Palm Beach Opera’s first-ever outdoor festival opens on Feb. 19, featuring a star-studded cast of Metropolitan Opera Stars in live performances of “La bohème,” “Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute),” and “Pagliacci” at the South Florida Fairgrounds’ iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre. PBO’s outdoor festival, which runs Feb. 19-27, will present live opera on the largest scale since the onset of the pandemic shut down performing arts organizations nationwide last March.
On stage, the festival will feature internationally renowned opera stars in three of the most popular operas of all time – “La bohème,” “Pagliacci,” and “The Magic Flute.” With indoor venues closed around the world, Palm Beach Opera has attracted esteemed artists from the Metropolitan Opera and other major opera houses nationwide, marking Palm Beach Opera’s festival as one of the major events of the American opera season. Headlining the casts are Isabel Leonard, Ana María Martínez, Janai Brugger, Michael Fabiano, and Matthew Polenzani among many others. To keep the artists safe, each opera will be performed socially distanced and semi-staged, with the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra and Chorus socially distanced and masked onstage behind them.
PBO Chief Conductor David Stern will return to conduct both “La bohème” and “Die Zauberflöte” while the Artistic Director of Houston Grand Opera Patrick Summers will make his PBO debut leading “Pagliacci.” The Artistic Director of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Director James Robinson makes his PBO debut directing all three festival operas.
This historic festival marks the return to the stage for many opera singers after nearly a year-long absence. “This will be the first time I will be rehearsing opera on American soil since December 2019,” said renowned tenor Matthew Polenzani in a recent artist video message recorded for the company. “The last performances I’ve given in America were in January of 2020.” Polenzani, who headlined Palm Beach Opera’s 2019 Gala, will sing Tamino in “The Magic Flute.”
In collaboration with PBO’s team of medical advisors, the stringent protocols at this expansive open-air venue will enable patrons to safely enjoy the power of live opera. The iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre is a premier outdoor concert venue in the southeast United States, and while it can accommodate a total capacity of nearly 20,000 between the lawn and a tall covered structure that is open on all sides, seating at these performances will be limited to less than 1,800, carefully mapped out for maximum distancing between parties. Every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be in place, from mandatory masks and enforced social distancing to a contactless audience experiences and frequent sanitization throughout the facility.
Over the past six months, Palm Beach Opera has worked closely with its medical advisory teams and its premier testing partner, ArcPoint labs, to develop a COVID-19 testing regimen that ensures the safety of over 200 personnel, including leading singers, chorus members, orchestra musicians, directors and production staff, backstage crew, and the company’s administrative team.
As part of its mission to inspire life-long interest in the arts, and in an effort to bring the festival experience to as many members of the community as possible, Palm Beach Opera is providing free tickets to interested educators, students, military and veteran organizations, young adult organizations, and first responders in Palm Beach County.
All performances will feature socially distanced singers, orchestra, and chorus members, as well as large screens to display close-ups of the performance. Attendees can also enjoy a variety of food and beverages purchased at the amphitheater throughout the event.
All festival performances will take place under the covered roof at the outdoor, open-air venue. Safety protocols at the festival will include social distancing, mandatory masks, enhanced sanitization, and a new mobile app among other measures. Palm Beach Opera continues to work closely with the amphitheater’s safety protocol requirements to adhere to risk-mitigating principles. More information regarding safety protocols and what to expect at PBO’s festival can be found at pbopera.org/at-the-festival. Tickets are available to purchase on Ticketmaster.com and on pbopera.org.
The festival schedule includes live, semi-staged performances of “La bohème” on Feb. 19 and 24, “Pagliacci” on Feb. 23 and 27, and “Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)” on Feb. 21 and 26. All performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. with the exception of the Sunday matinee performance, which will take place at 2 p.m. “La bohème” and “Pagliacci” will be sung in Italian and “Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)” will be sung in German, all with English supertitles projected.