will kicked off the 10 day Midtown Opera Festival
with the debut of its original opera, Ghosts of Crosstown,
a partnership between Opera Memphis, Voices of the South,
Jerre Dye, Crosstown Arts
and the PRIZM Ensemble.
The opera, which is inspired by Midtown’s Sears Crosstown Building, premiered on the loading dock of the Sears Crosstown building.
"It’s one of the last chances for people to see the building before it is renovated," says Opera Memphis General Director Ned Canty, who explains that Ghosts of Crosstown
is funded by $117,000 in grants from OPERA America
, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, ArtsMemphis
and the Hyde Family Foundation
The performance took place just before the Sears Crosstown building becomes an active construction zone and a $175 million mixed-use redevelopment effort gets underway. The building was built in 1927 and was expanded upon until 1965 before the area became blighted and the building became dormant in the early 1990s.
Canty and writer Jerre Dye tapped into the building’s rich history during the creative process by collecting personal stories about the building from locals, as well as reading issues of The Conveyor
, Sears Crosstown’s in-house newsletter for many years.
Ghosts of Crosstown
is an anthology of five short operas, each ranging from seven to 13 minutes and featuring one singer and two to four instruments. Four of the mini-operas premiered during the festival, and the fifth will premiere during Opera Memphis’ 2014-2015 season.
"People don’t often think about opera as something to tell a small story, so we are trying to remedy that," says Canty, who
compares the mini-operas to short stories. "The starting point for each of these stories is the Sears building, and the stories and musical styles go out in every conceivable direction."
An encore performance of Ghosts of Crosstown
will take place on April 12 at Playhouse on the Square.
By Michael Waddell