Theater & Arts

Opera and verse play a duet in Fresno Grand Opera’s second remix concert

Jennifer De La Cruz will perform her poetry at “Opera Remix: Music & Verse” at the Tower Theatre.
Jennifer De La Cruz will perform her poetry at “Opera Remix: Music & Verse” at the Tower Theatre. Special to The Bee

Last month it was classic rock. This month it’s poetry.

Fresno Grand Opera continues to mix it up.

In its second installment of “Opera Remix,” the company – which recently received a $200,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to attract new audiences through participatory creative programs – presents “Music & Verse” on Friday, Oct. 16, at the Tower Theatre.

Here’s a rundown.

The premise: The program alternates between song selections from Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg’s chamber opera “Hydrogen Jukebox” and original poetry by Fresno-based poets. “We’ve selected the most musically accessible 40 minutes of the piece to introduce the audience to Glass’ music, says opera general director Matthew Buckman. “Though the work is classified as a chamber opera, I think it more closely resembles a song cycle, and we’re performing it in this manner, so there will be no staging or costumes.”

The singers: Guest artists are E. Scott Levin, bass-baritone; Liisa Davila, soprano; Danielle Bond, mezzo soprano; Hadleigh Adams, baritone; Molly Mahoney, soprano; and Jonathan Smucker, tenor.

The poets: Performing are Jennifer De La Cruz, Michael Dominquez, Taylor Harris, Aideed Medina, S. Bryan Medina, Michael Medrano, James Tyner and Andre Yang. There is no pre-determined theme for the poetry, “but the poets have done a great job of selecting original works of theirs for performance that tie into the text (by Ginsberg) of the music surrounding their performance slot on the program,” Buckman says.

The conductor: Stuart Sims.

Looking ahead: As part of a new collaboration between Fresno Grand Opera and Fresno State, the poets performing in the event will be paired with composers from the university’s music department and will work together from February through May to write new vocal music set to texts by the poets.

“All of the music created through this program will then be performed in October 2016 by FGO in a similar event that features performances of original works by the same poets,” Buckman says.

Opera Remix: Music & Verse

Concert preview

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16 (6 p.m. party with food and drinks; 9:30 p.m. open mike after-party with cast)
  • Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.
  • $10 general, $25 premier seating, $75 all-access pass (front row seating, exclusive pre-event reception with the singers)
  • www.fresnograndopera.org, 559-442-5699
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