Photo: Peyton Hoge
In a season marked by uncertainty, Nashville Opera CEO and artistic director John Hoomes remains characteristically focused and optimistic.
“It’s been such a challenging time for everyone in the arts world, but we’ve done our best to stay strong and keep moving forward,” says Hoomes, who has served as Nashville Opera’s artistic director since 1995. “Heading into this fall, we were determined not to surrender to this pandemic. We have a wonderful Opera Guild and incredible supporters, so knew we just had to get creative. So yes, our season has looked a little different this year, but we’re still here. We were able to keep all of our staff on board, and we were able to continue producing good work this fall — and I’m really proud of that.”
Nashville Opera will celebrate these accomplishments and much more with its annual La Bella Notte gala on Feb. 6. The always-popular event — which benefits the opera’s education and outreach programs — is taking place online this year. But the evening still promises plenty of fun and “operatic flair,” as it honors both the opera’s 40th anniversary and Hoomes’ 25th year as artistic director. The festivities will include everything from a virtual red carpet and luxury auction to patron perks and gourmet dining packages. Opera creative director Cara Schneider is hosting the program, which was filmed at the Noah Liff Opera Center and features performances by soprano Jessie Neilson, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva, contralto Valerie Nelson and tenor Tyler Nelson.
“It was quite an undertaking, due to strict health and safety protocols,” Hoomes says. “But everyone did such a great job. All the traditional elements are there, they’ve just been reworked into a different format this year. And although we can’t be together, it still feels like a real celebration. I’m looking forward to seeing the retrospective of our 40-year history, although I’m really not so excited about seeing some of those photos of myself from 25 years ago. But it’s going to be a lovely evening — a beautiful show with some wonderful performances.”
Looking ahead, Hoomes says he is also pleased to share news about the company’s upcoming outreach program — Opera ON WHEELS. Later this spring, Nashville Opera will unveil a stylish new mobile stage created by Aero Build, a Nashville-based business that specializes in customized trailers.
“We’ve always talked about taking opera into more nonconventional spaces, and with theaters shuttered, the timing just seemed right,” Hoomes says. “I love the idea of having a mobile presence and being able to bring opera to the people — serving different neighborhoods or maybe some of Nashville’s many festivals. We’re so excited about the possibilities, whether it’s extending the reach of our educational programs, or perhaps being able to offer pop-up concerts for area retirement homes. Best of all, this will be an ongoing program. So even once we get back to the theater, we can continue to to build this program and reach more people.
“I truly miss being in the theater — the music, energy, the collaboration,” he adds. “I can’t wait to get back, and I think audiences feel the same. We’ll get there. And in the meantime, we’re going to keep working, keep finding new and creative ways to stay connected.”
Other Upcoming Theater and Dance Performances
Jan. 27-Feb. 5: Tennessee Playwrights Studio’s 2020 Reading Festival
This virtual event is free to the public and features six exciting new works from Tennessee Playwrights Studio’s 2020 Fellows — including Christopher R.C. Bosen, Greg Morneau, Brooke Bryant, Shawn Whitsell, Caitlin Myers and Preston Crowder. Also upcoming: TPS has partnered with Angela Gimlin, founder and COO of Nashville’s Inebriated Shakespeare Company, for a virtual workshop reading on Feb. 24 of That Woman — which “explores the stories of women in history romantically linked to John F. Kennedy.” (tnplaywrights.org)
Feb. 20: TPAC’s 40th Anniversary
Tennessee Performing Arts Center will mark its 40th anniversary with a star-studded virtual celebration. Produced by Matt Logan and filmed in TPAC’s Polk Theater, the program includes performances from TPAC’s resident companies — including Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera and Nashville Repertory Theatre — along with special appearances by Tony nominee Susan Egan, Diana DeGarmo and other guest artists. The program itself is free, but at-home dining and entertainment packages are available. (tpac.org)
Photo: Karyn Kipley of Karyn Photography
March 5-7: Attitude at Nashville Ballet
This acclaimed annual series has been reimagined as a two-part virtual series for 2021. Attitude Part I revisits audience favorites Under the Lights (featuring choreography by Christopher Stuart and music by Johnny Cash) and Superstitions (with choreography by Jennifer Archibald and music by Cristina Spinei). And keep an eye out for Attitude Part II, which runs April 2 to 4 and features Paul Vasterling’s gorgeous Seasons. (nashvilleballet.com)
Beginning March 12: Prism at OZ Arts
Conceived and choreographed by Nashville’s own David Flores, Prism is a “a unique theatrical installation experience exploring aspects of voyeurism, interpersonal connection, and the role of chance in determining ultimate outcomes.” These in-person but distanced performances will take place in OZ Arts’ expansive warehouse space, enabling small audience groups to experience intimate dance cycles, lasting about a half-hour each. (ozartsnashville.org)
Available March 30: Filmed productions at Nashville Shakespeare Festival
In place of its annual Winter Shakespeare and live educational programs, Nashville Shakes is presenting a pair of filmed educational productions — a five-actor Romeo and Juliet and a two-actor take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both films feature strong casts and original music, and will be available for schools in mid-March, and then to the general public via pay-per-view on March 30. (nashvilleshakes.org)