And now, an aria of praise for The Grand Opera House. Join us in welcoming to the stage:
Steven Gainey, opera fan from Charles Town, West Virginia, attendee of OperaDelaware’s 2017 Spring Festival
Lindsay Ohse, soprano, now appearing in the titular role of OperaDelaware's “Semiramide”
Mark Fields, executive director, The Grand Opera House
Maestro? Let’s begin.
Mark: The Grand Opera House opened in 1871 as a home for Masonic activities, but also as a public venue. The exterior was based on the Paris Opera House in an architectural style called Second Empire, but it’s called an opera house for the way it is designed on the inside. The very distinctive horseshoe shape was designed to get as much of the audience as close to the stage as possible.
It's fascinating to me that in a period of time when acoustics were not thought of as a science yet, they still managed to get the room so right.
Steven: I have seen opera all over the country, in large theatres like the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, as well as smaller, intimate theatres, like those in Louisville, San Jose, Detroit, and Barns at Wolf Trap. It seems to me that The Grand Opera House is a happy medium between all of these venues, with great sight lines for attendees and wonderful acoustics which allow the singers to project without strain.
Lindsay: Sometimes, you get theaters where the audience is having a great time but you, as the singer, have to work really hard. That's not the case in the Grand.
Steven: All of the singers were excellent, but pride of place goes to the amazing Lindsay Ohse in the title role. It is no disservice to the likes of Sutherland or Caballé to say that Ms. Ohse was fully their equal in the part. Her agility in the coloratura was breathtaking, and I would see her again in anything she wished to sing.
Lindsay: There’s a duet between the mezzo soprano and I in the second act. This is probably one of the quietest moments of the show, with us sitting pretty far down stage. As we were singing it Saturday night, we could just tell that we had the audience. They were right there with us, like they were on stage and we were sitting on their shoulders. And when we stopped, there was a moment of silence, and then the place exploded in applause. I think that's due to the fact that we could sing so tenderly and softly and everyone could still hear every note.
Mark: Indeed, the acoustics in the Grand Opera House are extraordinary. We get compliments from touring artists who play here all the time. Pat Metheny, the jazz guitarist, says its one of his five favorite venues in the entire world. Kathy Mattea, the country artist, says that when you sing in the Grand, the Grand sings with you. That’s my favorite quote.
Lindsay: There are time when I'm singing and the orchestra kick out for a second and I can hear my voice ring of the back of the wall, and it makes me feel like this amazing singing goddess. It's a magical place to sing.
Mark: Tony Bennett stopped a performance in the middle of the show when he performed here years ago and said he could count on one hand the theaters that compared to The Grand Opera House in acoustics and beauty. Artists feed off of that. The technicians tell me that artists will say that they're going to play for 95 minutes, and then they play for 105 or 120. They say they’re going to play for two hours, and they play for two and a half. And when they come off stage, they almost always say, "I didn't want to stop."