In light of the new year’s metaphorical new leaves that fall aside like autumn in January, maybe it’s time to try something more enjoyable. Skip a new exercise regimen and feed your soul instead.
We know opera stereotypes: Teutonic headwear, big spears and even bigger voices. But how many of us are really familiar with the stories accompanying the sounds? More importantly, how many have been up close and personal with the voices?
Now’s your chance. Mobile Opera’s annual “Seven Days of Opera” ushers in existing fans and the uninitiated alike for a peek at an art form that has endured since the late 16th century.
It starts with a sing-along screening of “Phantom of the Opera” on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2 p.m. at Bernheim Hall in the Ben May Public Library (701 Government St.) Admission is free, as with all these events.
The Monday event moves westward to Spring Hill Presbyterian Chapel (10 Westminster Way) where mezzo soprano Rachel Gibson will tour several of the genre’s most famous characters such as the fiery and exotic Carmen. Pianist Chris Powell will accompany her in the program that begins at 7 p.m.
A similar approach follows at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 7 in the Willson Recital Hall of the Larkins Music Center (257 Dauphin St.). Pianist Powell accompanies mezzo Monika Cosson as the vocalist runs through nearly a dozen personal favorites.
“I think we programmed it to run about 45 minutes with a little wiggle room in there. I’ll give a little talk before each section, why I actually chose these,” Cosson said.
Attendees are invited to bring box lunches to the noon recital. If they only have time for 20 minutes of music, the casual approach facilitates dipping in and out as schedule permits.
Asked for highlights, Gabriel Fauré’s “Pie Jesu” from his Requiem in D minor is quickly mentioned. It’s unusual for a recital as it’s typically soloists fare from a bigger, orchestral piece.
“I’m doing some religious pieces and some Samuel Barber – an American composer, pieces in English – three of those. I’m doing ‘I Dreamed a Dream,’ a Broadway piece from ‘Les Misérables,’” Cosson said.
There’s an Ave Maria on the list. She also named something from Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” So, the aforementioned Germanic helmet, then?
“Not this time,” Cosson laughed.
A Pensacola resident, Cosson has become more visible in Mobile Opera within the last decade. Wandering into their monthly Night of Song events back in 2012, she reconnected with old Loyola schoolmates.
“It was done mostly for the camaraderie of it and to have a social occasion where you would be with someone like that. It’s definitely a place to get to know fresh people and re-establish old relationships,” Cosson said.
It paid dividends as she picked up work here. Cosson was last seen playing La Frugola in “Il Tabarro” in March 2019.
Though Pensacola has its own company, she finds Mobile a better match.
“Different sizes and different shapes to people and different voices lend themselves to certain shows. The shows that [Pensacola Opera does] don’t really foster my characters all the time,” Cosson said.
Cosson is easing back from opera and into a new role as interim Minister of Music at Spanish Fort Presbyterian Church. She cited Mobile Opera Director Scott Wright as impetus for keeping her involved for now.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, an all-day trivia quiz will run on Mobile Opera’s Facebook page from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Prizes are involved.
On Thursday, Jan. 9, at 4 p.m., Wright will lead a coffee chat at Fairhope’s Page and Palette (32 S. Section St.). He will lead an exploration through the metamorphosis of stories and literature into operatic form. Potables are available in Latte Da Coffee Shop and the discussion ensues in the Book Cellar.
It’s back to LoDa’s Larkins Center for Aerial and Arias on Friday, Jan. 10, 6:30 p.m. Soprano Tjaden O’Dowd Cox will combine vocal talents with her athletic silk acrobatics for a mesmerizing presentation that defies gravity and vocal constraints.
Things wrap-up Saturday, Jan. 11, 1 p.m. with the finals of the Madame Rose Palmai-Tenser Scholarship Competition in the Larkins Center. Named after Mobile Opera’s founder, ten young finalists from around the Southeast will perform for a panel of judges. At stake are cash scholarships, honors and prestige. A collective vote from the audience will also be factored into the selection process and winners are announced on the spot.
A cost-free, week-long ascent to high-stakes drama? Opportunity doesn’t come more operatic.
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