Small Opera founder has big ambitions | Features

Except for the productions mounted by Spoleto Festival USA, opera is pretty much nonexistent in Charleston, and that’s disappointing to certain patrons.

The city boasts good theater and popular music, a fine symphony orchestra and chamber music group, talented choirs, up-and-coming dance companies, terrific jazz, an array of interesting visual arts, a puppet troupe and entertaining comedy shows.

It has a new opera house, the Gaillard Center, but no opera.

Attempts to get an opera company going have floundered, probably because the costs are high and demand is modest. As a result, the city’s cultural landscape remains incomplete.

One woman, new to town, is hoping to change that.

Katherine Small, 29, is bringing her Small Opera Company to the Lowcountry after an initial seven-year run in Atlanta. Small Opera occasionally mounts full-length productions, albeit in its own inimitable way, but mostly the company organizes pop-up events in an effort to, as she said, “take opera into the community” and demystify it.

Those interested will soon have a chance to get a taste of what Small likes to call “nomadic vocal drama” from 3-5 p.m. June 28 at the West Ashley Farmers Market in Ackerman Park, 55 Sycamore Ave.

Small will be there with a few colleagues to perform light-hearted arias and duets.

“SMOP’s Pops,” as she called them, are Small Opera’s main enterprise, though she hopes to organize opera dinners, join next year’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival, appear at private parties and events for children, and even put together whole productions, albeit on a shoestring.

One advantage of the Small Opera model, she said, is the low cost involved. The singers rely on little except props. There are few costumes used, no sets, no fancy lighting, no grand choruses, no elephants on stage, no orchestra players and no understudies.

Small Opera…

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