Like all art, opera offers a reflection of who we are, how we relate to each other, and what it means—as individuals and communities—to be human. Opera in 2017, in much the same way it did in the 16th century, addresses universal themes such as life, death, love, loss, joy, and anger, but with new access to the most pressing issues of our time, often including subjects of nature, justice, community, and faith. Contemporary sacred opera, specifically, could represent a kind of re-visitation of the sacred within the art form, which holds the potential to include and feature contemporary conceptions of divinity and humanity.
Our Arts Initiative endeavors to provide a space where art is not only performed, but also created and explored. One approach to achieving this goal is by inviting artists to develop work on-site, creating a window into the creative process for diverse audiences to encounter it in unexpected ways. This program marks the Arts Initiative’s foray into contemporary sacred opera as a burgeoning program model in support of the National Opera Association’s Sacred in Opera Initiative. We provide a space where audience members can discover art through an experiential and intellectual engagement of performance, including meaningful discussions.
On April 7 and 8, we will explore Contemporary Scared Opera—an intersection of arts and faith—with students from the University of Delaware’s Opera Theater. Under the direction of Dr. Isai Jess Munoz, students will participate in a restorative workshop at Grace Farms as they prepare for their upcoming season, exploring the ways in which contemporary notions of realism and embodiment can interact with historic forms like baroque gesture, and be reimagined by a new generation of artists and audiences. Visitors are invited to attend an open rehearsal of the sacred opera performances, preceded by a participatory discussion in the Court, a multi-purpose, two-story, glass volume, which sits at the lowest elevation of the River building at Grace Farms. The unique architecture of this space presents an exciting opportunity for this type of programming because its innovative design demonstrates the confluence of integrated thinking, aesthetic imagination, and artistic virtuosity proposed by contemporary sacred opera itself.