Portland Opera announces another round of changes to the 2020/21 season, as the company continues to navigate COVID-19 safety, travel, and assembly restrictions in Multnomah County, Oregon. The production of Frida, set to premiere via the Portland Opera On Screen digital channel, will be postponed and the company hopes to present it as a live, in-person socially-distanced outdoor event this summer, with additional details to be announced in February. The production of Il Trovatore has been cancelled, due to assembly guidelines outlined in Oregon’s COVID-19 reopening plan. The company will continue with smaller-scale public programming for the warmer months, and the previously announced Journeys to Justice production will proceed on Portland Opera On Screen as planned. Finally, Portland Opera shares an update about the company’s progress with key aspects of its strategic planning initiatives.
“Right now, based on travel restrictions, CDC guidance, and assembly limitations—we cannot move forward with our original visions for Frida and Il Trovatore while ensuring the safety of all involved,” says Sue Dixon, General Director of Portland Opera. “While each state and local health authorities vary in guidance and regulations, some of our peer organizations around the country are able to proceed with adjusted production activity. For us, the restrictions in place are firm, and combined with the need for singer and artist safety, it means that we need to continue to be patient and vigilant.”
Portland Opera will continue with planned programming of the Portland Opera Resident Artist recitals (January 28, February 11, and February 25), which will be available for free on the company’s YouTube and Vimeo channels. While this series does include duets and ensemble pieces, the Portland Opera Resident Artists have been quarantined together for the season, adhering, with their faculty and collaborators, to guidance and testing requirements of the company’s assembled medical advisors.
In addition, Portland Opera will be able to continue with planned programming for Journeys to Justice, an evening of art song, opera, and short pieces about love, justice, and experiences of being a Black American. Premiering on April 16, digital access will be available for 45 days, and will be available for purchase for $50 or pay what you will. Directed by Chip Miller (Associate Artistic Director, Portland Center Stage), this production features Portland Opera’s Resident Artists Lynnesha Crump, Jasmine Johnson, David Morgans Sanchez, Michael Parham, and Edwin Jhamal Davis. Local health and safety guidelines permitting, the production will also include limited instrumentation featuring members of the Portland Opera Orchestra, and members of the Portland Opera Chorus. Digital passes will go on sale in March.
The company is working with arts and community partners to plan for increased activity through the spring and summer months, with balcony concerts, a continuation of the Opera a la Cart program, pop-up performances, and the possibility of an outdoor production of Frida, with limited capacities and adherence to health and safety guidelines. Portland Opera will share additional details, along with a schedule of events, in the coming weeks, as guidance and planning comes into focus.
The company regrets to announce the cancellation of Il Trovatore, which had been scheduled as a digital performance and possible outdoor experience on May 7. This particular opera hosts a chorus of 48, an orchestra of 65, plus additional soloists and production company members. In addition to these artists, the staffing levels needed to support their work would violate current assembly restrictions. “After having evaluated a variety of performance alternatives for Il Trovatore, including outdoor concerts, reduced versions, and live streamed options in anticipation of loosened assembly restrictions by May, we sadly had to come to the conclusion that they were not viable under the currently foreseeable guidelines,” says Daniel Biaggi, Interim Artistic Director. “Instead of showcasing our full chorus and orchestra as combined artistic forces, we look forward to featuring them in smaller ensembles during the summer months.”
Behind the scenes, Portland Opera has been diligently using time away from regular production activities in order to make meaningful progress with the company’s key strategic plan initiatives. “This has truly been a devastating year for so many in our community, our company, and in the performing arts and events sectors nationally. While we continue to navigate changes and challenges, I believe that we can emerge from this chapter as better artists, better leaders, and better community members for each other,” says Sue Dixon. “We’ve used this time to make change as we pursue key tenants of our strategic plan.”
In pursuit of the strategies outlined towards its future, Portland Opera has recently undergone a process to update a refreshed vision, mission statement, and company values. The process, led by a consultant, included participation by the full staff, Portland Opera Board of Directors, chorus and orchestra members, artists, peer organizations, as well as some patrons and members of the community. These articulations are currently going through final approvals, and will be announced publicly in March of 2021, along with the launch of a new company website and ticketing platforms that have been under development throughout 2020. In addition to this fundamental progress, the company has completed a review and brand equity audit, and has been working with a consultant to accomplish the first phase of company-wide transformation in relation to equity, diversity, and inclusion. In the next phase of this work, Portland Opera will publish a Cultural Equity Plan in tandem with accountability framework for the future.
In 2020, Portland Opera also welcomed artistic advisors Karen Slack and Damien Geter, and the company also plans to launch a public national search for a permanent Artistic Director in the coming weeks. Biaggi, Slack, and Geter have joined Dixon in a more inclusive season planning process, and the company plans to announce those plans for the 2021/22 opera season in March. Members of the Board of Directors have been leading working groups in the areas of Community Engagement, Real Estate Development, and Cultural Equity; meeting remotely for working sessions weekly with members of the staff and external stakeholders to develop these initiatives.
Additional details about Portland Opera’s strategic plan, community activities, COVID-19 response plan, and public programming can be found by visiting portlandopera.org. Digital passes for Journeys to Justice will be available beginning with the new website launch, planned for March of 2021. Community members seeking additional information about any and all of these initiatives can reach out to company members by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Silja Tobin, Marketing & Communications Manager