Magic City Opera offers ‘Lyrical Moments’ for everyone (and for $15)
Love opera, but not its prohibitive ticket price? Magic City Opera has a solution. In fact, reasonable cost is part of its core mission.
“We go out to really bring opera and classical music in a fashion that is affordable to all,” says Amal Kabbani, founding officer of Magic City Opera and member of the nonprofit organization Young Patronesses of the Opera. “We want to be complementary to the Florida Grand Opera, but our efforts are geared to making it more accessible to all of South Florida, especially when it comes to areas that don’t have the means to pay the big ticket to watch an opera at the Arsht Center.”
On Thursday, July 11, at the Olympia Theater in Miami, Magic City Opera will present “Lyrical Moments,” an eclectic musical program featuring select members of the Uruguayan National Youth Orchestra and starring the husband-and-wife team of soprano María Antunez and tenor Martín Nusspaumer as soloists. And true to the company’s spirit of affordability, tickets start at $15.
Billed as “a journey from Europe to the Americas,” the show kicks off with Spanish-inspired zarzuelas and selections from the opera “Carmen” before touching upon Broadway classics, including duets from “West Side Story.”
“The repertoire for this concert is very easy listening,” says the Uruguayan-born Nusspaumer, who has performed many times with Florida Grand Opera. “And at the end, we’re gonna do some tangos from Uruguay, so it’s gonna be very interesting and fun. It’s nice to finish with tangos, because we love it, and it’s good to show what we have, our culture. Also, we’re gonna dance a little bit onstage, some Viennese waltzes. We’re not very good dancers, but we’re gonna try [laughs].”
Kabbani met Nusspaumer in 2012, and helped him and Antunez obtain their green cards, which was a lengthy challenge that required written letters from various sponsors, one of whom was opera great Plácido Domingo.
“I wanted to help [Nusspaumer] stay, because what he brought to our nation in terms of talent, along with his wife, is truly meaningful, and something that Florida and the rest of our nation could benefit from,” Kabbani says. “So it all started there, and I saw him grow via all of the different events that he did, and his stardom kept growing. He has a very charismatic voice, and it is a stable voice, one that you always know will deliver. To me, he’s a talent that will one day become the Pavarotti of the world.”
Nusspaumer, a lyric tenor whose repertoire includes mostly Verdi and Puccini, recalls the ordeal. “After many years and many people helping us, we got through it, and now we are residents, finally,” he says. “And we did it as artists, so you have to prove you are worth it, that you are special [laughs]. And usually the people that are doing the paperwork, they don’t know anything about the arts. They don’t even know who Plácido Domingo is.”
Nusspaumer says being married to his performing partner makes shows “more special.”
“We did ‘Carmen’ together at the beginning of the year at the Vero Beach Opera, and it went very well,” he says. “It makes it easier, because we understand each other. So with just one look, that’s it. It’s like talking to each other, but just by looking. It’s fun, too, and it adds a different dimension to the relationship. We love it. That’s why we try to do it as much as we can.”
The Uruguayan National Youth Orchestra will bring about a third of its members, representing all the instruments of the orchestra. “We’ve got a smaller version. It’s going to be hovering around 35 [instruments],” Kabbani says. “The full Uruguay [Orchestra] is about 110, and they’re traveling with a smaller selection.”
The orchestra’s members range in age from 14 to 22, and Magic City Opera hopes that seeing the young performers may inspire other children to get into opera. It happened to Magic City Opera’s managing director, Graham Fandrei.
“That’s how Graham got exposed to it when he was a child,” Kabbani says. “It was an in-school opera event at his school, and that’s how he became an opera singer himself, a baritone. The Young Patronesses of the Opera provides in-school operas, and they’ve been doing that for 65 years. They do it every year from January through April, and they involve about 35 elementary schools in Miami-Dade and Broward. And Graham was one of the children that we touched back then.”
Fandrei, along with his wife, Magic City Opera interim executive director Rebekah Diaz-Fandrei, often performs in the company’s productions. “Yes, multiple times, though not in this one,” Kabbani says. “We try to not keep it to ourselves. We try to expose the local artists as much as possible, and we try to make Magic City Opera a platform for the local talent. But if Graham and Rebekah need to fill in, they will step in and perform when necessary.”
Another goal of Magic City Opera is to keep its presentations relatively short. A typical performance will clock in at under an hour. “Lyrical Moments” runs about an hour and 15 minutes.
“Opera tends to be a heavy type of art,” Kabbani explains. “I mean, obviously when you’re an aficionado and a connoisseur, then you can sustain the three or four hours of opera, because most of them run really long. But we try to keep it short just to give a little bit of the taste and not let the audience get Attention Deficit Disorder [laughs].”
“Lyrical Moments” will begin 8 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., in Miami. Tickets cost $15-$64. Go to OlympiaTheater.org.
Photo: Soprano María Antunez and tenor Martín Nusspaumer as soloists star in Magic City Opera’s “Lyrical Moments.” Photo courtesy María Noel de Mello.
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