Opera offers universal appeal, south Charlotte accessibility

Before vampire Edward fell for the beautiful Bella in the “Twilight” novels and films, “The Flying Dutchman” was cursed to wander eternity alone until finding his true love, Senta.  The heroine in each story is faced with the decision to sacrifice herself to save her accursed man. The story is timeless and utterly romantic.  Flying Dutchman Artwork (3)

“Every generation has its own way of telling the story of a tortured soul redeemed by the love of a virtuous woman,” said James Meena, the general director and principal conductor of Opera Carolina who will conduct “The Flying Dutchman” starting Saturday, March 22.

“Though altered by social morays and technology, the human condition is the same,” Meena, of south Charlotte, said.  “That’s why the story still works.”

Originally performed in 1843, Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” tells the star-crossed love story in a nautical setting.  A ghostly captain makes a deal with the devil and is cursed to sail the seas forever.  Once every seven years he walks on dry land in search of a true love who will break the spell.  His opportunity comes when he meets a mariner with a beautiful daughter named Senta.

Senta is infatuated with the legend of “The Flying Dutchman,” and without knowing the truth about the captain, she agrees to marry him.  When the captain overhears a private conversation, he doubts Senta’s loyalty and returns to sea.  Senta must brave the waters to break the curse, prove her devotion and save the captain.

The operatic drama of the high seas sets the stage for the ultimate test of true love.  Opera Carolina’s staging features an elaborate system that projects period artwork and dramatic lighting to set the place and mood.  Classic paintings of the sea and shipping vessels give way to calm conditions then stormy seas, taking the audience on a visual adventure.

“We have really upgraded the visual elements to grab people’s attention and make the experience more exciting,” Meena said.  “Opera is a multifaceted art form.”

World famous baritone and Metropolitan Opera star Greer Grimsley will play “The Flying Dutchman,” leading a cast of established and emerging talent.  Tenor Jason Wickson was acclaimed in The New York Times for his portrayal of Senta’s other love interest, Erik, in a national production of “The Flying Dutchman.”

The Opera Carolina production will feature the 60-voice Opera Carolina Chorus, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte and the Charlotte Symphony.


The South Charlotte Shuttle

Though Opera Carolina offers world-class artistry and operas with universally compelling themes, getting people to the shows Uptown can be logistically challenging.  Parking is hard to find and expensive, especially for older patrons or those traveling from south Charlotte and

Meena’s staff thought creatively three years ago to improve patron experience by running shuttle services to deliver patrons to the show.  A short Uptown shuttle helps patrons skip the six-block walk from a remote lot for $5 per person; another brings south Charlotte patrons Uptown from a park-and-ride location in SouthPark for $10 per person.

“It takes away the stress of parking and driving Uptown… honestly it’s been wonderful,” said Shirley Fleetwood, Foxcroft resident and longtime Opera Carolina subscriber.  “It is very nice to be delivered and picked up after a lovely and very enjoyable evening.”

More information on Opera Carolina’s shuttle services is available at www.operac arolina.org/events.  Pre-registration for the shuttles is required by calling 704-332-7177, ext. 207.

Performances will be 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 22; 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27; and 2 p.m. on March 30, a Sunday.  The performance will be in German with English subtitles and will last approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Find more information at www.operacarolina.org.


Maestro Meena, south Charlottean

“Even on a bad day with a long commute, living in South charlotte is great,” said Meena, who moved to the Arboretum area with his family in 2000.

Both Meena and his wife were working long hours while living in Cleveland, Ohio.  The general director and principle conductor of the Toledo Opera, Meena also conducted for the region’s ballet and symphony.

“Balancing two careers is never easy and trying to raise two kids was difficult,” he said.

When the Opera Carolina job became available, the family researched the position and the area. Meena got the job, and they made the move.  For the first time they enjoyed working and living in the same city.  They have enjoyed watching south Charlotte blossom.

“This is the longest we’ve lived anywhere,” he said.  Meena enjoys listening to cicadas on his porch when not immersed in great music.


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