Permian Basin Opera is reaching for those high notes.
On a bit of a risk, and with big dreams in mind, the organization is putting together the area’s first locally produced full-stage professional opera in at least 40 years — offering its production of “Tosca” on April 20 at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.
Tickets start at $27 for an event that organizers say is for the Permian Basin, and by Permian Basin.
“We’ve done it all from the ground up,” organization president Gayle Banschbach said.
It’s an event and project unlike any others in the area for decades, and perhaps ever. While in the past the organization has presented ready-made opera shows put on by traveling troupes making their way to the area, this time executive producer Ryan Loyd, an Andrews native, and other officials have hand-picked talent from across the country to mix with local performers and local stagehands, and put together an opera show unique to this area.
That’s something that hasn’t been done since at least the early 1980s when PBO started as Midland Opera Theater.
“It’s really a privilege to bring that to the community,” Loyd said.
“Tosca” is a romantic and dramatic opera set in Rome in 1800, composed by Giacomo Puccini and first premiering in 1900.
Banschbach and Loyd both said the event will be approachable for those new to opera, and that the story lends itself well to first-time viewers. While the show is performed in Italian, the event is set to feature subtitle-like translations in English projected onto the stage.
“The music is just gorgeous,” Banschbach said. “I would encourage people to come. If they’ve never been to an opera, this is a great one to come to.
“It’s pretty obvious what’s happening — there’s no disguises, everybody is just straight-on, and you can understand what’s going to happen. It’s just beautiful music, and I would encourage everyone to come.”
Loyd echoed that this event is tailor-made for this area, and patrons shouldn’t be intimidated by opera or its reputation.
“It’s for everybody,” Loyd said.
“We want people to come as you are. You certainly can dress up and come, but we want everybody to come out to the Wagner Noel just like they would for any concert — any rock concert or whatever — and just come as they are and come be a part of what’s happening and this kind of special thing for the community,” he said.
Loyd previously worked as a managing director at Midland Community Theater, and was previously a professor at UTPB with its Communication Program and Department of Visual and Performing Arts.
He’s helped put together a cast that features soprano Angela Turner-Wilson, assistant professor with TCU’s College of Fine Arts, as Floria Tosca, and tenor Mackenzie Gotcher, resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, as Mario Cavaradossi.
Across the calendar, Permian Basin Opera puts together smaller recitals and more casual events like DVD watch parties, while also sponsoring a class at Midland College, a school program with Midland ISD, and it’s also taking applications for scholarships for vocal performance majors.
By putting on this event, the organization is stepping out on a limb, Banschbach said, but it’s hopeful a big, full-stage, full-length opera can help bring attention to the organization and its other activities, and help build the opera scene in the area.
“This is stepping out in faith that the whole Permian Basin would support us,” Banschbach said. “They can’t support if they don’t have a show to support, so we’re providing them with a show. And we’re getting the support. We need more, but we are getting the support. We’re delighted.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. April 20 with the show set to start at 7:30 p.m. The event is set to run over three acts in about two hours and 40 minutes.
“I keep telling people, ‘Come do your ears a favor and come hear this beautiful music,’” Loyd said.
- What: “Tosca” presented by Permian Basin Opera
- When: 7:30 p.m. April 20. Doors open 6:30 p.m.
- Where: Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center
- Tickets: Starting at $27
- Angela Turner-Wilson (soprano) as Floria Tosca
- Mackenzie Gotcher (tenor) as Mario Cavaradossi
- Andrew Craig Brown (bass-baritone) as Baron Scarpia