Mitch Sebastian was at a concert by two of the most popular operatic singers in the world, Kiri Te Kanawa and Andrea Bocelli, and he was getting irritated.
"They were in concert at this huge stadium in London," Sebastian said during a phone interview. "On stage, there was a full orchestra, and Andrea would walk on in a suit and sing, beautifully, and then he would walk off. And then Dame Kiri would walk on in a beautiful gown and sing, and then she'd walk off.
"The rhythm of the evening really started to annoy me. No one had thought through even in the most basic fashion how to stage this concert so that we didn't have to wait for a minute and a half between each aria. Then I thought, well, not only staging, but they could have done with some lighting, and if they had some scenery. ..."
This occurred to Sebastian because, as a dancer and director, he has had his feet in the pop and fine arts worlds, having done everything from singing backup for artists Meat Loaf and Boy George to staging productions for the iconic D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in London.
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"It occurred to me: Why should all the pop artists get all the production values — all the creativity that is put into those pop concerts by Madonna and Kylie (Minogue)?" Sebastian said.
He was seeing what he thought was some of the greatest music in the world supported by some of the lamest production values in the world.
So he created The Opera Show.
The production, which comes to Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts on Friday for one performance, marries some of the greatest arias in opera with staging inspired by music videos and some of the most elaborate concerts on the road.
"I don't understand why it hasn't been done before," Sebastian said. "These arias are the original pop songs. They've been around 300 to 400 years because they are a hit parade of the best songs ever written.
"So to have an evening of classical singers doing these amazing songs, supported by dancing or scenery or puppetry and lighting, is just a glorious evening out."
Sebastian created an opera show in three acts.
The first part looks at the origins of opera with the setting of an Italian aristocrat's home and the music from early opera composers, including George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell, showing their influence on later composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The second act shows the influence of recorded music, with dual settings of a home and a recording studio, and music by some of the icons of opera, including Georges Bizet, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.
Act III is a futuristic world with arias set to electronic accompaniments, including Luciano Pavarotti's signature piece, Nessun Dorma, from Puccini's Turandot.
Evidence that The Opera Show is accomplishing its mission is found in audience reactions to the evening, particularly younger people who might have never seen opera.
Some opera purists might scoff at Sebastian's methods, but he said that younger audiences discover what opera buffs have long asserted: Their music is better.
"It's like they're at a football match or something," Sebastian said. "An evening of that kind of music is a very intense experience.
"It's not the same as going to a Madonna concert or Kylie, where literally it's pop. When you're listening to music of this maturity, it's fine wine, and when you're drinking that much great music in, by the end of the evening, you're really drunk."