Keep your tuxedo and ball gown at home; this is not your grandmother’s opera.
Founded in 1981, Opera Columbus is updating traditional opera and dispelling the misconception that it’s out of reach to the general public, Peggy Kriha Dye, general and artistic director of Opera Columbus, said.
“I really want them [the audience] to feel like they belong there,” Dye said. “Come as you are. Wear what you want, laugh out loud, clap when you want to, whistle, keep your phone on.”
Josh Shaw, guest director of Opera Columbus, said opera wasn’t always meant for the elite, and the goal is to present a story that resonates with the audience.
“What we’re trying to do up here is reflect stories that may have happened in your life or that can really speak to you,” Shaw said.
With an audience-friendly approach, Opera Columbus productions are shortened, modern English translations are provided and even the time period and setting of a show can be altered, Dye said.
For example, instead of performing “The Barber of Seville” in its traditional 1600s setting, the company has set the show in 1990 Miami, Dye said.
Opera Columbus is open to just about anything, Dye said — incorporating elements such as electronic instruments, synthesizers, T-shirt cannons and glitter beard contests into traditional opera.
“I kind of don’t even pay attention to the old template anymore,” Dye said. “Although that was beautiful at a time, it’s just not what audiences want today. Neither do I, frankly.”
Dye said some aspects of opera are left unchanged, such as the music itself.
“The music is what’s so majestic, and we don’t change that,” Dye said. “It’s controlled screaming; I mean, talk about larger-than-life impact. They can sing over an entire orchestra without a microphone, so it’s so unique in that way, and it’s really special.”
Opera Columbus is using its art to inspire conversation about contemporary issues and initiate change in the Columbus community, challenging the misconception that opera cannot delve into relevant contemporary issues, Robert Kerr, lead singer of “Gianni Schicci” and Ohio State alum, said.
“A lot of the plots throughout opera productions still pertain to today’s social climate,” Kerr said.
Dye said going beyond the stage and having meaningful involvement in the community is what she loves about Opera Columbus.
“I think there was a time where opera just became like a museum piece and really precious and preserved as opposed to being a change agent, which it is,” Dye said. “So I feel like we’re very overt about that now. We’re very intentional about that.”
Opera Columbus is generating change through efforts such as an opera called “As One,” about a transgender woman, which will show Nov. 8 and Nov. 10, according to Opera Columbus’ website. The show will be accompanied by a conversation about the transgender community in Columbus, Dye said.
Opera Columbus’ upcoming performance, “Twisted 3,” will combine Opera Columbus, the Columbus Symphony and BalletMet in a show that celebrates the city of Columbus, Dye said.
“Twisted 3” will show at 7:30 p.m Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Ohio Theatre. Tickets can be purchased for $15 with a valid BuckID on the CAPA website.