All for One
By Jennifer Leigh
Since its debut in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, “As One,” has quickly become one of the most-produced modern operas in the country.
On Friday, Nov. 1, the powerful chamber opera will make its Florida debut with Pensacola Opera.
“It’s had 35 unique productions from 35 other opera companies,” said Jerry Shannon, Pensacola Opera’s artistic director. “We’re glad we got it before anyone else did.”
“As One” is a coming of age story about gender identity and navigating a complex world. Singers Elise Quagliata and Robert Wesley Mason narrate the film as Hannah After and Hannah Before, respectively. While many opera productions are grandiose, “As One” is a stripped-down piece with just the singers, a string quartet and a projection screen.
“It’s a much smaller piece, but it provides the same powerful impact of any opera,” said Shannon.
The opera was written by Kimberly Reed and Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Campbell. Without an elaborate set design or costumes, “As One” allows the audience—limited to just 100 people—to soak up the music.
“There’s nothing more powerful that musical storytelling,” said Shannon. “We all listen to music … those songs are three-minute operas telling a story. It’s the power of the human voice. It’s an instrument we all carry with us.”
The opera is loosely based on Reed’s documentary “Prodigal Sons,” about a transgender woman reintroducing herself to her small Montana town during her 20-year reunion. Through a partnership with Stamped LGBT Film Festival, the documentary will be shown before the opera for free.
Pensacola Opera board and staff saw a production of “As One” in New Orleans three years ago and had been planning since then to bring it home. Funding from a Sunday’s Child grant and a personal gift from an opera donor made it possible.
“We’re so grateful they saw what we had seen,” Shannon said. “The muses smiled on us that day.”
When planning the production, Shannon said it was no coincidence that it would be debuted during Transgender Awareness Month. For weeks leading up to the show, Pensacola Opera has hosted community discussions covering topics such as religion and health and wellness as it relates to the trans community. After the show closes, there will be one more discussion to discuss the opera and how people can move forward in advocacy.
“A majority of the opera audience are lifelong learners,” said Shannon. “We’ve had some very honest discussions. I saw that these people are thirsty—they’re ready to learn. Through that knowledge, we can become more aware and empathetic.”
“As One” might be a smaller piece with a limited showing, but its impact should remain large.
“It’s a unique experience,” Shannon said. “Operas are typically big and grand—this is the antithesis. It’s a much more immersive, emotional experience. The room is going to be filled with talent and art.”
WHAT: A multi-media double feature, including a film screening and live opera
WHEN: 8 p.m. (“Prodigal Sons” showing at 6 p.m.) Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2; and 5 p.m. (“Prodigal Sons” showing at 3 p.m.) Sunday, Nov. 3.
WHERE: Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.
AS ONE WRAP UP DISCUSSION
WHEN: 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5
WHERE: Pensacola Opera, 75 Tarragona St.