A screen shot of the second episode of “Opera in ME” with projection designer Alex Basco Koch, top left, host Robert Mellon and artistic director Dona D. Vaughn. Courtesy of Opera Maine

Portland arts groups are finding new ways to connect with audiences when they can’t welcome them into the performance hall. Opera Maine, which has postponed its 2020 season, has launched a web-based, behind-the-scenes program, “Opera in ME,” that will post at 5 p.m. Tuesdays on Opera Maine’s YouTube channel and other social media platforms. Hosted by baritone Robert Mellon, this weekly series will introduce different opera topics from the perspectives of those involved in its creation.

This series will deliver original, educational and entertaining content, said Caroline Koelker, Opera Maine’s executive director.

“We will have guests who will help people understand what goes into set design and sound and lighting. People often ask, ‘What is the role of the conductor?’ We want to hear people’s questions about opera, so we can follow up,” she said. “Some people don’t realize that opera is not amplified. How are the singers able to be heard all the way in the back rows of Merrill Auditorium when they’re not using any kind of microphone?”

Guests will include designers, singers and directors, past and present. The series will give viewers “a chance for a real behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating and preparing for an opera,” she said.

Robert Mellon as Papageno in last year’s production of “The Magic Flute” by Opera Maine. Mellon is hosting Opera Maine’s new “Opera in ME” webcast. Photo by Martha Mickles, courtesy of Opera Maine

In the first 7-minute installment, released April 7, Mellon recounted highlights from his decade-long career with Opera Maine. For the second installment, artistic director Dona D. Vaughn and projection designer Alex Koch talked about the theatrical projections involved in last year’s “The Magic Flute.” Other guests are singers Keith Phares on repeating roles, Tuesday; Adam Diegel on maturity and growth, April 28; Maeve Hoglund on the importance of voice teachers, May 5; and Amelie Lourdreau, a fifth-grader from Waynflete on her first opera performance experience in “The Magic Flute,” May 12.

Many episodes will include video clips from Opera Maine productions. Opera Maine records all of its dress rehearsals as archival footage. It’s not the best quality, because it was never intended to be shared publicly, Koelker said, but audiences seem forgiving. A lot of arts organizations are going through their archives to see what they might be able to share with audiences “when they can’t be in the seats with them,” she said.

The webcast won’t replace this year’s postponed season, but Koelker hopes it helps engage opera fans. She wants people to send emails with questions.

Opera Maine’s main stage performance was to have been “The Flying Dutchman” by Richard Wagner. It will now happen in 2021, along with “The Fall of the House of Usher” as a Studio Series production. Its fundraising gala – now twice postponed – is scheduled for Nov. 1 at Ocean Gateway.


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