Modesto’s Townsend Opera has received a big boost in its effort to reach new audiences in the form of a $200,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation.
The grant will support work over the next two seasons in engaging new audiences through participatory creative programs, according to Matthew Buckman, the opera’s general director.
The grant was awarded jointly to Townsend Opera and Fresno Grand Opera, which combined administrative and artistic forces in 2014.
Audiences got a taste of the company’s innovative programming last month with the first installment of “Opera Remix,” a program that combined traditional opera arias and classic rock tunes.
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The next event in the series is Oct. 17 at the State Theatre in Modesto. Titled “Opera Remix: Music & Verse,” it will present the central San Joaquin Valley premiere of Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg’s “Hydrogen Jukebox” along with performances of original work by local poets including former Modesto Poet Laureate Sam Pierstorff.
The event is a partnership in a new collaboration between Townsend Opera; California State University, Stanislaus; and the Modesto poetry community.
Townsend launched its Opera Remix Initiative in Modesto four years ago to attract audiences unfamiliar with opera. Buckman said in an email Tuesday that “it has been successful in engaging a different audience for the company.”
In addition to “Opera Remix,” the Irvine grant will support ongoing work between regional poets and composers; workshops by leading composers and librettists from around the country; presentations by leading figures surrounding the operas being performed in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons; and several performance events in the 2016-17 season focusing on the work created by local poets and composers, according to Buckman.