The Liebeslieder Project debuted at the AllWays Lounge & Theatre Thursday and runs again tonight. The program includes a 25-minute presentation of Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes with four soloists (singing in German) and four dancers. It's followed by members of the 9th Ward Opera singing traditional Christmas carols and then caroling with the audience welcome to join in.
The Liebeslieder portion was an impressive collaboration, and the young singers of the 9th Ward Opera were particularly sharp and poised. Maritza Mercado-Narcisse choreographed and danced along with Donna Crump, J. Hammons and Eric Thileman.
It's the second presentation by the 9th Ward Opera, which was started by Kathleen Westfall, who is an adjunct professor at UNO and offers voice lessons. She's a graduate of UNO, when it had more offerings in music, and she went on to sing with small opera companies in New York City.
Her interest in the 9th Ward Opera (she chose the name because she lives in the Musicians Village), was to give young singers a chance to perform and to promote opera.
"The New Orleans Opera Association does fabulous large productions," she says. "I want to do lighter and shorter stuff, like the Gilbert and Sullivan piece we did this summer."
"In general, opera needs to do something to stay alive, to be attractive to younger audiences," she says. "It has so much power, so much emotion. The power of opera singing should appeal to everyone if put in the right context."
She and Dave Hurlbert, founder of the Marigny Opera House and a classical pianist, wanted to do The Liebeslieder Project. Westfall suggested adding dance as a visual component that would make the piece more interesting.
Westfall was awarded a grant by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation to produce more operas in summer 2013. She expects to produce Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge, An Embarrassing Position by Xavier University's Dan Shore and possibly George Gershwin's one-act opera Blue Monday.