Opera companies may be struggling financially, but that isn't stopping one music festival from its debut at the Hempstead House in this season.
The concludes its series this weekend with "Pagliacci" (rescheduled because of Hurricane Irene) on Saturday at 7 p.m. and "Don Pasquale" on Sunday at 6 p.m. The festival opened its series with a performance of "Tosca" on Aug. 13.
Executive director Daniel Klein wasn’t sure how big an audience the festival would draw, especially in this economy. Still, the first performance sold out. The next two performances have so far sold more than 140 and 130 tickets, respectively.
“We’re so excited,” Klein said. “The community has embraced us.”
At a time when questions linger about the future of such institutions as the New York City Opera, which in May announced it was leaving Lincoln Center, Klein remains enthusiastic about the festival and its future.
That’s good news for performers and audiences alike.
“Singers need to sing,” he said. “Musicians need to make music.”
At $75 a ticket, this opera setting is a bit different than the traditional theatre. It's situated in the Hempstead House’s Palm Court. Audience members enjoy dinner, wine and dessert.
Klein wants the experience to be somewhat out of the ordinary.
“We’re knocking down the walls,” he said, about the forum. With this festival, he mentioned, “music is something you do as opposed to sit and listen.”
As with many auspicious starts, the program was founded on relationships, albeit coupled with talent and a whole lot of musical training.
As Klein tells it, his pre-K teacher at St. Aloysius in Great Neck was none other than philanthropist Amy Hagedorn, whose daughter Karli now chairs the
Having stayed in touch all these years, Amy Hagedorn recently introduced Klein to Jean-Marie Posner, the vice-chair of the Friends.
Klein took it from there. “I brought her a proposal to perform three concerts,” Klein said, of Posner. “She generously and heroically said yes.”
“This initiative started in 2010 with an idea that Dan Klein would gather a couple of his friends together for an informal concert on a summer Sunday afternoon on the lawn behind Hempstead House,” Posner said. “I trusted his passion and knowledge of opera, and relied on his credentials and professional associations.”
The credentials are apparent, as audiences discovered at the performance of "Tosca," or as posted on the festival's website. Many of the performers have worked together in the past, Klein said.
Of course, when presenting a proposal, it helps to make a favorable impression, a feat Klien accomplished.
"Dan sang most of the proposal, and the summer opera series was launched," Posner said.
"Although it was not performed on the back lawn at Hempstead House as originally intended, we constructed a special stage in the interior Palm Count to create a unique performance venue that featured the natural acoustical qualities of the mansion," Posner added. "It all sounds terrific. We see a great future of collaborations."
Klein shares that sentiment. He and his team are already talking about “The Marriage of Figaro.” Or perhaps the play "Amadeus."
“Wouldn’t that be great here?” Klein asked. “Real music.”
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