INDIANAPOLIS — When you think of opera, you likely do not picture performances in neighborhood parks, inside of restaurants, or at your local zoo.
Yet you will find the Indianapolis Opera in all those places in 2021.
Resident artist and professional opera singer Madison Montambault says that accessibility is just one thing that makes the company special.
"What I love so much about Indy Opera and the work that we're doing is that we're out in the community, engaging with everybody," Montambault said.
General Director David Craig Starkey says pre-pandemic, the Opera would put on two to three productions a year and incorporate some outdoor events.
Like so many other things, COVID-19 has changed that.
In this case, possibly for the better.
"We're doing a lot of concerts, we're doing a lot of highlights, we're doing a lot of variations of repertory," Starkey said. "We're expanding even more opportunities than sort of just the small number of shows we used to do."
That includes taking the Opera to new and unique places -- like the Indianapolis Zoo.
The company will present a concert version of Giacomo Puccini's Madame Butterfly on May 14, 15 and 16 at the zoo's outdoor Bicentennial Pavilion.
"It's going to be an experience, not a show," said Starkey, while teasing to expect the unexpected in the "wild" setting.
"There might be surprises with how opera mixes with the zoo, we don't know we'll have to see, in rehearsal where one day the grizzly bear decided to sing with us, and that is absolutely a true story," he shared with a grin.
Montambault also cannot contain her excitement about the performance and what it means for the art form and the community.
"When have you ever heard about doing opera at the zoo, right? But that's also a way in which we're keeping opera alive, we're getting innovative, we're figuring things out to keep this opera genre and the community and the arts community like, going," she said.
One reason that mission is important is because opera and the organization are about more than singing.
"Even though we might be in the Midwest of the United States, we get to be able to tell Indianapolis and Indiana the stories of the world," Starkey said. "We are able to bring those artists that are of those cultures, whether it is the Black community, whether it is the Asian community, whether it's the Latino community, or eastern European or whatever it is, literally we get to bring them all together, mix them into this great melting pot of opera."
While you will find the Indianapolis Opera in all corners of the community in 2021 and beyond, the organization is also investing in its home.
A capital campaign is underway to help the Indy Opera buy and renovate the Basile Opera Center at 4011 N. Pennsylvania St.
"We are part of the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood, this is an extremely important midtown location," Starkey explained. "We want to be an anchor to that and we have been operating this building for many years; learning how to do it very successfully and the purchase is for us to literally just continue that."
No matter where the Opera performs, Montambault stresses the art form is for everyone.
"My message is that opera…is about real people and real stories," she said. "I truly believe whether it's from an audience perspective or an artist perspective, there is some type of characteristic or person or quality of the show that all of us can identify with."
To learn more about everything the Indianapolis Opera has to offer and how you can support it, go to indyopera.org.