021920_MNS_Opera_Discoveries Sasha Cooke Kelly Markgraf

From left, Sasha Cooke and Kelly Markgraf act out a scene in the Atlanta Opera’s “As One.”

With performances not allowed at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Atlanta Opera is taking its show under the big top to allow for social distancing.

The opera Sept. 1 announced it will hold two of its first six reimagined 2020-21 season performances under a giant tent at Oglethorpe University’s historic Anderson Field in Hermance Stadium in Brookhaven.

Branded as the Big Tent Series, it will include six productions with nine performances, alternating nightly, for a total of 18 starting in October. The remaining four productions will be under the same tent but at two different locations to be announced, with two in early spring and two in late spring.

Due to the outbreak, the company has postponed the previously announced 2020-21 season, including the 2020 Puccini Festival, in its entirety to 2021-22.

“I believe that crisis reveals character and provides opportunities for change,” Tomer Zvulun, the opera’s general and artistic director, said in a news release. “This pandemic has devastated so many lives and businesses. But it has also been a major catalyst in accelerating our shift to a business model that we have been discussing for years: creating a company of players, performing in non-traditional spaces and developing our video and streaming capabilities.”

The Big Tent Series includes:

“Pagliacci” (Oct 22, 24, 28 and 30 and Nov 1, 5, 7, 11 and 13, all at 7:30 p.m.): With music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo, it will be directed by Zvulun and conducted by Rolando Salazar. “The circus performers in ‘Pagliacci’ grapple with tragedy and question boldly whether they must perform despite heartbreak and ruin,” the opera’s website states.

“The Kaiser of Atlantis” (Oct 23, 25, 29 and 31 and Nov 4, 6, 8, 12 and 14, all at 7:30 p.m.): With music by Viktor Ullmann and libretto by Peter Kien, it was initially written while they were imprisoned at Theresienstadt during World War II. Recognizing it as a satire on Adolf Hitler, Nazi authorities prohibited performances and the manuscript, and they were shelved until 1975. “The circus is abandoned, and artists are shells of their former selves. The dictator Emperor Overall reigns and declares total war. Death refuses to take another soul,” the opera’s website states.

The remaining four productions will be announced at a later date.

Inside the tent, audience members will be seated in physically distanced circle pods large enough to accommodate up to four seats. Premium pods include four seats and a table while chair pods include four seats.

To protect the health and safety of all, each production relies on small casts and reduced orchestrations – usually fewer than eight singers and a dozen orchestra members – and none run longer than two hours. To help enforce social distancing before and during productions, audiences will have staggered entry times, and there will be no intermissions.

Customer interactions will be touchless and masks will be required of audience members at all times. Safety protocols and procedures were developed by a health and safety advisory task force of epidemiologists, public health specialists and doctors assembled to advise the company on its health and safety protocols.

Tickets for the fall productions will go on sale Sept. 9 at 10 a.m., and can be purchased by visiting atlantaopera.org or by calling 404-881-8885. Circle pod pricing includes seating for up to four individuals, with ticket prices starting at $149 per pod. Availability is limited due to capacity constraints and social distancing requirements.

The opera has also announced that all six productions will be captured digitally with intent to create and share films of the performances with broader audiences. Digital subscriptions that include all six productions and exclusive behind-the-scenes content will be available for $99 for the year ($50 for current opera subscribers).

For more information, visit atlantaopera.org.

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