UNO Documentary: The New Orleans Opera

Editor’s Note: We all know that New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz music, but did you know that the city also has a rich operatic legacy? Filmmaker Madison Campbell explores the inner workings of New Orleans Opera, interviewing chorus master Carol Rausch to unearth the often overshadowed roots of opera in New Orleans.
What: New Orleans Opera
Film by: UNO student and documentarian Madison Campbell
Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöppairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. This documentary short was made by Madison Campbell, a student in the Film and Theatre Department at the University of New Orleans, about New Orleans Opera.
|Read the full transcript of the interview below|


[Full transcription of Carol Rausch]I’m Carol Rausch and I’m the chorus master and music administrator at New Orleans Opera and I’ve been there believe it or not since the fall of 1994, so 25 years.Principal singers are brought in from the outside, usually New York. Some are based in Canada or Europe or Mexico and they’re brought in, but the chorus is based here. It’s singers from here. Many are musicians, but they are from all walks of life. Y’know, dentists and teachers, and, y’know, physical therapists and all kinds of things. I recruit them and then they meet with me on a regular basis to learn the music and the key thing is it has to be memorized because when you go into staging you’re not on book. You have to have that music up here and be able to bring a theatricality to it, so that’s what takes a fair amount of time just to get it memorized.

So the chorus master is maintaining that roster, that base of local people. I hold auditions every year to kind of shake the bushes and see who else is out there. I often have people contact me that move here from another city and they may have done opera chorus elsewhere or they’re maybe just out of their own formal music training and and moving here and so there’s a good pool of people here. And we draw heavily of course on the universities.

The iconic French Opera House was built in 1859. It burned to the ground 100 years ago, December 4th 1919. Mahalia became our home although it wasn’t called that at the time in the early 70s and we’ve remained there ever since. Our stationery says “America’s First City of Opera.” It’s truly the place where the first documented attendance at opera was cited and that was way back in 1796 and that’s truly because of the French Creole presence. Europeans that moved here were used to opera going and continue the tradition here.

There’s a huge legacy here and I feel like people don’t know enough about it. People know this is the birthplace of jazz, but do they know that there’s such a fantastic operatic legacy here? Not everybody knows. That’s part of the reason for Opera on Tap.

Opera on Tap was started in New York in 2005 and there was a group of, I think,

three young singers. They finished their music degrees at conservatory or

university, went to the Big Apple, ready to hit the big time, and then discovered how difficult it is. A life of auditions and a lot of competition and while they were waiting to become famous, they started Opera on tap sort of as a showcase for themselves. And they chose a place in Brooklyn called Freddie’s Bar. I’m going to invite everybody to come out and see Opera on Tap.

Again we are, to my knowledge, the only one of the Opera on Tap chapters, and they’re all over the United States, now we were the first franchise but they’re all over the United States now and there are international chapters. I think we’re the only one affiliated with an opera company. So we’re always going to be talking about the operatic events that are going on in our community and I think you’re gonna hear some exciting young talent, and just come out. It’s free, it’s fun, what’s not to like?



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