Classical romantic drama combined with a high-tech storyline may be unlikely components in one evening's entertainment, but that is exactly what the audience at St. James Episcopal Church will have in store when the Santa Fe Opera "Spring Tour" returns to Taos on Tuesday (May 9).
Soprano Adelaide Boedecker and tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli will take the stage in "Avastar," an original work that tells the story of a couple who are unknowingly competing against each other in a virtual music contest.
Sara (Boedecker), a classically trained opera singer, and Josh (Santelli), a classically trained pop music singer, have made acquaintance with each other at a bus stop, where the flirtatious nature of their friendship grows each day. Meanwhile, their avatars -- virtual versions of themselves engaged in the online singing championship -- are increasingly pitted against each other as they close in on the final vote tally.
The lighthearted suspense will build until the audience finds out what the real "winner" is: song or love.
Seating for the one-act performance, which begins at 7 p.m., is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open one half-hour beforehand. Admission is free for this family-friendly event.
Christopher Turbessi, the tour's music director, will accompany the singers on piano as they perform musical selections that span the genres of popular songs, Broadway tunes and other operas. As the music will be performed mostly in English, members of the audience will find themselves familiar with many, if not all, of the selections, ensuring a truly satisfying experience.
Passages from Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers' "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," Van Morrison's "Moondance," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" will mingle alongside works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme" in the 36-minute performance. "O Solo Mio" and "America the Beautiful" will find their place in the featured program, too.
"Avastar" was originally created by Kathleen Clawson, Kirt Pavitt and Andrea Fellows Walters, who is the director of the Department of Education and Community Relations, under whose purview the "Spring Tour" is conducted.
"The inspiration [for 'Avastar'] was that we often get the question, in particular when presenting opera to younger audiences, 'Why do you sing like that?' 'Avastar' addresses the question in a fun, more playful manner that also turns out to be a love story," Walters said.
The opera has been reimagined by Clawson and Walters for the tour, who are also providing stage direction and costuming, respectively. Laurel Wiley is stage and tour manager.
Walters' office noted that over the last two decades, the "Spring Tour" organization has successfully built solid relationships with communities across New Mexico and into parts of Colorado and Texas. The local venues are selected for their "theatre-esque" ambience, which optimizes both the opera experience itself and the community's level of engagement.
The series of free concerts is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Local sponsors include the BNSF Railway Foundation and the First National Bank of Santa Fe. "Spring Tour" 2017 has already brought its world-class performances to Ratón, Río Rancho, Alamogordo, Clovis and Roswell; Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, will be its final stops after the Taos show.
Additional critical support is provided by The Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera, Inc. "While the Opera is moving in new directions, so are the Guilds-- hatching new plans, forging new partnerships, bringing new energy and ideas into the Opera's endeavors. Guild members make things happen for the Opera. Since 1957, the Guilds year-round volunteer services and financial support have launched and expanded some of the Opera's most successful activities," the organization's website states.
The Taos Opera Guild will be hosting a reception after the public performance, according to Walters.
The Santa Fe Opera celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016 and remains one of the world's most beloved summer festivals with attendees representing all 50 U.S. states and dozens of foreign countries. In addition, its extensive apprenticeship programs have launched the international careers of singers, musicians, conductors, directors and designers.
"The hills are alive with the Santa Fe Opera," composer Glen Roven said in the Huffington Post of last year's summer season. For one night this spring, so will be the mountains of Taos.
St. James Episcopal Church is located at 208 Camino de Santiago, at the intersection with Gusdorf Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (505) 946-2417, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit santafeopera.org