New Baltimore company to perform opera in concert
Like a lot of other people in this town, Brendan Cooke was affected personally by Baltimore Opera's decision to file for bankruptcy in December. He had sung with the company for nearly a decade, in more than 20 supporting roles and as a member of the chorus in the bass section, and he was counting on more work this spring. Cooke isn't giving up on opera, however. He's now running his own company: Baltimore Concert Opera.
"Some friends were talking about how we were going to have some free time this spring," he says, "and the idea of forming our own opera company started almost as a joke." But the idea quickly led in a serious direction, resulting in a project that will offer Mozart's Don Giovanni on March 25 in the elegant ballroom of the Engineer's Club (Garrett-Jacobs Mansion), which seats about 250. There will be no staging, just singers with music stands, and not too many of the recitatives ("it would be dreadfully boring without any acting," Cooke says). And no orchestra; to keep things financially manageable, there will be only piano accompaniment.
"Our feeling is that it is better to hear opera with no costumes, orchestra or acting than not to hear it at all," says Cooke, who will not be performing in this inaugural performance. The cast includes local and imported singers, conducted by Anthony Barrese. "Our goal is to break even, and we're well on the way to doing that," Cooke says. Not bad, considering that the company hasn't even issued a formal press release yet (members of the Engineer's Club received notices about the event yesterday). If all goes well, another opera-in-concert will be presented this spring. Beyond that, Cooke envisions a four-opera season, maybe two performances each. That will all depend on money, of course.
"It's been a neat ride so far," Cooke says. "And a neat project at a time when some of us are feeling beaten down." He is quick to point out that Baltimore Concert Opera was not formed by disgruntled folks attempting to "thumb our noses at Baltimore Opera. That couldn't be further from the truth. This is a way of providing something for people to do while Baltimore Opera is restructuring," he says.