We had Ballet Arizona's Ballet Under the Stars a couple of weeks ago, and this past weekend was Arizona Opera's Aria Jukebox--it's a wonderful time to be living in the city.
This was their first time putting on this event, which they did as part of the First Friday collection of things that go on every month in Phoenix. The concept was this: as you walked in, you received tokens that you could then use to vote for a selection of songs for the evening. There were five singers there, along with a pianist to accompany them. The setting, then, was completely different from usual. Instead of a large audience at the grand Symphony Hall, we were a small audience gathered in a fairly regular-sized room at the Arizona Opera Center. This meant that it was more casual and that we were all much, much closer to the singers.
They mixed in some short Q&A with the songs, so this event was also a chance to get a glimpse about what it's like to work in this field. This was, then, one of those times when you were able to see the performer as opposed to the character (when they're singing in an opera up on stage). That is, they still became characters when they sang. I might have expected that since we were just going to hear an assortment of songs (from operas and musicals and even a couple from Elvis and Elton John), all we were going to hear were songs sung. But in fact these people aren't just singers--they are performers, and they brought that entrance into character even into free-standing songs. This style of acting as well as singing was also something that someone asked about during the Q&A, and hearing their discussion on the topic (mentioning that American audiences now expect this style) particularly interested me given that the amount of acting in operas is one of the things that has really drawn me in and amazed me in these my early days as an opera attendee.
What was such a pleasure was to see so much talent and devotion encapsulated in one song at a time and directly in front of you. Arizona Opera puts on a wonderful production at Symphony Hall with all of the sets and costumes, but it was an entirely different experience just getting to see these performers singing up close. They are truly devoted to their craft, and with that kind of delivery they have complete control over their audience's emotions. I love it when performers bring me into that magical bubble of art.
And as a First Friday event, Aria Jukebox was free. What a gift to the community. So it does pay to stay in the know about what events are coming up where you live; when there are so many wonderful things going on and you start to get a taste for attending them, you hate to miss out on things. In fact, I thought I would skip Arizona Opera's first production of the season (coming up this month), but after Friday night I'm craving more from them, so I might just make it to that show, after all.