Evening mixes party, Broadway, opera

Eat your heart out, New York.

You may have the Metropolitan Opera House, but fact is fact. And the fact is New Orleans was first.

It’s true. Opera came to New Orleans in 1796. Yes, technically, New Orleans wasn’t yet a part of the United States, but it is now. And there’s no changing history.

Opera came to the continental United States by way of the Crescent City.

“Opera productions out of New Orleans even toured the country,” Leanne Clement said. “It’s just one of the things that we’ve discovered through our research.”

Clement is Opera Louisiane’s executive director. She’s preparing for the company’s next production, “The Best of Broadway and Opera,” set for Thursday, Jan. 31, at Louisiana’s Old State Capitol.

A lineup of opera singers will gather to perform popular selections from Broadway and opera during an evening that begins with a party.

And it’s at that party where patrons will learn about Louisiana’s opera history.

“The pre-performance party starts at 6, and separate tickets are sold to that,” Clement said. “And we wanted to highlight Louisiana’s opera history at the party. We have a display, and we’ve asked representatives from the New Orleans and Shreveport operas to attend.”

Think about it. New Orleans was known for opera before jazz.

Now, it can be said that opera paved the way for the Broadway musical, which truly is New York’s offspring. This only makes sense for Opera Louisiane’s history project leading to its Broadway and opera performance, which already has sold out of its top tier tickets.

“The tickets were $25-$85,” Clement said. “But now we only have the $25-$35 tickets left.”

So, don’t wait too long if you plan to attend this evening of music performed by the company’s favorite duos from last season, Jessica Cates and Christian Smith-Kotlarek, along with Chauncey Packer and Ebony Preston.

Packer and Preston have just completed an international tour of George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

And all will be joined by LSU graduate and emerging opera artist Jennifer Crippen.

“The evening will be moderated by Jay Dardenne,” Clement said. “We’re so excited about that, because the lieutenant governor is interested in and supportive of everything about the arts. He’s declared 2013 the Year of Music, which is very exciting for us.”

The evening’s musical lineup was chosen and coordinated by the company’s music director, Michael Borowitz, who will accompany the singers on the piano.

“The production explores an exciting range of well-known songs and operatic favorites,” Clement said. “Everyone will recognize all of the songs. It’s a great mix, and I give Michael full credit for putting this great program together.”

Meanwhile, the party will feature hors d’oeuvres, wine and a cash bar surrounded by historical displays.

“We’re hoping to do more with these displays after the event,” Clement said. “We were thinking about showing them at the State Archives. Maybe they could become a permanent part of the Archives. We’re going to talk to Jay Dardenne about what we can do with it.”

Which is more than appropriate. It’s part of Louisiana’s history.

No, it’s bigger than that. It uncovers a landmark part of the state’s history showing that opera came to Louisiana first.

And Louisiana continues to share it with the rest of the nation.