In late 2022, Bold City Opera was formally founded by locally-based soprano Christine Alfano and conductor Brandon Michael Smith. What started off as a dream between two collaborating musicians came to fruition with BCO's extraordinarily successful first season in 2023. This inaugural season featured free outreach performances of Barber's A Hand of Bridge at The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, as well as a highly celebrated and nearly sold-out production of Puccini's Suor Angelica at St. John's Cathedral. These productions prioritized casting local talent and creative staff, and provided paid opportunities to countless emerging artists in our region.
Our Mission Statement is at the core of everything we do. We invite you to read it, below:
Bold City Opera creates cutting-edge opera by fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and championing immersive experiences. By producing works in innovative and revolutionary ways, we aim to cultivate and educate new audiences. We aspire to build community by forging a vision of opera that is universally accessible, inclusive of underrepresented voices, and which showcases regional and emerging artists. BCO is proudly a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
2023 RECAP: SEASON 1
By Christine Alfano, Executive Artistic Director & Co-Founder
I know I speak for the entire BCO Team when I say how profoundly proud I am of what we were able to accomplish in our inaugural season.
Giacomo Puccini's Suor Angelica was staged immersively within the walls of St. John's Cathedral by emerging stage director and UNF alum Marinette Gomez. Embracing the mission of BCO, Ms. Gomez truly utilized the entire space to realize her vision and placed audiences right in the middle of the action. A bespoke organ arrangement of the original orchestral score was created by Brandon Michael Smith and Timothy Tuller to fully commit to the immersive theme and to utilize the cathedral's two-million-dollar 1983 Austin Organ. Our arrangement also pays homage to Puccini's first instrument, the pipe organ, which he played in churches throughout his youth. In the spirit of facilitating the creation of art, BCO has made the arrangement available to other grassroots opera companies in hopes of making Suor Angelica more financially accessible to produce.
According to our anonymous survey of 60 Suor Angelica attendees, 77% had never seen an immersive opera before. 35% did not consider themselves regular consumers of opera and classical music, and were specifically drawn to BCO's nontraditional style of presentation. 67% were from the greater Jacksonville area, while the other 33% drove in from other areas to see the production. Audience ages were wide ranging, with the second largest demographic being ages 25 to 29. This gathered information is encouraging and exciting, and will help us in programming future artistic experiences that Jacksonville will continue to seek out and support.
Through Suor Angelica, BCO also built community. While the core cast was made up of local and regional professional artists, the chorus featured several avocational classical singers looking for professional-level opportunities. Current and former UNF students were also featured prominently, and our crew included a production intern from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. As we continue to grow as an organization, we look forward to seeing how we can continue to build strong relationships with other artists, organizations and schools in our community.
Making the arts accessible is a core part of our mission. Through our partnership with The Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens, we were able to produce two performances of Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge. These performances were free to the public, and took place at the museum's Summer at the Cummer event. A Hand of Bridge is easily digestible by new audiences unfamiliar with opera: it clocks in at only ten minutes, is sung in English, and is by an American composer. Local BCO artists performed popular arias in between performances, much to the delight of the audience, which ranged in age from 3 years old to 95 years old. Our ticketed production, Suor Angelica, remained accessible as well; tickets were affordably priced at $30, with student tickets being priced at $10.
From all of us at BCO, we are so genuinely thankful for your continued support. Stay tuned for information about Season Two, coming soon!