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GIVE LOCAL 757: Opera in Williamsburg

After a long intermission, performing arts organizations are slowly returning to the stage. Opera in Williamsburg is counting on the community in its next act.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Opera is a complex art form that always stays true to its core.

"I like to think of opera as the music is the skeleton, said Naama Zahavi-Ely, Artistic and General Director of Opera in Williamsburg. "It's the frame that holds everything up, that gives it the basic structure."

Like many performing arts, the structure of the opera industry has been bent, but not broken, under the weight of COVID-19. "We can't do things as usual, but we can create. We can create very high-quality opera this unusual way," said Zahavi-Ely.

The company is dedicated to bringing big productions to smaller venues at a minimal cost. "We are a small company," said Zahavi-Ely. "I mean, we have all the soloists. But when we have a chorus, we don't have a hundred people. We don't have twenty people. We have 2, 3, 5, 8 at the maximum."

But even pre-COVID with a sold-out theater, ticket sales only covered about a third of expenses. "Last fall, we did an opera production by video," said Zahavi-Ely. "We paid people for their work the same way we would've paid in the theater, but we couldn't cover it by ticket sales... So for us, the question is, 'Okay, we can't do business as usual. What can we do?'"

The company's platform June 4 and 6 is a porch outside the Williamsburg Community Building. That's where performances of 'Opera Outdoors: Pagliacci by Leoncavallo' will take place. "People will be sitting outdoors, on the green, socially distant," said Zahavi-Ely. "We hope to be able to have about 150 [people], instead of 400."

Despite the changes, Zahavi-Ely said the company's passion remains the same from overture to curtain call. "When you get the right people, they will make sure that what we do is really good," said Zahavi-Ely. "It may be slightly different, but it will be really, really good."

For more information about Opera in Williamsburg, visit https://www.operainwilliamsburg.org/.

You can donate to Opera in Williamsburg and many other local organizations at GiveLocal757.org.