A Weekend of Accidental Affairs…

By Ellen Sturgill

With teddy bears, bugles, rolling pins, and “Accidental Affairs” setting the scene, the second-annual 24-Hour Opera Project was a success.  Contestants from all over the United States came to Atlanta to compete in the whirlwind of operatic chaos, and create what turned out to be five dramatic, hilarious, and innovative opera scenes.

It all began with the Kick-Off party on Friday night at 5:00 p.m., where the composers and lyricists selected props from an assortment of bags and boxes, and were randomly paired together.  One of the guidelines for the project was that the teams had to compose around a certain theme, and this year’s theme of  “Accidental Affairs” evoked all the emotions we love about opera.

Lyricist Brad Fairchild and composer Sara Hersh have fun with the teddy bear and ovens mitts in their composition, The Layover. ©Tim Wilkerson 
Edward’s Eatery composer Jonathan Stinson and lyricist Madeleine St. Romain show off their props: sausage links, and a fishing net. ©Tim Wilkerson
Composer Jennifer Jolley and Lyricist Vynnie Meli with the props for Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens, a block of cheese, and a rolling pin. © Tim Wilkerson
 Lyricist Megan Fitzgerald and composer Jason Barraba of The Grass is Always Deader are given a delicious, and deadly pair of props: lollipops and a poison bottle. ©Tim Wilkerson
With coffee percolating constantly, composers and lyricists worked feverishly all night to create an opera by the deadline of 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  The “Confession Cam” was in high-demand as teams began to feel the effects of staying up all night…

Composer Jennifer Jolley takes some time to give audiences a sneak peek of what’s to come in Team 3’s composition, Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens. ©Emmalee Iden

Though not making the deadline was on the minds of more than one team, everyone completed their creations, and the composers and lyricists got some well-deserved rest while the Music Directors, Stage Directors, Stage Managers, and singers went to work rehearsing early Saturday morning.

Music Director Erin Palmer rehearses The Layover with Bass Robert Adams, and Mezzo-Soprano Janeen Griffin. ©Tim Wilkerson.

From left to right, Stage Director Kristen Kenning, Stage Manager Spencer Gum, and Music Director Catherine Giel prepare a scene in Edward’s Eatery. ©Tim Wilkerson 

Fun in a rehearsal for The Grass is Always Deader, with Soprano Katie Oates, Baritone Ivan Segovia, and Soprano Amanda Pillatzki. ©Tim Wilkerson.

At 4:00 p.m. — after approximately eight hours of rehearsal — the teams packed up their props and costumes from the rehearsal spaces at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, and moved to The Atlanta Opera Center, where they would have a quick dress rehearsal, before the performance at 7:00 p.m.

At 6:30, our guest judges- Stephanie Adrian, Voice Professor at Emory University and writer for Opera News, Classical Singer, and Journal of Singing; Andrew Alexander, Arts and Entertainment Writer for Creative Loafing; John Lemley, Assistant Program Director, host of City Café, Afternoon Classics, and Tapestry on WABE (90.1); Ann Owens, former Executive Director of the Houston Grand Opera; and our fabulous “mistress of ceremonies,” Atlanta Planit’s Nicole Jones, arrived.

The five teams were able to showcase their creations to a packed house of 200 people.  With antics involving clandestine affairs and teddy bears, these operas were one-of-a-kind. The judges rated performances on composition, lyrics (libretto), creativity of stage direction, and musical performance. Audience members were able to cast their votes for “Audience Favorite,” and those tuning in via the webcast (all 762 of them!) were able to vote through Twitter, Facebook, or Ustream Chat.

This year’s “Judges’ Choice” and the “Audience Favorite” was…

Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens! 

Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens celebrate their win! ©Tim Wilkerson

Below, we’ve included more photos from the event, and if you missed the live performances, check out our Ustream Channel. This year’s 24-Hour Opera Project flew by, and we want to thank everyone who participated, and helped make this past weekend a success! 

Bass-Baritone John Elliot Yates, and Soprano Sondra Collins  (bottom) praise Christine Lyons as Paula Deen in Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens. ©Tim Wilkerson
Click here to view a recording of the live webcast! ©Dave Stevens
Stage Director Frances Rabalais, Bass Robert Adams, Music Director Erin Palmer, Mezzo Janeen Griffin, Lyricist Brad Fairchild, Composer Sara Hersh, Stage Manager RaMia Green, and Soprano Laura Peacock of The Layover. ©Tim Wilkerson

Cast and creative team of Edward’s Eatery (left to right): Lyricist Madeleine St. Romain, Composer Jonathan Stinson, Baritone Gerald Yarbray, Stage Director Kristen Kenning, Stage Manager Spencer Gum, Soprano Vivian Clifton, and Music Director Catherine Giel. ©Tim Wilkerson

Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens with their “Audience Favorite” prizes! From  left to right,  Lyricist Vynnie Meli, Composer  Jennifer Jolley, Stage Director Michael Nutter, Bass-Baritone John Elliot Yates, Soprano Christine Lyons, Soprano Sondra Collins, Music Director Paul Tate, and Stage Manager Rebecca Yan. ©Tim Wilkerson

Stage Manager (left to right) Kendall Thompson, Mezzo Sharon Blackwood, Composer Timothy Brown, Stage Director Thomas Isaac Collins, Music Director Sandra Lutters, and Soprano Sarah Vatour of Accidental Affair. ©Tim Wilkerson

The cast and creative team of The Grass is Always Deader, Stage Manager Erin Bailess, Soprano Amanda Pillatzki, Baritone Ivan Segovia, Lyricist Megan Fitzgerald, Composer Jason Barabba, Soprano Katie Oates, Music Director Michael Spassov, and Stage Director Beth Suryan. ©Tim Wilkerson

Judges Andrew Alexander, Stephanie Adrian, John Lemley, and Ann Owens. ©Tim Wilkerson

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