dell’Arte Opera Ensemble was founded in New York City in 2000. Its first production was an artfully staged and beautifully costumed version of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, with piano accompaniment and integrated narration from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In keeping with dell’Arte founder Christopher Fecteau’s vision, the production took advantage of an existing location, the neo-gothic chapel of Riverside Church to create an unforgettable setting.
November of 2000 offered productions of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and Der Rosenkavalier in the tower of Riverside Church. Utilizing the unique environs, each production created atmosphere from existing elements, concentrating the audience’s focus on the singers, the text and the music.
While Der Rosenkavalier was performed with piano, Ariadne auf Naxos was accompanied by a chamber ensemble of six players who performed Maestro Fecteau’s innovative chamber music reduction of the orchestral score.
Opera Readings Series
In 2000, dell’Arte began presenting a series of opera “readings.” These concert-style presentations represented the culmination of intense work in which young singer prepare their roles individually (with their own voice teachers and coaches, as well as Maestro Fecteau and other expert dell’Arte staff), in small ensemble and recitative rehearsals, and in full-cast rehearsals with pianist and conductor. Family and friends and other guests provided a supportive audience for the singers’ first performance of an important role in their repertoire. These readings offered singers vital experience in the process of learning a new role and provided audiences with an intimate glimpse of the artistic process. Over the course of the next few years, readings of Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Hänsel und Gretel followed, with numerous singers participating in various locations.
SUMMER READINGS PROJECT
In 2004, the dell’Arte SUMMER READINGS PROJECT (SRP) was instituted, concentrating readings of multiple operas into the space of several weeks of intense work.
The stage of Amato Opera, the Warburg Ballroom at the 92nd Street Y, Christ & St. Stephen’s Church, and the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York each hosted seasons of the SRP.
To date, dell’Arte has organized presentations of over three dozen operas, providing almost 300 singers with invaluable experiences. dell’Arte Opera Ensemble was incorporated in 2006, and received its 501(c)(3) non-profit status in December of 2007. The Summer Readings Project celebrated its 7th season in 2010 with presentations of Le nozze di Figaro, Il trittico, and Lucia di Lammermoor.
In March of 2009, dell’Arte debuted its “Black Box” series, focusing on lesser known masterworks performed with full staging and a chamber music accompaniment in an intimate setting. For the 2009 SRP, dell’Arte performed at The East 13th Street Theatre, a 200-seat black-box style theater, greatly enhancing the theatrical experience of the presentations. In 2010, the SRP was moved to Theatre 80 on St. Mark's Place. The first presentation in the series was Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, written in the last year of his life. Spring of 2010 brought a production of Donizetti's rarely produced masterpiece Anna Bolena.
READINGS become Repertoire
2009 also brought a name change to our summer offering, to the Standard Repertoire Project. The new name more accurately reflects how the program has evolved to include basic staging, and memorized presentations by the participating singers. Since the institution of the program, focus has been on “standard” repertoire, the best-known operas that are so important to an emerging artist’s career. The 6th season of our summer festival saw productions of Manon, Don Giovanni, and La Boheme, with over 50 participating singers and the largest audiences in our history.
Select comprimario, chorus and cover artists from the 2009 Standard Repertoire Project were invited to participate in a new Scenes Showcase, and later that year they brought the same scenes to extremely appreciative seniors at the Jewish Home and Hospital. Likewise, the cast of Bolena presented exerpts to the Kittay House in the Bronx. Since then dell’Arte artists have performed for schoolchildren in Queens, and seniors in Far Rockaway (to inaugurate a piano donated through dell'Arte to replace one destroyed by Hurricane Sandy). Seniors from the Sirivitch Center and the Hudson Guild received free tickets to many of our productions, and dell'Arte remains committed to the continued development of additional outreach programs to perform for under-served communities.