‘UNTAMED!’ sings the praises of opera’s wild side

A scene featuring the Innkeeper, from dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s 2016 production of Jules Massenet’s “Manon.” Photo by Nina Bova.

BY TRAV S.D. | No matter what you do in life, you’ve got to start somewhere. If you’re an opera singer, that may not be so easy. The dell’Arte Opera Ensemble hopes to address that. From Aug. 12-27, the company will bring its 15th Annual Summer Festival (this year titled “UNTAMED!”) to downtown performance behemoth La MaMa.  

This is the festival’s first year at the historic Off-Off Broadway theater. “We had been looking at their rehearsal spaces but then learned that there was an opening in the Ellen Stewart [i.e., La MaMa’s largest theater space] in August,” said Christopher Fecteau, dell’Arte Opera’s executive director. “We couldn’t turn that space down. It’s so big but it also has this raw, rustic feel that works really well for what we do.”

As for what they do, dell’Arte’s mission provides “emerging opera artists with training and performance opportunities necessary to bridge the gap between the conservatory and a flourishing career.” Since its inception in 2000, nearly 500 singers have taken part in dell’Arte’s programs.

“When I first arrived in New York in 2000,” Fecteau recalled, “I quickly realized that there were few small companies that help young singers get debut role opportunities. That’s the hardest thing for opera singers. You have to have done a role before you can get cast in it professionally. So we give singers a chance to do that in a repertory company, where they get to perform in both well-known and lesser-known operas. The name arose to reflect we’re an ensemble that’s concerned with the craft of the work. We’re trying to create a sense of ongoing continuity over several seasons. We start singers out in smaller roles then they eventually come up to principal parts.”

The dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s Christopher Fecteau. Photo by Brian…

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