By: London Collins Puc
Over 20 years ago, in 2000, First Coast Opera was established in St. Augustine when “…soprano Barbara Norris and her husband Anthony Fast produced a concert titled ‘An Evening of Opera’, leading to the formation of First Coast Opera.”
As the only producing-opera institution in Northeast Florida, “First Coast Opera is a leading arts voice and active arts partner in the region.” They feature an array of concerts, dinner shows, gala fundraisers, and fully-staged productions.
According to First Coast Opera, “In 2014, Curtis Tucker joined First Coast Opera as Artistic Director. Under the leadership of Maestro Tucker and Board President Michele Bova, the company has expanded its programming and artistic reach through staged productions of both classic and new works, tribute concerts highlighting the careers of Marian Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, Mario Lanza, and Edith Piaf, and increased outreach to area schools.”
Maestro Tucker grew up in the opera house, and has spent the majority of his life involved within the field.
“…I really liked, not only the vocal part, and the music part, but also the dramatic part; the storytelling aspect,” Tucker said. “Opera is an amalgam of all the arts. It combines everything… Opera, I feel like, maybe even more than all the other art, really ties into the audiences’ emotions… When we do our job well, the main thing that I hope happens with my audience is that they really feel something, whether it’s a funny, happy piece, or whether it’s a sad, tragic piece.”
Students and young people, in particular, Tucker emphasized, can benefit from opera.
“I think students, and other young people, should be exposed to things as broadly as they can… For all of our performances, we do offer student rates, so the student tickets are much less expensive than the adult tickets,” Tucker said. “We try not to put too many barriers to people attending, and students in particular, because we would really love for students to have the experience of seeing an opera live.”
Puccini’s lush and evocative classic, La Bohème, which premieres on Saturday, December 30 at Flagler College’s own Lewis Auditorium, offers viewers a night of culture, entertainment, and beauty.
General admission starts at $50.00, however, students, with proof of valid ID, are admitted at only $20.00.
“Opera has always fought stereotypes,” Tucker said. “It’s only a fat lady singing on stage, or it’s all in another language I won’t understand, or it’s just for rich people… Of course, none of those stereotypes represent opera, at least in the twenty-first century… It’s for everyone.”