Remarkable Theater Brigade’s co-founder and General Director Monica Harte (also known for the annual delight Opera Shorts) has now brought her organizational skills to a new but familiar place, Nevada Opera (a company started and run for many years by her parents), and for starters she’s reinvigorating the opera world yet again with a re-imagined take on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, giving the piece a new anime-style look.
Monica explains the story behind returning and coming up with the idea for the re-staging. “My parents started Nevada Opera years ago, and they left the company around 1997 or so. When they left, they sort of broke all ties to it, and I came back, sort of as a favor last year, because a soprano got sick. They were doing a big concert with a lot of high stuff, and one of my friends called me and said ‘Hey if we fly you out here, would you come out and sing ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ (from Candide) and all of these coloratura pieces’, and I thought, ‘well, my mom’s out there,’ so I was like ‘Yes I will!’, and so I went out there and I did that for them. They didn’t have any money or anything, so I just sort of went out and did it for the trip, and had a great time. Then they said ‘Hey, will you come out and direct Amahl and The Night Visitors for us?’, and I’m thinking, well, it’s Christmastime, my mom’s out there–Okay! [laughs] I went out for Amahl, and that’s when it started to become clear that they were in distress. They didn’t really have anybody that knew how to produce the show, and some of the artists, orchestra members, etc, weren’t happy with the way things were going, and I sort of got word from them that they would love it if they could kind of return to the good old days of my dad. Now, I can’t really do that for them, because the budgets today are different than they were way back then, and financially, it’s just the fact that opera’s in some hard times, but the board did ask me if I could help pull them out of the financial stress they were in, and get them going in a positive light for Reno.”
“So, that’s when I said I would direct Butterfly, and that’s when I thought we could do something really fun here! We can do an anime production–Oddly enough, it hasn’t been done before! But part of the reason for the change, believe it or not, is that one of the most expensive things about the opera are the geisha wigs! [laughs] But then they also did this really nice poster. The original posters weren’t slick or professional, and I said they had to come up with something that’s more professional looking. One of their donors commissioned this artwork for the poster, and the artist did this anime version of the Butterfly, and it’s beautiful! She’s in a kimono, but her hair and her eyes are anime. I thought we could do the whole show like this–It’s beautiful, so it won’t turn off the traditionalists.”
Pictured below: costume examples for the Nevada Opera production of Madame Butterfly (Courtesy of Monica Harte)
We’ve seen some changes done for operas that have caused some restlessness in the opera world, but Monica believes that these changes will be necessary for this Nevada production. “If we do it right, it will capture the audience in that it will have almost a Walt Disney effect where you’re just captivated by the beauty of it, and therefore not distracted by ‘Well, that’s not what I saw last time I saw Madame Butterfly‘! Even the slight changes with these elements really could bring in a new audience for us, because people are going to go simply for those elements. And it also helps us because, today people can go see a Met production live in a movie theater, and what small company can compete with that? With RTB, we do our little thing at Carnegie Hall with Opera Shorts, and we don’t have to worry about that, but Nevada Opera is a small, regional company trying to put on shows that people can see at the movies now transmitted live from the Met. So maybe a little touch that makes it something special right there and live, as long as it doesn’t kill the production and go way overboard. That’s what I’m hoping. I’m hoping what we’re doing is offering something new, something that’s different than something they can see from the theatrical screenings of the Met, not something that could kill the piece.
We have a beautiful Butterfly (Veronica Matina)! When I heard her, I hired her on the spot after she sang one aria! I was totally captivated in this audition in this little studio. She is outstanding!”
Promo for Nevada Opera production of Madame Butterfly
Nevada Opera’s other featured production performed during the same weekend is a work by RTB’s Christian McLeer titled G-Train.
“G-Train is actually a very fun show that we first did in NY with RTB. It’s all for opera singers, but it’s a musical (an operetta, basically), and it’s hilarious. It sold out in its original off-Broadway run, and that kind of floored us! Then we’ve taken it all over the country, and it’s just a silly, funny show that people love, and what’s great is that we can take it down to 20 minutes when we need to from two 40-45 minute acts. What we’ve done for G-Train in Reno is we’re using all of our covers [Editor's Note: opera for "understudy"], and our covers are all professional singers. Saturday the 5th is the break day for the Butterfly cast to rest, and we have our covers coming in, and they’re doing two shows of G-Train the musical. At $5 a person, that’s less than a movie. We’re also inviting the people from the Washoe County school district so they can see what we have to offer that we can also bring into the schools there, so that’s really important for us, to build our education program there, but it also gives families a chance to take their kids to shows for $5, and that’s not easy to get these days.”
Promo for G-Train
If you are in the Nevada area, or if you are interested in making the trip out there, The Nevada Opera Productions of Madame Butterfly and G-Train are going up next weekend:
Madame Butterfly: Friday, May 4th, 7:30 PM
Sunday, May 6th, 2 PM
Pioneer Center for The Performing Arts
G-Train: Saturday, May 5th, 1 PM and 4 PM
Phone: 775-786-4046 for tickets.
Monica Harte, Soprano