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Boston Lyric Opera expands artistic staff, rolls out ‘mobile opera truck’ for 2020-21 season

Conductor Vimbayi Kaziboni will join Boston Lyric Opera in a newly created artistic adviser position.asraevskiy@mail.ru

With classical venues shuttered, audiences hunkered down for the foreseeable future, and arts organizations facing strong financial headwinds, the new season for Boston Lyric Opera will look like no other since the company’s founding in 1976. Yet BLO is nonetheless proceeding with a new artistic appointment and several new artistic initiatives including a roving opera truck. In an announcement on Tuesday, the company detailed these and other plans for its 2020-21 season.

The opera truck will be called BLO Street Stage, and the company will use it to bring solo and small-ensemble performances to neighborhood audiences in Boston and beyond. The company hopes to launch the project later this month, with performances extending through the fall and spring.


BLO will also launch a new platform for digital content called operabox.tv, which will be available not only for viewing on computers and mobile devices but also directly on televisions in a manner similar to other streaming services. For this virtual stage, BLO has replaced its originally announced productions with new offerings. The company’s staging of Philip Glass’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” (after the Poe short story), previously scheduled for live performances this fall, will now be filmed in a new cinematic version; composer Ellen Reid, who won the 2019 Pulitzer prize in music for her opera “p r i s m,” will collaborate with director James Darrah to create an eight-episode virtual opera entitled “Desert In,” set in a run-down motel in the American West; and a new series called “Retro+” will focus on archival performances from BLO seasons past. The primary content on operabox.tv will be accessible to subscribers or on a pay-per-view basis. The company will also continue offering free streaming content including a new Web series of conversations addressing issues in the classical and opera worlds, to be hosted by public radio journalist Celeste Headlee.

Composer Ellen Reid will collaborate with director James Darrah on a virtual opera entitled “Desert In,” set in a run-down motel in the American West.James Matthew Daniel

And while many musical organizations are shrinking their payrolls, BLO has expanded its artistic team. The conductor Vimbayi Kaziboni, a Zimbabwe-born, Boston-based new music specialist who teaches at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, will join the company in a newly created artistic adviser position. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Kaziboni, who had been slated to conduct a production of Terence Blanchard’s jazz opera “Champion,” told the Globe he expects for now to serve in a curatorial role, but an active one. His primary mission, he says, will be to advocate for underrepresented voices in classical music, and “to tell new stories and unheard stories.”


“The mobile opera truck to me is one of the most exciting projects,” he said, “because now we have the opportunity to go into communities that would otherwise not have access to opera, and to be evangelists for opera through this vehicle. In doing this, we’re also forced to ask ‘what are we offering?’ This is how we start reevaluating who we are, reevaluating our tradition, places where we need to question our practice and adapt. So I’m really inspired and excited by all of this. In getting out of this [pandemic] catastrophe, we’re also learning from the catastrophe — and reinventing ourselves.”

The previously slated productions of “Madama Butterfly” and “Champion” will be postponed to next season. BLO’s “Hansel and Gretel” will also be postponed until an unspecified later date. For information, visit www.blo.org.


Jeremy Eichler can be reached at jeremy.eichler@globe.com, or follow him @Jeremy_Eichler.