New Annapolis Opera GM making plans to help company grow

  • Jennifer Fletcher, general manager of the Annapolis Opera Co.
Jennifer Fletcher, general manager of the Annapolis Opera… (Bud Johnson, Special to…)
February 04, 2011|By Mary Johnson, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Annapolis Opera began its 38th season by hiring its first general manager, Jennifer Fletcher, who at 37 is nearly the same age as the company itself. Since Fletcher's arrival in September, the first full-time Annapolis Opera employee has been involved in helping the company grow.

"We're excited with the new ideas [Fletcher's] bringing and look forward to the possibility of having two major productions instead of a single one in time for our 40th anniversary season — a goal that will depend on Jennifer's success at fundraising," said President Leah Solat.

A former mezzo-soprano with a master's degree in vocal performance from Boston's New England Conservatory, Fletcher focused on opera administration in North Carolina and Texas, working in development, production, marketing and education programming. As company manager of the Fort Worth Opera, she gained insight into an opera company's inner workings.

In November, Annapolis Opera joined Opera America, a national service organization made up of 155 professional opera companies, which provides access to resources and grant money to help grow audiences.

Coming events include:

•An engagement party to precede the March production of Mozart's comic opera "The Marriage of Figaro." Fletcher recently announced a "Valentine's week Figaro and Susanna engagement party to be hosted by Count and Countess Almaviva" from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Wild Orchid restaurant. Cost is $15 per person for hors d'oeuvres, and there will be a cash bar. Information: 410-267-8135.

•Two fully staged performances of "The Marriage of Figaro." Shows will be at 8 p.m. March 11 and 3 p.m. March 13 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Annapolis Opera music director Ronald Gretz will conduct, and featured singers include Colleen Daly as Countess Almaviva, Jerett Gieseler as Count Almaviva, Ryan Kuster as Figaro, Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez as Susanna and Stephanos Tsirakoglou as Dr. Bartolo. Tickets are $25 (for students) to $85 and can be ordered at 410-280-5640. Information: 410-267-8135 or http://www.AnnapolisOpera.org.

•The 23rd annual Vocal Competition Finals. The contest starts at 2 p.m. April 10 at Maryland Hall. Eight finalists will be awarded prizes. Free to the public.

Fletcher's ideas for next season include "reformatting the structure of the program of three concerts and children's opera, vocal competition and main stage production. Next season we won't be presenting a holiday concert. We'll offer a fall concert and early spring vocal competition, where we will not only invite the public to the finals but will allow them to attend the earlier competition as well. A recital will also be included to feature the previous season's winner."

There will be a children's opera in March, and a lighter concert in the spring. "This arrangement lends itself to expanding our education and outreach programs and enables us to collaborate with other arts organizations," Fletcher said.

"Annapolis Opera does a wonderful job producing high-quality, professional opera given its budgetary limitations," she said. The general manager's goal: "In 18 months to make this boating capital a cultural capital as well."

Surprised at how little audience crossover exists between Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington opera fans, Fletcher hopes to build a relationship with the new Lyric Opera Baltimore. Its season opener — "La Traviata" Nov. 4 and 6 — will feature Annapolis resident and Metropolitan Opera baritone Jason Stearns as Germont.

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