of music.
“What we are trying to evoke is that echo,” Osgood said. “That echoing back of everything that has been sung in Norton Hall.”
After a vigorous search through some of the top music libraries in New York, Osgood found all but two opera scores that have been performed on the Norton Hall stage.
He pulled less than a minute of music from each year for the singers to perform and compiled them into a booklet.
“When it’s hung over a music stand, anybody who stands in front of the person will see the year and the five operas that were done,” Osgood said.
All the singers have to sing one part from each season, creating a massive compilation of sound ringing throughout the hall.
Singers only rehearse for less than an hour before the invasion begins, bringing raw sound to this celebration.
Osgood hopes to inspire audience members and show the evolution of opera music at Chautauqua.
“What I’m looking forward to experiencing is the recurrence of themes,” Osgood said.
Throughout the 90 years of music, audience members will hear operas that have been performed numerous times, in addition to operas that were performed for just one season.
Amid the theatrics and music, Chautauqua opera history unfolds through each selection showcased at this year’s first invasion.
“The experience for the listener, for the audience member in this event, is really going to be immersive, multifaceted, interesting on very surprising levels and ultimately just celebratory,” Osgood said.
Opera Invasions throughout the summer will immerse the company into the Chautauqua community, bringing together the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, guest composers and the Music School Festival Orchestra.
Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, said the Opera Invasions bring a uniqueness to the Chautauqua experience, giving people a chance to build community as they stumble upon opera in unexpected places on the grounds.