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August 3, 2011

Chesapeake Chamber Opera cancels season, searches for new 'home city'

File this under Not Surprising, But Disappointing.

Chesapeake Chamber Opera, one of the modest-sized ensembles that emerged after the demise of the Baltimore Opera Company in 2009, will not be back for the 2011-12 season. If it does emerge again, it may no longer be based in Baltimore.

Founder and general director Beth Stewart says that fundraising became "nearly impossible," given the economy and "the glut of small opera companies and the re-emergence of a grand opera company in Baltimore." (Lyric Opera of Baltimore is due to make its bow in November.)

Chesapeake Chamber Opera "will be going dark this season as the company searches for a new home city where it can grow and flourish."

My limited exposure to the plucky group revealed that ...

Stewart has an ear for vocal talent -- she engaged some very promising young artists -- and an enthusiasm for making opera easily accessible to the uninitiated.

Originally called Chesapeake Concert Opera, the ensemble introduced staging elements very quickly; the switch to "chamber" in the name was a natural. Although on a shoe-string budget (piano accompaniment was the rule), the company managed to deliver animated, involving performances that clearly delighted audiences.

It's a tough market in the best of times for new arts groups, let alone those involved with such a challenging genre as opera. Beth and her colleagues made a valiant effort and I wish them well in the future.

Here's the complete statement from the company:

The current economic climate, along with the glut of small opera companies and the re-emergence of a grand opera company in Baltimore, has made a successful fundraising campaign for Chesapeake Chamber Opera's upcoming season nearly impossible. In its current incarnation, CCO simply cannot support productions that would do the talent of the artists justice. To that end, CCO will be going dark this season as the company searches for a new home city where it can grow and flourish.

CCO is so grateful for the support Baltimore has shown during its first two seasons and is very proud to have been able to feature such talented young artists, many of whom are already enjoying upward career trajectories--artists like tenor William Davenport, soprano Chloe Olivia Moore, and baritone Terrance Brown will not soon be forgotten in Charm City.

"This has been an extremely tough decision," said General Director Beth Stewart, "but it's one that we hope will lead to a better chance of long-term survival for the company so we can continue to feature top-notch talent at bargain prices. We hope we have shared our love for the art and for the people of Baltimore and we hope to entertain you again."

CHESAPEAKE CHAMBER OPERA PHOTO OF 'HANSEL AND GRETEL'

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:14 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera
        

Comments

I couldn't agree more!

This little company has been doing extraordinary things for the last several years and their audience seemed to be growing.

The young performers are always top notch; it's been a great pleasure to watch them take their incredible talents and mature as artists before our eyes.

Many of them have taken the growth they've attained at this little company and gone on to fill rolls at larger companies both here and in other cities. It's been a delight to be able to say "I knew him/her when....

It's a terrible shame that Baltimore can't keep this little group going even with the Lyric Opera coming on-line. I really think there is a nich for a company that fosters young professional talent with limited but more than adequate productions; a place to grow after conservatory and before larger companies.

and besides, you really just can't have too much opera, after all....

Never too much, indeed. And they had 'Little Women' planned for this season, which would have been so cool. TIM

I don't suppose the company closing has anything to do with the fact that Beth is moving to California.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog
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