“We are The Palmetto Opera. We aren’t just about discussing arias, drinking wine and looking through tiny binoculars…”
So begins the “about us” page on the website for Columbia’s Palmetto Opera
. Frankly, I like to drink wine and while I probably don’t know enough about arias to have an educated discussion about one, I like the idea of one of those discussions … with the wine. If I were to show up to an event put on by a small, grassroots opera company that was about highly educated music discussions, I might sound a little bit lost and confused. But the Palmetto Opera is about bringing the 500-year-old art to everyone, so there are no worries about making a fool of myself.
Back in 2001 I was newly married and, as the first in my group of friends to make the trip down the aisle, was looking for some like-minded people to add to my calling list. One of those people was a woman who was working on her graduate degree in voice at the University of South Carolina
. Our parents were friends and, as she was a few years older, she took me under her wing and invited me to performances and cast parties. I had just turned 21 and felt so sophisticated as I sipped wine (though out of a Solo cup, as these were students, after all) in a fourth floor college apartment with people who were talking about auditions at Carnegie Hall. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about most of the time. All I knew was that I was in a room with people of extreme talent, which was very exciting.
Then one day my friend and her parents told us about something new that was coming together in Columbia -- the group that is now known around the Midlands
as the Palmetto Opera. Another mutual friend was singing with the group, so when the company made its official debut in 2003 I tagged along to take in the performance of “Love, Murder & Revenge.” There was amazing talent to be heard, but what really impressed me was the excitement and passion of a group coming together to bring professional-quality opera to the Midlands simply for the love of it.
Since then, the group has become known for being accessible and for bringing top-notch performances to local audiences. It will be hosting a performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” at 7 p.m. March 2 at the Koger Center for the Arts
in Columbia, which will be performed by the Teatro Lirico D’Europa
. With these two groups coming together, this is not a performance to be missed. The Teatro Lirico D’Europa leaves a trail of applause behind it as the group performs through Europe and the United States. Founded in 1988 by a former ballet star and a young Bulgarian opera singer, the company quickly gained a reputation for the special energy its full-scale traditional performances would bring to intercontinental audiences.
“Tosca” is not a light or particularly easy opera to perform, as it depicts the harrowing things that can happen when you mix love, political imprisonment, heroism, lust and murder into one performance. It is intriguing when performed, and with The Palmetto Opera combining forces with Teatro Lirico D’Europa for this, we can count on it being a beautiful learning experience.
For more information on this performance, please visit palmettoopera.org