Founded in 1981, the Nashville Opera has become the largest opera company in Tennessee and continues to grow, now staging four productions a year. John Hoomes, the general artistic director and stage director of the Nashville Opera, spoke with O&AN about the company and its upcoming season.
Hoomes grew up in the Florida panhandle and graduated from Indiana University. He worked in major metropolises such as New York and Philadelphia before working his way down south. Hoomes was working in Louisville when the position for the Nashville Opera opened up. The rest is history: he has served the Nashville Opera for 20 years now. Hoomes says that he loves living in Nashville because of the city’s great support for the arts.
Hoomes selects the productions for the Opera, and oversees everything from casting to costuming and lighting; his work is enormously important for the success of the company. He brings in singers from New York, Los Angeles, and sometimes Europe, and also selects singers from the cream of Nashville’s crop of classical vocalists. Most often, local singers fill chorus positions, which can number between twelve and sixty depending on the show.
Perhaps Hoomes’s most important task is programming the four central shows of the Opera’s annual season. For major performances, he says that he picks shows that are guaranteed to please audiences, such as Carmen or Aida. Throughout the year, however, he does pick edgier shows.
This year, Hoomes has chosen La Bohème as the fall centerpiece. Composed by Giacomo Puccini, La Bohème is about six young, poor artists in Paris. (The popular musical Rent is loosely based on this opera.) Hoomes says that he chose this show particularly because of its accessibility. Since it is one of the most famous operas, he said, “If someone hasn’t been to an opera, it is a great piece to start with because it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s sad and the music is fantastic.” Hoomes described it as the operatic equivalent of the television show, Friends.
La Bohème and most of the Opera’s major shows are staged at TPAC. However, smaller shows are performed in the Noah Liff Opera Center, the home of the Nashville Opera. This year in December, Romulus Hunt: A Family Opera will be performed there. The performance is notable in that it was composed by singer-songwriter Carly Simon, who will be in Nashville for the performance.
In January, a Spanish opera by Mexican composer Daniel Catán, Florencia en el Amazonas, will be performed in the Jackson Polk Theatre at TPAC. Hoomes describes this show, which has never before been staged in Nashville, as very romantic and lush. In April, the season will conclude with Gilbert and Sullivan’s iconic show, The Pirates of Penzance. In this comic opera, the audience will follow pirates on unforgettable adventures in wordplay, more than swordplay, on the high seas. The phenomenal music is an unforgettable treat.
Hoomes is eager for the Nashville Opera to connect with the LGBT community. He says that in all the companies he worked with previously, he has felt a huge sense of support from and opera attendance by the LGBT community. In Nashville, he does not feel that this relationship has been well developed, and he is serious about building more bridges with our community. His belief that the LGBT communities have a natural connection with opera is driving Nashville Opera’s outreach efforts in those regards.
For more information about this year’s season, and how you can support Nashville’s fine arts through the Nashville Opera, visit http://www.nashvilleballet.com/