With aims to reach a younger audience with opera, the Lexington Opera Society announced Monday that it is changing its name and forming a new partnership for one of its signature events.
OperaLex will be the new moniker for the private group that operates as a support organization for the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and works to promote opera in Lexington.
For its first act, OperaLex is partnering with Keeneland Race Course to revamp its spring event preceding the annual It's a Grand Night for Singing concerts in June at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
"Keeneland is known not only as a consistent brand but a classy brand," said Susan Stout Mullineaux, organizer of the new event, which is dubbed "Encore."
Rather than serve as a prelude to Grand Night, Mullineaux says, the May 31 event will be a celebration of the past season and the season to come. She described a smartly decorated venue in celebration of the Chinese Year of the Horse with tastings from area food and spirits vendors, performances by UK Opera students from past shows and those to come, a live auction and a silent auction with electronic bidding by smartphone.
UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey said the event may be the forum to announce the 2014-15 season for the group, which in recent years has presented blockbuster productions of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
"Part of the success of the opera program here has been because of the Lexington Opera Society, and getting the word out to a broader community," McCorvey said.
McCorvey and OperaLex chairman Ray F. Garman emphasize that the group has no role in running the UK Opera Theatre. They say it strictly operates as a private organization to support the student opera company and present complementary events and programs including the annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Kentucky District Auditions, the Schmidt Opera Outreach Program that sends short operas to schools, and an opera lecture series by UK musicologist and vocal coach Tedrin Blair Lindsay. The group also owns Lexington Stage Costumes, which supplies costumes for UK Opera productions and rents costumes to local and regional groups. It also raises scholarship and endowment money for the UK Opera program.
McCorvey says the support is vital to fund opera, "which is very expensive to produce."
As it moves forward, Garman says, the group is also bringing younger members on its board to give the organization a different perspective on promoting opera.
"A 28-year-old sees the world in a very different way than I do," Garman says.
McCorvey says that the recent announcement that the San Diego Opera has closed was a wake-up call that opera needs to find ways to be relevant in the 21st century.
"We need to make sure we are up to date with young people," McCorvey said, "so we don't experience a demise of opera in Lexington and our community."