Night at opera in New Orleans

Holly Haney, Arcade Editor

In the information session before the concert began, the presenter said how during their most recent student night, one of them had asked if opera was just “all about love?” In many ways, this student was absolutely correct.  

From the moment we walked into the Mahalia Jackson Theater, the Gala Concert put on by the New Orleans Opera Association showed clear signs of being a labor of love. This concert was the first performance from the New Orleans Opera Association since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the excitement was tangible. Backstage before the show, the chorus members were chatting excitedly about the show. One member, Shirley Stewart, had been performing with the NOOA for over 50 years. 

The NOOA General and Artistic Director Clare Burovac was set to host that evening but was unable to attend. Luckily, her husband Christopher Mattaliano was able to fill in. Every time he spoke of his wife and her love for the organization, he beamed with such joy for her and the art; it was infectious.

Christopher Mattaliano hosts the NOOA Gala Concert in replacement of his wife (Jeff Strout)

One of the soloists, John Moore, who performed an electric rendition of the iconic “Largo al factotum,” was a New Orleans native who had been performing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the past two years. However, that same sense of love which bound together the chorus and Clare Burovac and her husband drew the tenor soloist back. 

Though one might believe that opera is this stuffy, exclusive and inaccessible art form, the NOOA makes sure to share the love with as many people as possible. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on during the performances. But, above the stage, they hung a projector screen which displayed the context for each song as well as English translations of the music.

Mahalia Jackson Theater Stage (Holly Haney)

Admittedly, I have never been to the opera or anything adjacent to it before, so I had no idea what to expect. When I tell you the performances were nothing short of incredible, I mean it. The sheer talent, energy and presence each soloist and chorus member had kept my eyes and attention glued to the stage during the entire 90-minute concert. I was so moved by each and every performance, laughing and crying along with the music. Even if the songs were in another language, every emotion was still clearly understood and felt. 

When the curtains fell and the confetti cannon burst in the crowd — yes there was a confetti cannon — I could still feel that same sense of love. 

If you want a night at the opera, you’re in luck. The NOOA has two upcoming performances this semester of Puccini’s “La bohème” on April 1 and 3 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

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