Phoenix Metropolitan Opera was established last year by Gail Dubinbaum, a retired coloratura mezzo who once specialized in Mozart and Rossini at the Vienna State Opera and (New York) Metropolitan Opera, and her husband, conductor John Massaro.
"I have an enormous passion to bring opera of an international level here to Phoenix. I know the audience that exists here and the talent that exists here. And it is absolutely possible," Dubinbaum told The Business Journal of Phoenix last spring.
Not that the company will be following international trends in Regieoper. A telling sentence from the "About Us" page of the new company's website says that "the success of PMO will stem from presenting a consistent artistic vision: the promotion and performance of traditional operatic productions, drawn from a repertoire of popular works from the late 18th through early 20th centuries that continue to delight audiences throughout the world." [Emphasis added.]
"In Phoenix, we have a more conservative audience," Massaro told The Arizona Republic last week. "We won't be painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa but presenting basic opera the way people want to see it and hear it."
"Some people are fond of contemporary works, but that is not our intention," added Dubinbaum. "We want to bring an international cast and feel to opera in this city, something emotionally impactful and beautiful. I want to make it seem so alive and so riveting — and I think we've already done that."
The new Phoenix company is starting out at a manageable level, with a budget for this season of $300,000 and a largely volunteer staff, according to the Republic. The state's major opera company, the 35-year-old Arizona Opera (which performs in Phoenix every year but is based in Tucson), has 27 staff members and an annual budget of $6.6 million.
Arizona Opera executive director Debra Harrison is happy to see Phoenix Metropolitan Opera arrive on the scene. "All the big cities have two opera companies," she said to the Republic. "It can only enhance cultural life in Phoenix. There's lots of room, and I'd love to see more and more arts in Phoenix."
The newer company does have plans for growth. Next season PMO plans to double its budget and present two operas in December and January, the old favorites Aida and Tosca. Massaro's and Dubinbaum's hopes for the long term even extend to the building someday of a dedicated opera house.
Meanwhile, La Bohme — starring Rosemary Musoleno as MimÐ, Derek Taylor as Rodolfo, Lisanne Norman as Musetta and Jeffrey Buchman as Marcello, with Massaro on the podium and the staging directed by Carroll Freeman — takes the stage of the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix this evening and Sunday afternoon (Dec. 23). Information and tickets are available at www.phoenixmetropolitanopera.org.