The Utah Opera is wrapping up its final streamed production before the return of live audiences on March 25, 2021, with the focus on hope and light. Utah Opera’s Light on the Horizon is about the promise of better days, and it appears those better days are now, rather aptly, on the horizon.
When putting together the program for Light on the Horizon, the company hoped to “cast off 2020 and get people focusing on what’s ahead,” says Steven Brosvik, the President and CEO of the Utah Opera and Utah Symphony. “It came a little bit from our October opera run, which was very much about people feeling alone and cut off. Now, we need to find ways to make people feel better.”
The streamed program features levity and highlights from both opera and musical theatre—everything from 350-year-old opera to Rodgers and Hammerstein and Sondheim—woven together in an era when singers must stand 20 feet apart, limiting room for the live orchestra, and the audience must watch from home.
The nevertheless hopeful program is appropriately preceding what many hope is a permanent comeback for live, in-person, performing arts. But, Brosvik confesses, they did not originally plan it that way. “We didn’t know when we did production in January that we’d be able to reopen,” he says.
“There’s a lot of changes to the repertoire, but not the safety plan,” adds Brosvik, looking ahead to March 25. The Utah Opera and Utah Symphony are reactivating the safety plan they had in place during the Fall, before Salt Lake County closed performing arts venues for audiences on Nov. 23, 2020.
Almost exactly four months to the day later, audiences will finally be able to return to Salt Lake County performing arts venues (Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theater, Eccles Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center), albeit wearing masks and spaced apart.
For Brosvik, it is a return to the way Symphony and Opera are made to be consumed. “What we do is really live. Our musicians are trained for live performances. The pieces are all written to be performed live,” he says. “I know the audience often feels like they’re just sitting out in the silence of the hall and it doesn’t matter if they’re there or not, but it absolutely does. The players really do feel the difference and they feed off of it.”
The reopening of Salt Lake County venues could also signify the comeback many in the performing arts world have been waiting for. “I think this is the turning point,” says Brosvik, looking to the future. “Our audience is also eager for us to get back to what we usually do. Our opportunities are just going to grow. ”
Those growing opportunities could also include utilizing the comparatively slapdash lessons they’ve learned during the pandemic. “Before, we were planning our repertoire two years out. Now, we’re planning six weeks out. We’ve had to flex different muscles and it’s made us stronger that way,” says Brosvik.
The return of live audiences might not necessarily mean the end for On-Demand performances either. Streaming provided an opportunity for people to watch who have never seen the opera or symphony before.
Brosvik wants to hold onto that new audience, but, he says, finding a balance will take time. “It’s been really rewarding for us to see new people participate in what we do, but it’s been expensive and a big drain on staff resources. We’d love to find a way to keep some of it going. We never want to replace live, but it could become a supplement to live performances.”
Utah Symphony announced the upcoming Masterworks programs at Abravanel Hall:
- Marc Albrecht conducts Mahler and R. Strauss – March 25 (10 AM), March 25 & 26 (7:30 PM), March 27 (5:30 PM)
- Domingo Hindoyan conducts Roberto Sierra, Bartok & Mozart 41 – April 8, 9, 10 (7:30 PM)
- Madeline Adkins plays The Lark Ascending – April 22, 23, 24 (7:30 PM)
- Thierry Fischer conducts Bach, Wynton Marsalis, Carter & Wagner – April 29 & 30 (7:30 PM), May 1 (5:30 PM)
- Beethoven 1 & Demarre McGill plays Jolivet – May 20, 21, 22 (7:30 PM)
- Thierry Fischer conducts Jesse Montgomery, Mozart, Schoenberg & Copland – May 27 (10 AM), May 27, 28, 29 (7:30 PM)
In the coming weeks, Utah Opera plans to announce the opera that will welcome returning audiences. They’re also planning the program for the 2021 Deer Valley Music Festival, scheduled for July 2–August 7.
Until then, Light on the Horizon stream will be available on demand until March 14. Tickets are $10 for subscribers and $15 for non-subscribers. For more information, visit the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera streaming page.