If you’re a recent convert to Opera Saratoga, you might be surprised to learn that the organization is already 60 years old. No, you haven’t been inadvertently pushed into a time machine and sent forward to 2080; the organization got its start 60 years ago as the Lake George Opera, putting on its first live performance in 1962, right around the same time another venerable local arts organization, Caffè Lena, opened its listening room doors in Saratoga Springs. And now, while both celebrate their 60th anniversaries, they’ve paired up for a series of monthly performances.
On Thursday, November 19, Opera Saratoga will launch America Sings, a monthly concert series featuring a number of racially diverse, internationally acclaimed artists. Opera Saratoga Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson, who was this month named one of 10 “Capital Region Gives Back” honorees by Saratoga Living, launched the series, as part of his company’s effort to address racial equality and highlight voices of historically underrepresented artists on the concert stage. “Our focus on BIPOC artists in this series is one of our first steps in a multi-pronged plan to address diversity and equity not only in our programming at Opera Saratoga, but in the organization as a whole,” says Edelson. “The onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the racial awakening that has been taking place across the country and the polarizing political climate leading up to the election has energized artists.” Edelson emphasizes that rather than himself programming the series, he asked the participants in it to “curate their own concert—to share music with us that speaks to how they are feeling about America today.”
To kick things off, Mezzo soprano Deborah Nansteel, who was featured in Opera Saratoga’s 2018 production of The Consul, will perform, accompanied by pianist Giovanni Reggioli. Nansteel and Reggioli will perform a variety of works by everyone from George Gershwin and Billy Strayhorn to Richard Rogers and Richard Wagner, along with a selection of traditional spirituals. Other artists performing in the months to come will include soprano Brandie Sutton, accompanied by pianist and composer Damien Sneed; as well as Sneed himself, who will return on January 24 with baritone Justin Austin, another Opera Saratoga alum.
The America Sings series will be live-streamed to the public for free, though viewers are encouraged to contribute through Caffè Lena’s virtual tip jar to support the opera company and the artists it will be featuring. Each event will be “simulcast” on Caffè Lena’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, as well as Opera Saratoga’s Facebook page.