MANSFIELD— As 2019 comes to a close, so does one of Mid-Ohio Opera’s most successful seasons since it formed in 2014. To keep the momentum going into 2020, the non-profit organization will present three different works around the region for a total of six performances.
On a mission to bring locally-produced opera and classical voice to the Mid-Ohio area, founder Joel Vega is just as passionate about performing music as he is being able to deliver it to his community. Mansfield natives, Vega and his wife, Heidi Kirschenheiter Vega, are both professional opera singers who have performed all over the U.S.
When it was time to raise their son, they wanted to be near family, and moved back home. As they began singing locally in their parish, Mansfield St. Peter’s, with other area churches, and with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra, to name a few, they saw a need for more classical music in the area.
Knowing it could positively impact the community, Vega formed a 501(c)(3) in hopes of making Mid-Ohio Opera a permanent part of the area’s revitalization efforts.
Offering a variety of performances—from staged operas to concert versions and sing-alongs — Mid-Ohio Opera also patronizes a variety of local (and regional, when schedules permit) businesses, stages, parks, churches, coffee houses and breweries for its performances. This makes the art form accessible to all, Vega said, which is important to him and to the artists he hires.
“Classical arts performance is a leading contributor — directly and indirectly — to local economies. We want our audiences to fall in love with opera, of course, but we also want our audiences and soloists to fall in love with what our area has to offer.”
So far so good — last year’s second annual Messiah sing-along drew a crowd of over 400 to First United Methodist on the Square in downtown Mansfield, and this past summer’s performance of Bizet’s Carmen on the lawn at Kingwood Gardens drew a similar-sized crowd. Many of the artists who have performed for Mid-Ohio Opera have since grown their career and, many of those same artists continue to lend their talent to Mid-Ohio Opera productions because they love coming to Mansfield.
Hopera!, an intimate concert featuring a couple of arias amidst a casual setting, began at The Phoenix Brewing Company and has since expanded to Uniontown Brewery in Ashland. This year, the popular event will debut at BrewDog in Canal Winchester — the first U.S. location for the Scottish brewery — and the first Hopera! in Columbus.
“We love opera and we love craft beer. It is a great way to have fun and expose new audiences to our craft,” Vega said.
Mid-Ohio Opera’s newest partner and venue for its newest production, The Mansfield Playhouse, will host Mid-Ohio Opera’s debut of Bluebeard’s Castle. This one-act tale of psychological suspense and secrets by Hungarian Composer Béla Bartók, will be performed in concert by Bass, Andrew Potter, Mezzo Soprano, Renée Rapier and pianist Eric Trudel.
All are world-traveling professionals appearing courtesy of Uzan Artists International, NYC, Vega added.
“We are thrilled to be working with the Playhouse,” Vega said. “Mansfield has a lot of great performance spaces and we’re so grateful to have support from local donors and The Richland County Foundation, which helps us give our artists and audiences a chance to sample what Mansfield has to offer.
Tickets for Bluebeard’s Castle at the Mansfield Playhouse event are $15 and are available at this link.
In addition, Bluebeard’s Castle will be performed in Wooster and in Cleveland and, like the other Mid-Ohio Opera performances this winter, are on a “pay as you like” plan. Vega said they try to keep costs down for audiences so that people who wouldn’t ordinarily like opera, have the opportunity to experience it. Once they love what they hear, tax-exempt donations are gladly accepted, and help the organization expand its repertoire.
For more information, follow Mid-Ohio Opera on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or send an email to email@example.com.
Messiah Sing-Along, Mansfield: 7 p.m., Dec. 27, First United Methodist, On the Square
o Columbus: 6 p.m., Dec. 29, Brewdog Brewery, Canal Winchester;
o Ashland: 6 p.m., Dec. 30, Uniontown Brewery, Ashland
o Mansfield: 7 p.m., Jan. 3, The Mansfield Playhouse (tickets are $15; buy online):
o Cleveland: 5 p.m., Jan. 4, St. Emeric Catholic Church;
o Wooster: 7 p.m., Jan. 5, Zion Lutheran Church.