Sunday, April 14, 2024

Toledo Opera Brings Community Outreach Through “Opera Out of the Box” Podcast

WGTE’s award winning Toledo SymphonyLAB podcast wound down last year, leaving a space for something in the classical music vein to fill the void. Enter Toledo Opera’s new podcast, Opera Out of the Box. The podcast is just one part of an outreach program developed to bring opera to people of all ages and walks of life. Rachael Cammarn, Director of Marketing and Communications, shared some of the exciting developments going on at Toledo Opera, and Brad Cresswell talks about the new WGTE podcast. 

Opera loves Toledo

Toledo Opera has a month-long theme in February — Opera Loves Toledo. On Feb. 1 the opera announced a transition in leadership. Executive Director Suzanne Rorick brought her love of opera to the community and placed an importance on the opera being a part of it. Jim Norman and Kevin Bylsma, who were co-artistic directors, will continue that work as they step into Executive Director positions.

“Between the two of them they have 44 years of experience, not just with opera but Toledo Opera specifically. Both are Toledoans who love and understand the importance of this company to the community. The other aspect of Opera Loves Toledo is our production of Romeo and Juliet starring world-renowned artists, Kathryn Lewek and Zach Borichevsky. Lewek is really an up-and-coming superstar,” Cammarn said.

The couple have a special connection to Toledo as it was here that they fell in love 10 years ago while working together on “Lucia di Lammermoor.” It’s also where Lewek debuts many of her roles because she feels at home with the company and the people here. 

Community outreach 

Toledo Opera has a lot of longstanding outreach programs. Opera on Wheels is a touring program that goes to elementary schools. Resident artists perform an opera in English that’s student friendly for some 22,000 students in Northwest Ohio and Southwest Michigan. “Student Night at the Opera” offers student groups and schools a chance to attend a final dress rehearsal with a study guide provided by Toledo Opera.

Current programs also include “Opera is A Story,” for preschoolers which includes an artist teaching a preschool version of an opera that includes movement and helps with language and interpersonal skills. “Opera Outdoors” which is performed at Toledo Metroparks and outdoor venues, is free to the community.  

“Companion Programming” are events that go with the opera. For example, with Cinderella, Toledo Opera had a library day, tea party day and a cocktail evening for adults. The idea is to take a 300-year-old opera and find the areas where it still resonates with people today, then build around that. 

Opera Out of the Box

March 13 will be Opera 101 and April 17 will cover Toledo Opera’s production of Ragtime. Cresswell is an ideal host for the show having been a professional opera singer for 16 years before moving into radio. He’s also had a long-time association with the Metropolitan Opera writing scripts for their satellite radio broadcasts heard around the world.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Toledo Opera to get the word out about the productions they’re doing and their value to the community,” Cresswell said. “I’ve discovered that their education programs are top-notch and they’re a model for other cities whose operas are similar in size and scope.”

RELATED: Metropolitan Opera Stars Kathryn Lewek and Zach Borichevsky Perform ‘Romeo & Juliet’

Cresswell explains that each episode focuses on Toledo Opera and what they offer, but also attempts to “demystify opera” for those who imagine that it’s just people singing Wagner in hats with horns and that opera can be fun and relevant. Cresswell himself was introduced to opera by a teacher and later in life wound up singing the same role on the same stage as Caruso in Argentina. That story shows what can happen when the door is opened through exposure to the arts. Toledo Opera gives Cresswell topics they’d like to explore and he works from a list of bullet points and includes music, sound effects, and conversation.

“There’s so much to be mined and shared with the audience, and for me it’s very exciting to be participating in a podcast specifically about Toledo Opera,” Cresswell said. 

“Opera Out of the Box” is brought to you by WGTE

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