Soprano Brenda Rae wants opera novices to know that the art form isn't just "braids, breastplates and horns."
"There’s so much more to opera than that, and you just have to come with an open mind because opera can really surprise people. It really has a way of touching people,” Rae said. “I think most people who say they don’t like opera haven’t really gotten to experience it."
Opera in the Park on Saturday is a chance for locals to take in such a performance for free. The annual show at Garner Park, 333 S. Rosa Road, features music from Madison Opera’s upcoming 2018/19 season of "Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci," "A Little Night Music" and "Rusalka." Additional music from "La Sonnambula," "Candide," "La Bohème," "The Marriage of Figaro" and "My Fair Lady" will also be part of the performance.
The event brings Rae back to Madison, where she earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin, and first learned to love opera.
“I started seeing classical music in high school, but I didn’t get bitten by the bug until my teachers in Madison gave me this opera scene to work on," Rae said. "I became really obsessed with it. Something about the music really touched my heart."
After she finished her time at UW-Madison, Rae went graduate school at the Julliard School and received her artist diploma. She began her career in New York, but has performed all over the world and now lives in Frankfurt, Germany.
“When I had a year left in New York, a general manager for a company in Frankfurt, Germany, came to New York, and was listening for singers for an audition. He offered me a full-time position starting the fall of 2008,” Rae said.
Rae will be joined at Opera in the Park by fellow soprano Elizabeth Caballero, tenor John Lindsey, baritone Levi Hernandez, the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The show is conducted by Gary Thor Wedow.
“It’s a great tradition. It’s a great way to get new audiences for the opera, because it’s free, very casual and people can just come and enjoy the music. I think it’s a wonderful way to experience opera,” Rae said.
People are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, food and beverages. The show is expected to last two hours with an intermission.
Opera in the Park offers something new for Rae, as this is the first time she will sing with a microphone. In a hall, the acoustics allow performers' voices to project and one voice can be heard over an orchestra. Rae and the other performers will be using head-set microphones.
“I hope the audience can still get an idea of how powerful an operatic voice is,” Rae said.
Rae said having a show outside brings in an audience that isn't a traditional opera audience.
“People can come and not feel like they have to be sitting in a seat for three hours. Some people think, ‘Opera’s too long, I’m not sure I could handle it.’ This will be a good way to see if they're interested in it and still be comfortable,” she said.
Rae also believes that when people experience opera for the first time, they grow a greater appreciation for it.
In the event of bad weather, a rain date is set for Sunday at 8 p.m., also at Garner Park.