Delaware Valley Opera Company brings Italian opera to Roxborough

If the onslaught of incessant holiday music is already too much for you, the Delaware Valley Opera Company (DVOC) may have an alternative for you this Saturday. 

The DVOC will be returning to the neighborhood for its “Viva Italia!” dinner concert at 7 p.m. in the banquet room at Keenan’s Valley View Inn in Roxborough.

The evening of Italian arias represents all four voices (soprano, mezzo, tenor, and bass), and features works by most of the major composers in Italian opera.

“It’s a very intimate setting, more like opera in cabaret,” said Elizabeth Oliver, soprano and DVOC board member. She and her husband Tim Oliver, also a board member, organized the concert.

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Ticketholders can expect to hear selections from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale,” Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur,” Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” and Verdi’s “Don Carlos.” Pianist and voice coach Laurie Carlos will accompany the singers.

DVOC was founded 32 years ago, in 1979, and was housed for most of that time in Roxborough’s Hermitage Mansion, located in Fairmount Park. In 2008 the City of Philadelphia told the company it could no longer use the property, resulting in a search for a new home.

After a two-year stint at Roxborough High School, the company found itself adrift again in 2010, and was consequently unable to perform its usual three-opera summer season that year. Then, a company member heard about the construction of the Salvation Army’s new $72 million dollar Kroc Community Center, complete with a two-story worship and performing arts center.

“We went from being a wandering gypsy opera company for two years, where we didn’t have our own stage, to finding a new home at the Kroc,” said Oliver.

“It was wonderful, and we could use supertitles, which are projections of English translations of the libretto on the wall above the singers, so we could sing in the original language and the audience could still understand,” she added.

Oliver, who has been with DVOC since 1998, credits the vision of founding member Sandy Day with DVOC’s continued success in bringing opera to the local community.

“One of Sandy’s goals in setting up the company was to make sure opera is accessible and affordable,” she said. “Ticket prices haven’t gone up in the entire time I’ve been with the company.”

Having enjoyed strong community support for so long in Roxborough, the company has been pleasantly surprised to find that it has attracted new audiences at the Kroc Center. Another distinct advantage, Oliver noted, is the ability to perform the summer season indoors in air conditioning.

When based at the Hermitage Mansion, the summer performances took place outside in the park, which resulted in some rather extreme challenges for costumed performers in July and August temperatures, particularly when operas required winter settings. Performing “La Boheme,” for example, which is set at Christmas time, was an exercise in creative imagination. “In August or July we’d be outside in hats and coats saying lines about how cold it was,” she remembered.

After this weekend’s concert, it will be back to the Kroc Center for a Dec. 17 holiday performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” Oliver, who performed the role of the boy Amahl for many years, has passed that torch on and said this year’s Amahl will be performed by an 11-year-old girl.

Vocal artists performing with DVOC do so for many different reasons, according to Oliver. “For some singers it’s an opportunity to try a new role, and for younger singers it’s resume-building and a chance to sing the music.”

“We get some really good voices – every year there are new people auditioning,” Oliver said. “They just want to sing.”

Tickets for Saturday’s “Viva Italia” are $40 and include a four-course dinner, the concert, and non-alcoholic beverages. For more information or to RSVP, call 215-725-4171. Tickets for “Amahl and the Night Visitors” are $15 and reservations can be made at 215-558-1490.

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