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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: July 3, 2017

Get your intro to opera with ‘An American Dream’

Written by: Bob Keyes
Photos courtesy of Opera Maine

Photos courtesy of Opera Maine

Opera Maine is moving closer to achieving its goal of presenting an opera festival instead of opera performances.

The group, formerly known as PortOpera, will present concerts, open rehearsals and lectures, and will stage the new 60-minute opera “An American Dream” around the state throughout July, culminating with performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s classic opera “La Traviata” at Merrill Auditorium on July 26 and 28.

“We see ourselves as festival season,” said Opera Maine managing director Caroline Musica Koelker. “Having all these events in July leading up to ‘La Traviata’ seems to work well in drumming up interest in opera in general and the mainstage production in particular. We’re reaching out to lots of different communities with lots of different backgrounds, trying to bring opera to everyone.”

The centerpiece of the lead-up to “La Traviata” is the new opera “An America Dream,” a 60-minute, one-act opera by Jack Perla that is set during World War II and tells the story of a Japanese-American facing internment and a German-Jewish immigrant. It had its premiere in Seattle, where it is set, in 2015. The Opera Maine productions represent the second time it has been produced.

Opera Maine presents it at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland on Wednesday, July 12, and Friday, July 14; at Deertrees Theatre in Harrison on July 13; and at the Temple at Ocean Park at Old Orchard Beach on July 16.

It will be performed by vocalists in Opera Maine’s Young Artists program, which recruits emerging opera singers from the national scene, who also sing in the big production.

“An American Dream” is timely, given the country’s immigration dialogue, Koelker said. “It asks questions like what home means and what do you take with you when you have to leave your home, and what stays behind,” she said. “It’s very poignant.”

It’s also a good introduction to the art form and serves as what Koelker calls “a gateway” opera to the mainstage production. “It is sung in English, it is shorter and offers people a taste of what opera is all about.”

Other events include an open chorus rehearsal from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Williston-Immanuel United Church to coincide with the First Friday Art Walk, an artist spotlight at 5:30 p.m. July 14 at the Cumberland Club and “Opera at the Mansion” at 5:30 p.m. July 17 at the Victoria Mansion.

All of which leads into “La Traviata” at Merrill at the end of the month. “La Traviata” is one of the most produced and most popular operas, about a courtesan and her courter.


6 to 8 p.m. Friday, First Friday Open Chorus Rehearsal, Williston-Immanuel United Church, Portland
7:30 p.m. July 12, “An American Dream,” St. Lawrence Arts Center, Portland
7:30 p.m. July 13, “An American Dream,” Deertrees Theatre, Harrison
5:30 p.m. July 14, Artist Spotlight, Cumberland Club, Portland
7:30 p.m. July 14, “An American Dream,” St. Lawrence Arts Center, Portland
7:30 p.m. July 16, “An American Dream,” The Temple at Ocean Park, Old Orchard Beach
5:30 p.m. July 17, Opera at the Mansion, Victoria Mansion, Portland
7:30 p.m. July 26, “La Traviata,” Merrill Auditorium, Portland
7:30 p.m. July 28, “La Traviata,” Merrill Auditorium, Portland
To learn more, visit

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