Promises To Keep
Opera in the Ozarks will be back in 2021
Like every other arts organization, Opera in the Ozarks has seen its plans for the summer of 2020 evaporate — along with $200,000 in revenue. Almost a full year of work had gone into recruiting singers and musicians, selecting shows, designing sets, buying fabric for costumes — and everything else associated with a repertory company’s season — before General Director Nancy Preis made the difficult decision April 14 to cancel performances. It would have been the 70th season at Inspiration Point near Eureka Springs.
“We start almost as soon as the existing season is over,” says Preis of the planning process. “We take a month off — sort of — and get started again in September. Audition information goes out in October to a gazillion colleges and universities and various publications. Auditions are in January. All the casting was done by the end of February, and we’d hired all the faculty and orchestra and received probably half the deposits from students. And then this nonsense hits.”
Preis is clear that she waited as long as possible to cancel, hoping against hope that the season could proceed as planned.
“We all thought at the beginning it was just the flu,” she remembers. “But it became clear by the end of March it was not just the flu. I had a Zoom call with all the singers around the first of April. It was very interesting. One girl said she was scared to death because she’s immune compromised. Another lives in Canada and simply couldn’t come. Several said their moms were really worried. I mean, they were all going to fly in from various places, so one person in an airport sneezes, and the whole cast gets sick. It became clear there was a lot of apprehension on the part of faculty and students.
“And then I started thinking about the audiences. Our theater is very intimate. And when you’re singing with force, driving the air out of your chest with force, it’s going to go more than six feet. I thought, ‘I can’t do this to people. I can’t responsibly expose people to this.’”
But Preis, who has years of experience in the corporate world, knew immediately what she wanted to do.
“A lot of people had already put in a lot of work, and I canceled their gig in April,” she says. “It’s not fair to make them wait a solid year to get paid. So I raised money and was able to pay out about $27,000 in what I call ‘faculty relief.’”
She also invited the students to return next summer, when the 70th season will be performed just as it would have been this year, with the repertory consisting of “The Crucible,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning English language opera written by Robert Ward based on the 1953 play “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller; “Lucia di Lammermoor,” written in 1835 and loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel “The Bride of Lammermoor”; and “Cendrillon,” a French version of “Cinderella.”
In the meantime, Preis says, she has “attracted the attention of a major philanthropist” and is hoping to get “significant assistance” toward building new facilities that could be used year-round.
“If you go back in time, Opera in the Ozarks was Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony, offering orchestral training, dance instruction, a whole raft of stuff that over time got dropped,” she says. “Now we’re looking at a facility we will be able to heat, air condition, and we’ll be able to use it more in more ways than were available in 1950. We have a long list of possible things, one of them some programming in the schools.
“So my big idea for the fall is we go into the schools with a music program,” she says. “We’ll have a whole bunch of stressed-out kids, so how can we help with music? The second question is, with all of the civil unrest, what can we do to help build the ideas of diversity, inclusion and equity? So I’ve also got plans for starting an adult education program this fall.”
And what can fans do now? Send a check, Preis says simply. “We still have expenses.”
Opera In The Ozarks
Or send a donation to P.O. Box 127, Eureka Springs, AR 72632.