Pandemic, schmandemic. For Stillwater's Operatunity Theatre, the show must go on.
In this case, the show is the second annual "Opera on the River," slated for 2 p.m. Aug. 2 (a change from the original date to the weather forecast). As with most local ensembles, the pandemic is proving a massive challenge to public performances. So instead of last year's venue, Lowell Park, the troupe will head to the hills, specifically a mansion overlooking the town of Stillwater. The performers will spread out over the estate's back yard, with the audience soaking in the sounds at sundry outdoor venues below.
Watch live at 2 p.m. Sunday below:
"I've coined it the 'Covid pivot,'" said Obed Floan, Operatunity's president and executive director.
Because of the need for safety measures for all hands, he said, "We encountered roadblock after roadblock, and finally an incredible property overlooking all of Stillwater opened up."
The musicians will occupy a deck near a swimming pool, with proper social distancing although the clarinet and flute players "need to be double the distance, because there's spray," Floan said.
The players and patrons will not be able to see one another, so Floan & Co. are setting up speakers "so people down on the streets can get dinner at outdoor patios and hear us."
Stillwater has a plethora of restaurant patios, including Water Street Inn rooftop deck. Another option is to grab picnic items at the River Market or ice cream from Leo's Malt Shop and set up at the site of last year's show, Lowell Park.
"Bring binoculars, and from Lowell Park you can see some of the pieces," Floan said.
What the audience will hear will be a mix of opera and theater pieces, said one of the singers, tenor Jack Swanson.
"The first part will be pieces that people might know," he said. "The second half we get into a variety of musical theater hits that people may or may not know, something that might stretch them, get them to say, 'Oh, I want to look into that.' There's a Sound of Music medley in there.
"Our goal is to introduce the community to what opera is, but also [appeal to people] who know the ins and outs of it. This is what we did last year, and we found that people appreciated it."
Clark Weyrauch will serve as emcee for "Opera on the 'Virtual' River," often dispensing a synopsis of the upcoming song. He'll be joined on stage by Swanson and three other singers, soprano Katherine Henly, mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams and baritone John Moore.
Not only will they be dealing with unusual interaction among themselves, having to spread out, but they won't be able to see or interact with the audience.
Instead, Swanson said, "We will be performing as if there's an audience there. We'll have to play to whichever camera we think is rolling."
The cameras are there so that the event can be live-streamed. (For more info, see below.) Those watching at home, of course, will have an entirely different perspective, decidedly more up-close and personal.
"We would like to encourage people to push the live-stream to their televisions so they are not tethered to their computer screens," Floan said.
He also is strongly recommending that those taking in the festivities in Stillwater bring masks and follow pandemic protocols.
Major challenges are part and parcel of being a small nonprofit outfit such as Operatunity Theatre. That certainly is the pattern so far with "Opera on the River." At last year's inaugural event, a heavy downpour which had not been forecast fell during the concert's first 15 minutes. After the skies cleared, the crowd grew to about 750, still far short of the projected 2,000.
Perhaps that made Floan and Swanson even more determined to make this year's show a go, through hell or high pandemic numbers.
"The city has really gotten behind it," Floan said, "and we wanted the momentum to keep moving, so we decided to do whatever we had to to make this happen."
If all goes well, will the recital include an encore, given that the performers will be without the benefit of an audience reaction?
"I wouldn't say we programmed an encore," Swanson said with a chuckle. "But maybe we'll hear some horns from the boats down on the river."
Watch the live-stream of "Opera on the River" right here, using the video player above, at 2 p.m. central Sunday.
The Operatunity Theatre website has detailed information about the event and program, and a registration form for email announcements.