American architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent seven decades becoming one of the most iconic and interesting figures to ever build in the 20th century. From houses to offices, churches to schools, high-rises and plenty more, Wright’s work can be found throughout the country, including Arizona.
While the nation is quite familiar with his work, less may be known about the man himself, and what events helped form the vision that would shape American architecture.
Those who know about Wright mark the years between 1903 and 1914 as some of the most eventful in his personal life, so much so that the man’s journey was transformed into an opera. The English-language performance, by composer Daron Hagen and librettist Paul Muldoon, debuted in 1993.
The opera, “Shining Brow,” is named after the famous homes Wright constructed in Wisconsin and Arizona. The homes are named Taliesin, Welsh for “shining brow.” The opera takes place before and during the time which Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin was built, though well before the construction of Taliesin West in Scottsdale.
The show is coming to Arizona, with two shows in Tucson next month: Arizona Opera will perform on Saturday, Oct. 5 and Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Temple of Music and Art.
Opera fans interested in the show but looking for a little more information, and a free performance, can celebrate the arts with The Opera Guild of Southern Arizona. The guild will present a free preview of the show in Oro Valley next Monday, Sept. 30, from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Oro Valley Community Center Sunset Room (10555 N. La Cañada Drive).
Leading the preview is University of Arizona doctoral student Octavio Romano, a baritone with more than 10 years of professional singing experience.
According to Romano, the opera guild preview allows the community to get a little closer to the action. While the show is in English, the event allows potential viewers to have an understanding of what to look for: the story, the tones and themes that are important and the little details written in by the composer and librettist.
“This type of event creates a bridging experience of being in the chair watching the show, and the company performing,” he said.
Romano said he will begin by introducing the opera, why it was written and other background details. After that, several UA student singers will perform arias from the opera.
Even more than an opportunity for opera aficionados to get in on the action, Romano said he’s excited to potentially create new fans. Opera is like Shakespeare, Romano said, the performance may be difficult to initially understand, but the themes are timeless.
In the case of “Shining Brow,” Romano said preview attendees will be able to appreciate both the nationality and regionalism of the show because of the American setting and ties to Arizona architecture.
Romano added that, generally speaking, the opera is also a great representation of how the art form has changed over time. Instead of writing performances of splendid battles, heroic figures or ancient gods, modern opera has found its success in reality.
“What about my friend who’s a poet?” Romano said. “My sister who sews dresses on the corner in Paris? On the corner of Country Club in Tucson? It’s about writing something people can relate to.”
According to opera guild member Susan Stokes, the preview of “Shining Brow” isn’t the only reason to head over to the community center Monday afternoon: There’s plenty more previewing to be had by all.
Also on the agenda is a preview of “Rhondda Rips It Up!” by Elena Langer and Emma Jenkin, performed by UA Opera Theater at Friday, Nov.8 and Sunday, Nov. 10.
It’s a hat trick of culture. The performers will also preview “The Poisoned Kiss” by Ralph Vaughn Williams, performed by Passion Project: Opera! Sunday, Oct. 20.
“Where else where you get a chance to see what’s on tap in Tucson this season?” Stokes said.
The opera guild will also perform a preview this Friday, Sept. 27 at Grace St. Paul Episcopal Church, 2331 E. Adams St., from noon to 1 p.m. Donations are accepted at both previews.