Carter Joseph’s Evenings with Opera…..

By Ellen Sturgill

The Atlanta Opera has a wide variety of extra events and classes that are designed to help people not only enjoy seeing an opera, but become immersed in it.

One of the most popular ways to do this is with Carter Joseph’s Opera 101 and Evening at Emory class series. Carter is a long time opera-lover, and an Atlanta Opera Board member, and his classes have been incredibly successful. I was able to sit down with Carter and find out why.

“I just love turning people on to the art form [of opera],” says Carter. However, he wasn’t always an opera guy. Studying Art at UGA, he had hoped to be a painter. However, it was a trip to Europe that ignited his passion for a different kind of art. He began to enjoy listening to, seeing, and studying all kinds of opera, and within the first five minutes of our interview, I could tell he knew his stuff.

We discussed everything from why Mozart is his favorite composer (“he’s just so human… and [if] you learn Mozart, it prepares you for everything”) to how Donizetti’s own life has many connections with his opera, Lucia di Lammermoor. We also focused on what he enjoys most about teaching his opera classes, and what makes them so successful.

Opera 101 began in 1985, and has continued to be an outlet for those interested in opera. Carter began this class when “the Met stopped touring, and Alfred Kennedy and William Fred Scott decided to convert the Atlanta Lyric Opera to The Atlanta Opera. I was in a young support group [for the opera], and someone said ‘You seem to know what you’re listening to. Can you teach a class for us?’”

Carter agreed, and though the groups supporting the class ran into trouble throughout the years, Dennis Hanthorn’s arrival as Zurich General Director of The Atlanta Opera brought new life to the class. When Carter invited Dennis to an Opera 101 presentation, Dennis was impressed, and knew he wanted to continue such a great educational outlet for the opera. “Dennis has been so supportive” of the class, Carter states.

This year’s class is on Monday, November 7 at 7:00 p.m. at The Atlanta Opera Center, and will be an hour and fifteen-minute presentation on the life of Gaetano Donizetti, what was occurring in the world during Donizetti’s life, and how Lucia di Lammermoor was created. Carter loves this class because it is “designed for beginners and lifelong opera goers.” Opera 101 is free, fun, and informative and you won’t want to miss it!

With the success of Opera 101 came an idea for not just one class, but a whole class series. Evening at Emory is a month long course taught by Carter that meets on Tuesday evenings (October 25 through November 15), and culminates with a class trip to see The Atlanta Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

This upcoming class is entitled “The Life of Donizetti: Joy, Tragedy and Madness,” and promises to take you on a journey of not only Gaetano Donizetti’s life, but how it correlates with his operas, and especially with Lucia.
The course will be divided into four sections. The first class will discuss Donizetti’s life, the historical perspectives of his time, and his comedies. The second class will focus on the three tragedies he wrote, and the third class will center specifically on Lucia di Lammermoor. When I asked Carter what he loves about Donizetti, he stated that “of the three kings of Bel Canto, Donizetti has the biggest heart… [He] is sympathetic and his plots are deeper.” In this class series, Carter will put a large focus on the correlation between Donizetti’s own life, his descent into madness, and Lucia’s own tragic unraveling.

When asked what his favorite part of the class was, Carter immediately responded with “Everything!” Seeing those involved with the class grow to understand and appreciate the opera is something he never gets tired of. Also, by the end of these three classes, Carter says going to see the opera on the last session is a wonderful finale because now the students are informed, and can enjoy the opera in an entirely new way.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘This is my first opera, and it’s the best night I’ve ever had,’ and others say ‘I’ve seen this opera all my life, and I’ve never enjoyed it so much.’” Being informed makes a difference, and reading the supertitles can only do so much. Carter feels that you must know the background, the music, and the reason the composer wrote the opera to appreciate the performance for what it is.

Carter Joseph can teach you everything you need to know to enjoy the upcoming performance of Lucia di Lammermoor. He says he is “not there to tell you what to think. [The classes are] a journey of discovery.”

Carter’s passion for opera is evident and his knowledge is vast. Even in our interview, I learned information about Donizetti, and cannot wait to apply it to Lucia. I can promise that his classes will be beneficial to you. I know I will certainly be attending, and I hope to see you there too!

For more information, see The Atlanta Opera website or click here: “Opera Extras.”