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Q and A with James Meena

by Mark Peres

June 4,2005

How would you describe Opera Carolina to someone you just met?

Opera Carolina is the largest and most successful professional opera company in the Carolinas, performing the great works of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. We reach 75,000 people each year with an extensive array of grand opera performances and educational programs. We join our local company with some of the greatest artists in the world who perform the major roles to present a season of exciting live opera at the Belk Theater each year.

What is the main strength of Opera Carolina? What does it do exceptionally well?

Our strength is our product. Opera Carolina is recognized for the quality of our main stage productions and the effectiveness of our educational pro¬grams. Further, we are recognized for the creativity of our marketing and audience development initiatives, which received the 2004 BOB award, and our commitment to community service.

Opera competes with new media, sports and entertainment. Why should someone spend limited discretionary money on opera?

Opera provides an entertainment option like no other. Opera is itself a combination of drama, music, and spectacle that can only best be appreci¬ated live. That is why opera audiences in Charlotte and across the country have grown steadily in the last twenty years. It has something for everyone. Plus, since we produce four operas a season, people can attend an opera without sacrificing a great deal of time or money. With ticket prices that start at $15.00, Opera Carolina is affordable to anyone.

Tell us about the new season. What should we know?

The new season features four compelling stories of four great women. The Pearl Fishers tells the story of a Buddhist priestess who breaks her vows so she may be with the man she loves – a timeless story wrapped in exquisite music. The season continues with our annual presentation of the Christmas favorite Amahl & The Night Visitors at the McGlohon Theater. Next we per¬form La Traviata – the story of Camille, which was the basis for the block¬buster movie Pretty Woman. It is one of the most beloved operas of all time. Then, Rossini’s retelling of Cinderella is a touching and hilarious comedy. The season ends with a new opera by Grammy Award winning composer Richard Danielpour with a script by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison. The opera is Margaret Garner. Margaret’s true story was the inspiration for Morrison’s acclaimed novel Beloved, and is an historical drama of this fugitive slave whose sacrifice speaks to modern audiences in a way that is compelling yet beautiful.

What is your hope for the company? What is success for Opera Carolina?

As with any business, success is measured in a number of ways. We measure success by the satisfaction of our customers – audience members and community partners; ending the year with a positive financial report (which we have done 11 our of the last 12 years); a growing customer base, which we are proud to say is the case with Opera Carolina; and the knowledge that our product is the best it can be. My hope for Opera Carolina is the same that we have for greater Charlotte – that we continue to build a company of true quality that is a valued community resource for years to come.

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