I was around six years old the first time I stepped inside an opera house. Excited by the sights and sounds of the audience taking their seats and the orchestra tuning up, I had no clue what would take place that afternoon. As the matinée performance of Puccini’s world-famous “La Boheme” began, a hush fell over the crowd.
Mesmerized by the magnificent music, the larger-than-life singers and the gorgeous costumes and sets, I began a journey of operatic discovery. It led to a lifelong appreciation of the art form, which is alive and well in Sullivan County, NY.
When I heard that the Delaware Valley Opera Company (DVO) had announced its 2023 season, and that “La Boheme” was on the bill, I reached out to DVO Artistic Director Carol Castel to discuss the upcoming productions. They will debut this month in the company’s new home—the Delaware Valley Opera Center, located in beautiful Lake Huntington, NY.
JCF: I’m excited about “La Boheme,” but I read that the company is also presenting an opera for children. What’s that all about?
CC: Yes, it’s Jonathan Stinson’s “The Three Bears,” and we’re excited. It’s the first time we’ve ventured into children’s opera.
JCF: So, it’s Goldilocks, right?
CC: Yes, but this retelling is a slight alteration of the classic tale. Goldilocks wants to be friends with the three bears, but they don’t like her because she doesn’t look like them. It’s kind of silly and fun, but with a message. And we have some very special guests who will be seated with the kids. The show is short and sweet and I think it’s a good introduction to opera for the kids. I’d like to do one every year.
JCF: I know that some people balk at opera because of the language barrier. “La Boheme” is written in Italian, isn’t it?
CC: Yes, but we’re presenting it in English. We do everything in English. I think people who have seen it in Italian will get a kick out of it. Opera has the ability to transcend language through music. Creating an opera begins with the words, which come from the left brain, and the music—which comes from the right brain—is written after the story. And when you put them both together, somehow it bypasses our head altogether and it evokes emotion.
It’s a magnificent art form. It can be life changing. That’s why I’ve been doing this for all these years.
JCF: There’s another production on your schedule, titled “The Audition,” that I know nothing about. Is it new?
CC: Yes, it’s a spoof. Over the years, I’ve seen and heard everything, and what people think we want to see is both noteworthy and entertaining. “The Audition” has all of the classic elements of an opera, but is essentially a concert with a story. And it’s funny.
JCF: So the season is composed of three very different productions. It sounds like there’s something for everyone. And it’s in the company’s new home.
CC: Yes, we’re thrilled to have a permanent home. The theatre has incredible history and plenty of room to house our large collection of costumes and props, along with offices and an attached cabaret space and bar. We’ll be able to present a wide variety of entertainment in that space year ‘round and it’s exciting. We have big plans for the future. This is not your grandma’s opera company.