dell’Arte Opera Ensemble was founded in New York City in 2000 with an artfully staged and beautifully costumed version of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, with integrated narration from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The production took advantage of an existing location, the neo-gothic chapel of Riverside Church to create an unforgettable setting.
In November of 2000 offered productions of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and Der Rosenkavalier in tower rooms at Riverside Church. Again utilizing the unique environs, each production drew upon the atmosphere of 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), in small ensemble and recitative rehearsals, and in full-cast rehearsals with pianist and conductor. Family, 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 took place, 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, and building on the idea of the readings series. Initial years of the SRP took place on the stage of Amato Opera, in the Warburg Ballroom at the 92nd Street Y, at Christ & St. Stephen’s Church, and at the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York.
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 program, to the Summer Repertoire Project. The name more accurately reflects how the program evolved to include staging and memorized presentations by the participating singers. Since the institution of the program, focus has balanced “standard” repertoire (the best-known operas that are so important to an emerging artist’s career) with operatic rarities which will help keep the art form rich and varied.
To date, dell’Arte has organized presentations of over fifty operas,
providing more than 500 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 12th season in 2015 with "A Beaumarchais Trilogy": presentations of Paisiello's Il barbiere di Siviglia, Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and Rosina by Hiram Titus. The 2016 season "Violetta and her Sisters" will include productions of Massenet's Manon and Verdi's La traviata, as well as a third program of full acts or extended excerpts from other 'demi-monde' operas.
Photo: Christopher Lilley and Katherine Papa in "Rosina" at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in 2015. Photo by Mark Baker