(From left) Violetta, performed by Amanda Woodbury, and Germont, performed by Weston Hurt, sing together during rehearsal.
Opera San Antonio performers rehearse at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in September 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

In announcing its 2020-2021 season, Opera San Antonio appears to have taken seriously the notion that the coronavirus pandemic might not run its course until at least next year.

Its first major live production will be May 6-8 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, with Metropolitan Opera star Brenda Rae in the title role of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

Rather than schedule an opera for fall as would normally be the case, General and Artistic Director Loren Meeker said, “in light of where we sit with the pandemic and ever evolving rules and regulations around health and safety, we think at this time it’s the responsible choice to make our goal achieving a full production by next spring.”

Opera fans will have at least one option to fulfill their desire for an Opera San Antonio production before then. Texas Public Radio will revive its “Tuesday Night at the Opera” series Aug. 25 by revisiting Tosca, which the company produced in 2019 with Meeker directing.

Meeker said the public broadcast will be “an evening that feels like a throwback to being able to just turn on the radio and have a relaxing evening and listen to some glorious music.”

Such opportunities are meant for everybody, she said, as part of the company’s ongoing community outreach efforts.

“We’re trying to make sure that we’re offering as much as we can to anybody in the San Antonio area to participate in,” Meeker said, “hoping that exposes us to new folks who maybe haven’t considered opera before.”

Regular patrons and donors have had unusual access to the company’s leadership and performers through online content produced regularly since the start of the pandemic, and such programming will continue, Meeker said.

One example is “Cocktails and Conversations,” available to donors, who can join a Zoom call to learn from experts about operas as they are broadcast from major opera houses. The upcoming conversation July 10 will feature the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Eugene Onegin, with Meeker, Opera San Antonio Music Director Francesco Milioto, and special guest Jill Grove, a mezzo-soprano who has performed regularly with the Met.

Anyone interested in joining the events can become a donor for as little as $5 and gain access to the program, Meeker said.

A Zoom master class Aug. 1 with soprano Jennifer Rowley featuring the Fort Worth Opera will be available to the public. Registration is required.

Programming digital content has provided at least one positive during the pandemic, Meeker said, and has been something of a revelation.

Cocktails and Conversation “has been really a fun gathering during this period of quarantine,” she said. “It’s been a great way to connect with our donors, and to take advantage of a very unexpected positive in the midst of this chaos, which is that so many fabulous archives have been opened to public viewing. So we have the opportunity right now to experience more repertoire from more companies than ever before.”

The company’s first Mozart production, Don Giovanni, has been indefinitely postponed, along with the second installment of its intimate winter concert series. However, Meeker said the pandemic has presented a chance to rethink how Opera San Antonio operates.

In the season announcement, she said “as difficult as it is to reimagine the 2020-21 season, we are embracing the opportunity for change.”

Upcoming changes include the possibility of an outdoor concert at a venue such as the Sunken Garden Theater, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, or the Arneson River Theatre, Meeker said. She said details would be forthcoming when such arrangements are made, depending on local pandemic conditions and regulations on public gatherings.

Reflecting on events of the past few months, Meeker said that the opera remains relevant to a changing world.

“The storytelling aspect of opera is essential to understanding who we are as human beings,” she said. “No matter what walk of life or background you come from, there are lessons to be learned in this extraordinary art form about love, about passion, about generous spirit, and how to treat each other as humans. And that is so important and such a critical message as this world continues to evolve.”

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...