Our Opera House: in bocca al lupo

Genesis Opera

Genesis brings art to the people – all art.

To that end, Mary – assisted by her teachers and colleagues, Marko Lampas – a famed opera singer and director who worked with Maria Callas and Barbara Iona Miller, his wife and fellow operatic co-star, set out to do just that … with opera.

Mary is classically-trained and has always felt that opera, like Shakespeare and his contemporaries, would flourish with transfusions of new blood and thought.

And so the call went out.

The word OPERA commands a respect that will never ebb. So in September 2000, OPUS 1: the opening of Genesis Opera was arranged.

I must preface…

One year almost to that day, we first entered the Jan Hus Playhouse. We were welcomed by several water bugs and the board of a senior center that did EVERYTHING to remove us even though their own patrons attended our shows.

Now, one year later, that particular Saturday night was singularly magical.

It seemed that Mary and her colleagues had basically called their opera connections and said …

“there’s a new opera company…”

“Yes, we know, closing.” would be the usual reply,

“No… opening”

“What?”

Now imagine …

Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie begins…

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

Tony King, our dear friend and owner of Finnegan’s Wake catered the event …trays, chafing dishes, snacks, drinks, silverware, table clothes, all gratis, all came rolling… tables flying and unfolding, cloths swirling, LIGHTS (sterno), the smell of meatballs and chicken and pasta wafted through the house.

 

Marko and Barbara called long time opera fellows, each slamming down the phone and running for that secret place in their closets to reach for the costumes, the make-up… the wigs… then all throughout the west side of Manhattan, taxis were hailed in a perfect C sharp…

 

Taxi…

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

Taxi….

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

TAXI

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

“Where to?”

 

“Where else my good man…

THE GENESIS OPERA … I’m performing….

 

Step On IT!”

 

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

CLOSE-UP I on Mary’s hand and mouth to the phone receiver: … “yes hello, that’s right”

CLOSE-UP 2 on Mary’s hand and mouth to the phone receiver: … “yes hello, tonight”

CLOSE-UP 3 on Mary’s hand and mouth to the phone receiver: … “yes hello, … THIS IS YOUR CHANCE”

 

Young Singers, pianists, musicians, from Bay Ridge, Long Island City, Weehawken, Washington Heights, Inwood… running to the subway and the buses…

 

CLOSE-UP on Mary’s mouth … smiling

 

Lights were hung…

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

Adverts were bought…

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

A piano was donated!!!!!

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

Chester Ludgin and Lucine Amara, alumni of the Met – no kidding – called to wish us luck as they sang with Mary at our first space in the lower east side.

 

Arthur Zankel wrote us a check – a CHECK my friends, a REAL NICE check!

 

People like Arthur Zankel write C H E C K S

 

the artists arrived…

furs

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

hats

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

canes

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

 

wigs

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

all speaking perfect English with a foreign accent even if they were born here!

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

“WHERE IS MY DRESSING ROOM”

 

Then the audience…

furs

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

hats

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

canes

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

 

wigs

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

all speaking perfect English with a foreign accent even if they were born here!

DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM… DUM-DE-DE-DUM-DUM…

 

“WHERE IS THE BATHROOM”

 

 

 

CURTAIN UP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number after number of UNPARALLELED BEAUTY

 

Ancient works SUNG by definitive voices.

 

Then Mary ascended the stage. She did Lady Macbeths

 

That’s not a typo…

 

She did Shakespeare’s Macbeth and then Verdi’s Macbeth… she educated the audience of how Shakespeare has been represented in the opera world and then perfectly executing the letter sequence from both masters. Stunning.

 

 

Then she was joined by Marko Lampas

 

Broad shoulders with a mass of black hair like Beethoven might have wanted.

 

They do Cavalleria Rusticana.

 

The audience now our first totally-full-to-capacity-with-no-more-standing-room-just-breaking-the-fire-laws crowd lay still, breathless.

 

I cannot describe the performance in a way to do it justice. I shall say that the ghosts in the building, they of the Shakespeare-wrights of the 1950s, the Gilbert & Sullivan Players of the 1920s, the Bohemian marionette masters of the 1890s wept at the beauty and then lay at peace that talent is watching their home.

 

Jimmy Oligney said “Mary was electric.”

 

David Downing in the first row in a flawless tuxedo, said “I had no idea.”

 

The audience applauded until it became defending… a sound almost as perfect as the performers

 

Tim Browning a dedicated member of this Shakespeare troupe saw me smiling near the bathrooms at the every back of the auditorium. I had to stand there as there was no other area vacant.

 

“Did we do good tonight… you know money?”

 

“Not bad” I said with my hands behind my back.

 

It was the only time in my life as a misbegotten producer that I ever held a bag of money.

 

OK, maybe the fleet of taxis didn’t ride down Seventh Avenue in perfect synchronicity; maybe the waiters didn’t dance with flaming skewers like in a Russian ballet; maybe that wasn’t the ghost of Puccini nodding in the back of the house, but the pride in the faces of Mary, Marko, Barbara, and the opera artists at the notion that they opened an opera house and helped save their art; the knowing nod of Tony King when he realized that he was part of history; the unbridled joy on the faces of the young arts… you get the idea.

 

The Genesis Opera went on to perform many operas and concerts. At the Jan Hus, at the Mazer in the Lower East Side, even at CAMI Hall. Tragedy changed the players but the opera survived and joined with the musical program. Today it is the musical masters program. Each year a classical piece appears in the concert. Sherry Giedd singing German one year, Isabella Sirota in Italian the next.

 

I want to sing Pagliacci… someday.

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