Opéra Louisiane artistic director Michael Borowitz provides piano accompaniment to sopranos Keturah Heard and Elana Gleason during the organization’s “Shifting Gears” outdoor concert on July 22 at BREC’s Milford Wampold Memorial Park. Photo by Michelle Nguyen.

Bel Canto: Opéra Louisiane’s vibrato rings victorious amid COVID-19

This April should have set the stage for Opéra Louisiane’s production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, an end-of-season show about love and fantasy starring tenor Frederick Ballentine fresh off his Met debut, and a thrilling start to a new decade for the organization dedicated to bringing excellence in music to Baton Rouge since 2007. We all know what happened instead. COVID-19 saw the postponement of Tales as well as the halting of musical theater all over the world, with performers and organizers stranded in a perpetual waiting game.

But Opéra Louisiane is far from its curtain call. Last month, taking inspiration from the Baton Rouge community’s love of sports, its first-ever virtual performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville was cast via audience vote in a “Fantasy Opera Draft” in time for an October 16 premiere, and its educational programs and outdoor performances still sit high on the roster for the rest of 2020.

“We looked at different ways to make opera available and accessible—and not just any opera, because anyone can tune into the Met right now and watch their nightly broadcasts. That’s the best of the best,” says Leanne Clement, general director of Opéra Louisiane. “So we were challenged with asking: what would make tuning in and watching something from Opéra Louisiane special?”

To start, fans and patrons of the organization can look forward to more of its existing specialties throughout the year. The “Sofa Series” performances from years past, for example, will continue online, with plans to collaborate with teaching artists in and out of the Opéra Louisiane artist family. The Lunch with Leanne concert series will pursue a Zoom format complete with cocktail performances and meet-and-greets. And July’s successful “Shifting Gears” outdoor concert at BREC’s Milford Wampold Memorial Park will expand to additional locations throughout Baton Rouge, including plans to perform live in the downtown amphitheater.

“Thanks to the support of the community and our patrons, we’ve been able to stay flexible and creative,” says Clement. “They’re what make the shows happen. It’s a real family feeling here, and we want to be able to provide live music to Baton Rouge however and whenever it’s safe to do so.” operalouisiane.com