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August 21, 2007 > Opera comes to Fremont

Opera comes to Fremont

By Janet Grant

1940s radio star Ed Gardner once said, "Opera is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings." Gardner might have been partially correct in his description but with its debut in the Tri-City area, our very own Fremont Opera promises to be all that and more.

Fremont can now boast that it has joined big-league cities who host both an acclaimed symphony as well as a full-scale opera company. And with the Fremont Opera's inaugural season, Ohlone College's Smith Center will positively resonate on opening night August 24, with the strains of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. Backed by the Fremont Symphony, The Oakland Symphony Chorus, The Cantabile Youth Singers, and an exceptional young cast of performers, it promises to be an evening to remember.

Fremont Opera's Co-founder and Artistic Director, David Sloss is no stranger to the Fremont performing arts scene. Since 1980, he has been Music Director and Maestro of the Fremont Symphony. Sloss has also been associated with Palo Alto's West Bay Opera since 1981, conducting over twenty productions for them including such operas as La Boheme, The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, and Carmen.

Fremont Opera Co-Founder and General Manager, Barbara Sloss has also been with the West Bay Opera for over twenty-five years serving as a Casting Coordinator and appearing as a singer in various roles. With an extensive background in Finance she provides a vital dual role in both artistic and management areas for the new opera company.

Rounding out the artistic team is Stage Director Jonathon Field. Mr. Field has directed over ninety productions throughout the US for such diverse companies as Lyric Opera of Chicago, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Opera Omaha, Seattle Opera, and Arizona Opera, where he was hailed as their "most perceptive stage director." A renowned innovator, Field introduced computer-generated scenery to an opera production of Candide and use of video-projected scenery to the opera scene. Mr. Field brings his unique talent and vast experience to the Fremont Opera.

The goal of Fremont Opera is to offer Fremont and neighboring communities the best regional and national young performers; to create a compelling experience with a great art form. David and Barbara Sloss believe Fremont Opera can make a significant contribution to the local fine arts community. David comments that it was just a matter of finding a way to do it and pieces of the puzzle fell right in place in Fremont. "We have long established roots here, especially with the many years with the symphony. We have a wonderful orchestra available, a fine theatre with an orchestra pit and excellent stage facilities. We have a potential audience too. We have a population of about 400,000 people if you count the adjacent towns and there is no full-scale opera around this area. All of those things just fit together and it seemed like the natural thing to do."

Mr. Sloss is optimistic that this area will provide an audience for the opera. He cites sellout performances to the Nutcracker Suite every year, a large population and an established audience for the Fremont Symphony. "There's got to be an audience here. Opera is growing nationwide with, I think, 30 opera companies in the Bay Area right now. Between 1986 -2002, opera attendance grew 46 percent throughout the nation. It's the fastest growing of the performing arts so we think there is a real future for it here."

To promote opera education and to make it accessible to the public, Fremont Opera hopes to implement a series of events throughout the year. These will include an annual primary performance schedule, smaller chamber events, lectures, recitals, and outreach efforts to the community.

By selecting La Boheme as their premiere production, Fremont Opera is bringing one of the worlds most popular and most often performed operas to the Smith Center stage. The opera, with music by Puccini, is based on Henri Muerger's Scenes de la Vie de Boheme, a collection of stories about life on the Left Bank of Paris. The plot of La Boheme centers on a community of artists in Paris, particularly the romantic relationship of poet Rodolfo and the consumptive seamstress Mimi - a relationship which ultimately ends in tragedy.

Fremont Opera promises a dazzling visual and audio feast, as over 130 performers fill the stage. This production is a semi-staged version, in which principal singers will have staged movement and action. This allows a full orchestra and chorus to share the stage for a spectacular production. Fremont Opera's La Boheme promises a bounty of action in which the audience will be fully engaged in the intensely dramatic and intimate presentation. Though sung in Italian, performances will have a continuous and immediate projection of an English translation, allowing neophytes to understand of the script.

Puccini once said about opera, "Massenet feels it as a Frenchman, with powder and minuets. I shall feel it as an Italian, with desperate passion." Fremont Opera plans to instill its audiences with a bit of that desperate passion, claiming its place as a mainstay of the Bay Area fine arts community.

For more information or tickets, please visit tickets@fremontsympony.org or www.fremontopera.org.

La Boheme
Friday, August 24
8 p.m.
Sunday, August 26
2 p.m.
Ohlone College Smith Center for Performing Arts
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 794-1659
Admission: $48 (first 5 rows) and $44
www.fremontopera.org

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