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First Chautauqua Opera Invasion puts a virtual twist on Ballads on Balconies

The first time Kelly Guerra tried to film her aria for Chautauqua Opera’s virtual Ballads on Balconies out the window of her New York City apartment, everything went smoothly — until she checked the footage.

“Somehow the camera must have fallen a little bit,” said Guerra, a mezzo soprano in the 2020 Chautauqua Opera Young Artist Program. “The angle had my head completely cut off.”

When she went to record a second take, things got a little hairy.

“I sang maybe a phrase or two and someone upstairs, I still don’t know who they are, (yelled), ‘You don’t need to sing outside of your window,’” Guerra said. “And I said, ‘Actually I do, it’s for work.’

“And she said, ‘Well, I’m calling the property manager.’ And then I yelled expletives at her and decided to stop recording.”

Guerra, a native to Southern California, said this was her first real “New York experience.”

“I moved here in March, and I haven’t been yelled at in public (yet) because there’s nowhere to go,” she said. “I’m still soft.”

Guerra’s performance, cut-off head and all, will be one of 20 featured in Chautauqua Opera’s first virtual Opera Invasion. Ballads on Balconies will air at 10 a.m. EDT Friday July 10, on the Virtual Porch.

Since 2016, the Opera Invasions have been such an important part of our seasons,” he said. “Among the events that we curate, they are routinely the most playful. They’re the most ‘out there’ events we have — literally. To lose that opportunity to connect with our audience … would have been tragic.”

When he realized the Institution would have to move online for the 2020 season, General and Artistic Director Steven Osgood was committed to keeping the Opera Invasions alive.

“Since 2016, the Opera Invasions have been such an important part of our seasons,” he said. “Among the events that we curate, they are routinely the most playful. They’re the most ‘out there’ events we have — literally. To lose that opportunity to connect with our audience … would have been tragic.”

The first Ballads was performed during the Institution’s 2018 season. As Chautauquans traveled from the United Methodist House to Norton Hall, they were serenaded by Chautauqua Opera’s Young Artists from balconies and porches along the way.

In this virtual iteration, the 2020 Young Artists have recorded themselves singing arias using whatever “balcony” they could find.

“Some of them are in a sunroom, some of them are in a beautiful open field, some of them have balconies, or a fire escape,” said Diane Machin, one of Chautauqua Opera’s assistant directors. “(We’re) working with the reinterpretation of a balcony.”

Machin has been editing together the 20 videos into four separate “tour packages” each featuring four to six Young Artists singing different arias. After the premiere, the videos will be available for on-demand viewing on the Virtual Porch.

“We broke it into four distinctive chunks,” Osgood said, “so somebody could binge them, or they could click on (just) one.”

Osgood hopes this virtual Ballads will remind Chautauquans that the Institution supports artists across the country.

“It gave (us) an opportunity to highlight how spread out we are, how far apart everybody is from each other … to essentially draw lines for our audience to say, ‘Oh wow, they’re in Texas, they’re in Ohio, they’re in Florida,’ and then think, ‘Wow, I wonder what that means for them,’” Osgood said. “Getting them thinking about what an opera singer is going through today is really kind of our surreptitious goal.”

Tags : Ballads on BalconiesKelly GuerraOpera Invasionyoung artist program
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The author Eleanor Bishop

Eleanor Bishop is a Cincinnati native and rising senior studying journalism at Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. She is excited to (virtually) return to the Daily for her second year, where she is covering visual arts, opera and dance. When she’s not writing, Eleanor enjoys comedy, pop music and staring wistfully out windows, thinking about how she should probably be writing.

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