Mia Riker-Norrie took a look around recently and decided to do something she had been dreaming of for a very long time: start a local opera company. When announcing her plans this morning, she explained, a bit tongue-in-cheek, “We have a bad economy. What’s the most logical thing to do about it? Start an opera company!”
Baristanet caught up with the ebullient Riker Norrie to get all the details about the exciting new addition to the Montclair arts scene.
An established performer with many small Manhattan-based opera companies, Riker-Norrie will serve as the General Director of Opera Theatre of Montclair. She teaches voice in a studio in her Montclair home, where she’s lived for two decades with her husband, attorney David Norrie, and their three children. Active in school and music programs, she is a former Edgemont School PTA President, and for five years has handled music direction for the spring musical in the Edgemont Afterschool Enrichment Program.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own company, and feel like now is the time. Everything seems to be coming together. There’s a lot of support in the community — and why wait, there’s never going to be a perfect time.”
Though she’s assembled a core group of members, and has plans to present Giuseppe Verdi’s “Nabucco” in the fall, her first order of business is fundraising. And she’ll begin closest to her heart – at home. “I have a big old Victorian, and I love food, entertaining and parties, so why not have a party here to get the ball rolling?” The Opera Theatre of Montclair will hold its Inaugural Fundraising Event there on Saturday, January 26. The Fundraiser Concert-Opera Party will feature a cocktail hour, concert and dessert reception. To encourage local residents to see what opera theater is all about, the minimum suggested donation is only $25 per person.
In addition to Riker-Norrie, who is a soprano, other local performers will include Verona resident Zachary Hatcher, a harpist; pianist Rebecca Eng, from West Orange; and Violetta Norrie, Riker-Norrie’s 16 year old daughter, who is a professional harpist. Joining them will be baritone Alan Smulen, and tenors Maurizio Casa and Angel Feliciano.
“A very bare bones opera theater production is about $10,000,” she explains, “So we have to do enough fundraising to at least get to that point and well beyond. I’d like to book a fundraising concert/party every month. We have such vast resources here in Montclair, and so many generous people with extraordinary homes, who are interested in supporting the arts. I’m hoping people will open their homes to host a fundraising party. It can be anything from simple to fancy (think ‘Masked Opera Ball’).”
As for a performance space, “I’ve looked at a number of venues, in terms of affordability and being able to work together. It has to be feasible for a small arts group. Of course I would love to use a Montclair space but that might be out of reach financially.” Her dream is that a local building owner will be interested in offering an affordable rent or perhaps even donate the space for their first production. “The Metropolitan Opera can put on a spectacle but this will be a more intimate experience. When I sang with Amato Opera in New York, there were only 105 seats, which made for a great sense of immediacy, engaging the audience.”
Riker-Norrie fell in love with Montclair when she began voice lessons with a local resident, the late Walter Blazer; she hopes the venture will be a worthy addition to all of the wonderful arts already in place, and attract local artists. “I will welcome artists from anywhere, but I’d really love it to be an outlet for New Jersey singers, for Montclair singers. I want to help young singers to develop, and welcome older singers, who have studied their whole lives to do this work but can’t find anywhere to perform.”
She also envisions collaborative efforts with other community arts organizations, schools and individuals. “We could do something with the high school, we could use help from technical people; I’m hoping there will be a lot of opportunities.”
Opera Theatre of Montclair is part of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization. Donations can be made online via Fractured Atlas; funds are then deposited directly into the Theatre’s account.
Anyone interested in tickets for the Jan. 26 event, or in otherwise helping get the Opera Theatre of Montclair off the ground, is invited to contact Mia Riker-Norrie via email at montclairdiva at gmail dot com or call 973-202-7849.