This past week was tech week for Come Home, a concert at the Kennedy Center with the Washington National Opera. It’s a greatest hits kind of concert, as you can see from this set list posted backstage.
I have sung with this company since 1989 (!), from then through 1996 when it was Washington Opera, and again since 2018 as Washington National Opera. It has always felt like home to me, much more than any other company with which I’ve sung. I have always felt welcomed by the company, both by my fellow choristers and by administration.
Right before we opened, we were sent this email by WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello (who I first met when she took over as co-artistic director at Skylight Opera Theater right before I left Milwaukee the first time):
I want to welcome all of you back HOME. Thank you to the many staff and guests who make this organization run and who are preparing this event—welcome back! I am so grateful that so many folks are working in person and getting this return home event together.
The opera house was dark for nearly two years. It was a period when we needed the arts more than ever. I’m proud that, despite many challenges, the WNO family was able to continue to bring song and story to our community. And now we can be back in person!
In the upcoming event, I am thrilled we come HOME to our magnificent national monument to the performing arts.
Thank you for helping to create this special evening.
And welcome home.
Sometimes, HOME is where the ART is.
I have often heard the term, “Without art, earth is Eh.” (And seen the bumper sticker as well.)
When I thought about this play on the term home is where the heart is, I realized that
EARTH and HEART have the same letters, only with the H at the end of one and at the beginning of the other.
What Earth and Heart have in common besides the same letters in different order is you can’t have either one without Art. (If Earth without Art = Eh, then Heart without Art = He.)
In his 10/23/2021 blogpost, Seth Godin says that “Art …. exists to create a change,” and talks about how the intention behind a piece of art or an artform informs its impact.
- No intent: Can serve to entertain (positive) or reinforce stereotypes and maintain the status quo (not so positive)
- Selfish intent: Self-serving, manipulative, corrosive (negative)
- Generous intent: Powerful, inspires thought, inspires change
When we returned to our Kennedy Center home on Saturday night, we sang for an art-starved and enthusiastic audience. We entertained, but we also brought a light to them after twenty months of darkness, not just in terms of the house being dark, but a global darkness during which the prevailing sentiment was, pretty much, “eh.” (Earth without art…) You could say that the greatest hits programming was kind of maintaining the status quo – I would’ve liked some more contemporary repertoire that challenged the audience more – however, even if the music was mostly by old dead white men, the diversity of the performers definitely was a departure from years past.
We took art and live music for granted before the pandemic. (We took a lot of things for granted.) Hopefully, we won’t take it for granted again. At least not too soon.
Our home at the Kennedy Center, as well as our earthly home, is truly where the ART is. And I am grateful to be one of those makers of art – which doesn’t make me particularly special, because, as Seth Godin says:
[A]rt itself seems to want something, to make a change in the world. And the ability to create art like that belongs to each of us.Seth Godin, Art with Intent, 10/23/2021
The Washington Post’s new critic, Michael Andor Brodeaur, seemed to agree. And we had an equally enthusiastic audience again last night, and probably will for our two remaining performances on Wednesday and Sunday. If you’d like to be part of this return from the darkness, tickets are available here. Please note that you must be fully vaccinated and masked to attend events at the Kennedy Center.