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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Life + Arts

Modern artists make over divas

Opera Vista brings history’s beloved librettos to Houston audiences with contemporary plots and flair.

Viswa Subbaraman initially thought he would fall into the second-generation Indian professional pool of doctors and engineers, but instead he pursued a degree in music, ultimately earning a master’s in conducting.’

Luckily for young lovers of classical music, Subbaraman coming to Houston means that something new will be added to the current opera scene, which is dominated by traditional works.’

‘ ‘While the product that the major opera companies in Houston like Houston Grand Opera and Opera in the Heights put out is excellent, we really wanted to focus on works that would be appealing to people our own age,’ Subbaraman, who just completed his second master’s degree, said.

Patrons of Opera Vista tend to be young professionals and musicians themselves, with an average age of 30 ‘- decades younger than the average symphony, opera or ballet goer.

Subbaraman acknowledges how difficult sitting through a three-hour long opera in a different language can be.’

‘I admit up front that most of us never grew up going to the opera,’ Subbaraman said. ‘I also admit that it takes a bit of work to really figure out what opera is all about.

‘ ‘Operas deal with themes of love, freedom, longing, infidelity, nuclear war, heroes, villains, and onward.’

Opera Vista has built an extensive repertoire in its three years of existence, with topics such as a woman selling drugs out of her living room, soldiers in times of war, a gay couple hanged in Iran for their sexual orientation and a group of friends playing cards.

‘Subjects vary; I believe our audience has found them to be current,’ Subbaraman said.

This past weekend, Opera Vista presented a controversial opera entitled A Fiddler’s Tale, which was composed by Wynton Marsalis as a direct response to Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.

There is an undeniable parallel to Stravinsky’s original work, which allows older, die-hard opera fans to find comfort in this new form. It also fuses jazz with postmodernism in scenes with dialogue. Performers deliver the lines by talking on stage, like a poetic play set to music in the background.

Young professionals or owners of overflowing change jars can take advantage of one of Opera Vista’s new endeavors, Opera 101.’

In Opera 101, Subbaraman uses dialogue accompanied by singers to demonstrate different themes and aspects of opera. The production is put on free of charge at Bar Boheme on the first Friday of the month.

‘The classical arts can sometimes take time, but if you are willing to invest the time in learning about the work, the reward is soul changing,’ Subbaraman said.

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