How might the opera better appeal to millennials? By blogging, singing in English and casting John Astin. Cue the Baltimore Concert Opera—founded in 2009—which continues to successfully woo younger audiences. Last month they introduced their new concert series, Thirsty Thursdays at the Opera—a tasting event that pairs libations with opera hits. This Friday, they present “Die Fledermaus“ (“The Bat”), the German comedy by Johann Strauss Jr., the story of one man’s revenge plot against his friend after drunken New Year’s Eve shenanigans go way wrong. “Fledermaus” marks the first BCO production performed in English, making it that much more accessible.
The operetta won’t feature formal costumes or a decadent set—typical of the BCO style. The cast of 10 is made up of recognizable members with diverse backgrounds. Maryland native John Astin, who famously played Gomez in the 1960s television series “The Addams Family” joins the cast as Frosch. Michael Mayes and Caroline Worra star as Einstein and Rosalinde—the opera’s hero and his romantic lead. Mayes, originally from rural Texas, has made headlines for playing both classic and contemporary roles. (And for shedding a few pounds, earning accolades on the popular opera blog Barihunks, which displays cute baritones, in case you missed that.) Meanwhile Worra, who rubbed elbows with BCO exec director Julia Cooke when the two were in graduate school, has reached international acclaim.
It’s never a bad idea to do your research before seeing any opera production. Through a blog that’s updated regularly with plot summaries and historical context, the BCO makes that part easy. The BCO hopes audience members will feel casual and free to express themselves—no need to fret about etiquette, in other words. “The moment you walk in the door at the Engineers Club, you are welcomed by fun and energetic board and staff members, who want to make sure you have a wonderful time with us,” says Cooke. Patrons are encouraged to clap, laugh and cheer as inspired. When in doubt just follow the audience. Or, better yet, just follow Cooke. “I’m always in the back of the hall leading applause if the audience doesn’t take the hint,” Cooke says, adding that they also have a business casual dress code.
One tradition we’re glad the BCO maintains: location. All BCO productions are held at the ultra-elegant Engineers Club. No wonder there isn’t need for an elaborate set—the grand ballroom is opulent enough.
“Die Fledermaus (The Bat)” will run Nov. 20-21 at the Engineers Club.