In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 4:22 PM on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

OPERA: Finding a voice at the end of the road

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo by Ken Howard

Renée Fleming,left, as the title character and Andreas Scholl, right, as Bertarido in Handel's "Rodelinda." This photo was taken at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City at the rehearsal on Nov. 11, 2011.

From the first note sung by Richard Croft in "Satyagraha," Philip Glass' opera loosely based on Gandhi, I was mesmerized.

My awareness of other voices, details of the sets and puppets created by Phelim McDermott for the production came later. Even lyrics sung in Sanskrit with few subtitles seemed of lesser importance than the beauty of Croft's voice.

Opera in Homer? Yes, indeed.

This is the sixth season of New York's Metropolitan Opera Live in HD, offering performances in cities across the country and made possible by grants from its founding sponsor, The Neubauer Family Foundation, and the global corporate sponsorship of Bloomberg.

This is the third year the Homer Theatre has participated in the program, one of only three places in Alaska to do so.

"Jamie is always looking to broaden our horizons, to offer more and more to the community here in Homer," Robin Daugherty, theater manager, said of theater-owner Jamie Sutton.

Depending on time zones, some locations see the performances live. Homer's distance from New York requires Daugherty to combine recorded performances, external hard drives, receivers that pick up the recordings off a satellite and a projector to put the recorded performance onto Homer Theatre's silver screen.

The recordings include behind-the-scene interviews, which Daugherty plays at the end of each performance.

The performances offered to Homer audiences are selected by a group of local opera experts headed by Karen McRae.

"Just a fan" is how McRae describes her interest in opera. Her appreciation of opera began when she was taking ballet lessons as a child and became fascinated by the music and the costumes.

"Most of what I've seen has been second hand, on television or video, but I usually try to get up to Anchorage and see at least one opera a year," said McRae.

The Homer Theatre began this opera season with Mozart's "Don Giovanni," an opera that includes well-known pieces even non-opera fans would recognize. Not so "Satyagraha."




Feb. 9: Rodelinda

March 8: Faust

April 12: The Enchanted Island

May 3: La Traviata

When: 6 p.m.


$15 adults; $10 seniors; $5 students and children.

what people

are saying:

"We get the close-ups, the faces, the costumes. We really get the full experience."

--Karen McRae

"If The Met came to Homer with real people, it would be a no-brainer. You'd go. You wouldn't really care what opera they're playing.

This is not far from it. ... It's an unbelieveable deal." -- Konrad Schaad

"It's pretty spectacular. ... Come, experience it and then go see a real opera."

-- Colleen Carroll, Homer Theatre programming manager

In fact, as the cast sheet and synopsis provided by The Met say, "Glass did not wish the text to be understood — just to be heard — and to allow the actions on stage to speak for themselves."

"It was very strange, but it was interesting," said Toby Tyler, who sat next to me during the performance.

Another Homer opera fan, Konrad Schaad, said his fascination with opera began as a youngster when he heard his aunt perform in Switzerland.

"As I grew older, I appreciated voice as an instrument more and more. By now, I consider it the most beautiful instrument out there," said Schaad, for whom going to the opera is an event.

"I dress up. I never wear a tie, but I did for the last opera, and the best shirt I have. My wife was wondering where the heck I was going."

Maria Allison of Kenai has taught opera appreciation at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage.

"It's amazing for everyone to be able to just go to a local theater and see these productions," Allison said of The Met at the Homer Theatre.

Offering Homer, especially the younger crowd, a new experience is one of the driving forces behind the theater's involvement with Metropolitan Opera Live in HD.

"Jamie's fondest thing about having a movie theater is having young people come here to view different things, expand their horizons," said Daugherty.

"Bring some students. Broaden their minds. We'd love it."

Already looking forward to February's production of Handel's "Rodelinda," I understand Daugherty's comments. My seventh-grade classmates and I were introduced to opera by Mr. Curry, the music teacher at Ninilchik School at the time. Listening to his scratchy record collection did nothing to inspire a love of the singing, the music or the stories.

As a high school sophomore, I saw and heard live performances at an opera hall in Germany. That was magical, from the costumes, voices and orchestra to the velvety seats and chandeliers.

Eager to offer a similar experience to my daughters when they were in high school, the three of us attended "Romeo and Juliet" sung in French at Anchorage's Center for the Performing Arts.

Jennifer, in her third year of French, proudly announced she was able to translate most of the lyrics.

She laughed when we pointed out the subtitles shown across the top of the stage.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at