Opera is a tradition of storytelling that goes back hundreds of years and continues to find new relevance in the modern world. Anchorage Opera’s 2019/20 season celebrates both the past and present, with pillars of the repertoire, alongside a modern classic.

The season opens with Gioachino Rossini’s beloved Barber of Seville. The two-act comedy has long been a staple of the operatic repertoire. Many of Rossini’s melodies from Barber have been adopted into popular culture, and audiences will immediately recognize the bubbly and lighthearted nature of Rossini’s writing and will be singing along from the very first few minutes of the overture. And, as is traditional in comic operas, there’s plenty of disguise, mischief and lots of confusion about who’s actually in love with whom.

What follows is a much less traditional selection in Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida. Rodriguiez tells the story of famed, and enigmatic painter, writer and Latinx icon, Frida Kahlo. Stricken with polio as a child, Kahlo lived a difficult and painful life. Disregarded at the time due to her gender, sexual orientation and disabilities, Kahlo’s genius persists and represents a unique intersection of LGBTQ rights, surrealism, folk art and mental illness. Kahlo’s style and individuality as an artist serve as a thought-provoking and poignant subject for Rodriquez’s score. The opera premiered in 1991 and incorporates non-operatic musical styles like mariachi to paint a diverse and unique musical landscape to reflect the nuanced and multidimensional life of Kahlo herself.

Last year, AO performed Jack Perla’s An American Dream, which tells the story of a Japanese-American family that was displaced and interned during World War II. This year’s production of Frida continues this flowering tradition of producing a work each year that has meaningful modern social relevance. Judy Berry, Marketing Director of the Opera, hopes that Frida, which features an all Lantinx cast, can speak to Anchorage’s growing Latinx and Hispanic population. “We’d like to take some performers into schools so that our young people can relate to the artists and see themselves in the art form.”

Frida is fundamentally different in that it’s partly in Spanish - a language not often featured in opera.

“One of the themes that we’re trying to drive home this season is one of inclusivity; that opera is truly for everyone,” said Berry.

Outside of the major performances, AO will be offering free performances for local schools, pop-up events in alternative venues and their “Take One” events that offer a more intimate way to get to know the operas, characters and performers. These efforts to make opera accessible for all have made it clear that, under the watchful care of Berry and General Director Reed Smith, even a small opera company can be a leading voice in the national arts scene.

Long before the great modern melodramas such as Titanic or A Star Is Born came Tosca, which concludes AO’s 2019/20 season. Premiered in 1900 and set in 1800 Italy during the Napoleonic wars, Giacomo Puccini’s opera is the gold standard for tragic opera. The drama and vocal beauty of Tosca has captured audiences for well over a century and, as long as audiences enjoy a good cry, will continue to enthrall for generations to come. Glass shattering arias, rich harmonies and melodramatic storytelling at it’s finest — just be sure to have the tissues ready for the third act.

Lighthearted fun, struggle and triumph, unimaginable grief — opera has a unique way of expanding our emotional palettes and Anchorage Opera’s 2019/20 season offers something for everyone.

Anchorage Opera presents Rossini’s Barber of Seville, November 1-3, Rodriguez’s Frida, February 14-16 and Puccini’s Tosca, April 17-19 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available at CenterTix.com.

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