Guild to present opera à la ‘cart’ next season

Matt Burkhartt | Staff Photographer
Jim Dakin, Barbara Turbessi, Dax Spacht, and VACI managing director Lois Jubeck stand with the Chautauqua Opera Guild’s new “Opera Cart,” which will debut in the 2015 season.

Jay Lesenger, the general/artistic director of the Chautauqua Opera Company, has always said that if kids are to get interested in opera, then “there has to be somebody bringing it to them” on a weekly basis.

The Opera Guild has found that vehicle.

Starting next season, the Guild’s new “Opera Cart” will be making its way throughout the Institution, toting opera and opera accessories to children and future cognoscenti. What will be filled with costumes, libretti, CDs and props will be a significant part of their outreach efforts in 2015, said Guild President Virginia DiPucci.

“The purpose of it is to get [kids] interested in opera,” she said. “It’s an educational tool … to bring opera to them in a meaningful way.”

Taking influence from the colorful “Opera Trunks” that the Pittsburgh Opera Company uses for their own outreach efforts, the Guild’s cart, DiPucci said, will serve a similar purpose.

Two years ago, the Guild asked Chautauquan Jim Dakin if he would be able to carry out the task. A former engineer and member of the Chautauqua Property Owners Association, Dakin willingly took on the project. Drawing inspiration from the functionality of the “old opera trunks” that were being transported via train track in the late 1800s, Dakin said he wanted to create a vehicle that was portable. He also wanted to match the Pittsburgh trunk’s grandeur, but, Dakin said, “with less of the weight.”

“We wanted to make something that we could easily move around the grounds,” Dakin said. “It’s light enough now, I think, that a child could move it.”

But, since its construction, the cart has been lacking a fitting paint job.

Spearheading the project, Opera Guild member Barbara Turbessi worked directly with the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution to design the soon-to-be painted cart. Lois Jubeck, the managing director of VACI, assigned art student Dax Spacht the task of covering the cart in opera-themed decor — something meant to attract a child’s eye.

Spacht, now in her third year at Chautauqua, is spending her first season at the Art Quad. She said that she’s happy to spend her time painting the Guild’s cart and hopes her “inside of an opera house” design goes over well with kids when they see it next year.

DiPucci, who is pleased with this year’s opera outreach efforts at Chautauqua, believes that next year’s will be even better. What will bolster a young interest in opera, she said, is what can be both a “portable” and “interactive” way to educate children on the art.

The cart makes it much more possible.

“When you put things on wheels you make it that much more accessible for kids,” DiPucci said. “It will go anyplace you want to take it.”