September 15, 2012 – In mid-November, New Orleans Fringe will present The Self-Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins, an operatic foray into the triumphs and tribulations of an idyllic artist. This never-before-seen opera will be premiered by a daring cast of New Orleanians proud of their cities heritage as America’s “First City of Opera.” Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at www.nofringe.org or at the performance location, Mardi Gras Zone.
The Self-Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins delves into the battle between the purity of art and success in business. Jonathan Jenkins is a young idealistic painter who is quickly swept off his feet by the art world. He is given publicity and acclaim for his work but realizes, perhaps too late, that there are other motives at work. One by one people claim his friendship, but do any of them have his best interests at heart? There’s the militaristic agent Raymond Richter who will make Jonathan a star no matter what the cost, the sensuous and manipulative Regine LaRoux who’s primary goal is her art gallery’s success, the over-eager reporter Alita Allegra who is more concerned with covering a good story than reporting the truth, and finally, the conniving lawyer Saxon Spellmeyer who has more stock in his paycheck than in Jonathan’s artistic merit.
Chris D Burton, the opera’s composer, is heavily involved in the production. Burton teaches Composition at UNO and his works have been featured in the Society of Composers, Inc (SCI) conferences and by Cultures in Harmony’s international outreaches. “Artistic purity is a topic that many of us have to wrestle with at some point in time,” admits the composer. “Every artist has to discover his or her own identity and figure out how to deal with the business side of their art. Now I’ve put it in an opera where everything is dramatic and fantastically over-the-top; isn’t that the perfect way to depict this? When an artist puts that much of themself on display, an impersonal business becomes very personal.”
The premiere is directed by Frances Rabalais, a young woman who has previously worked with New Orleans Opera Association, LSU Opera, Loyola New Orleans Opera, and Brevard Music Center among others. Rabalais remarks “I’m excited to be presenting this work and local opera singers in an unconventional setting. For many years, opera in New Orleans has been limited to large houses performing the standard repertoire. We will create a smaller, but equally meaningful opera for Fringe Fest. The Self-Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins is a work focusing on the often uneasy bedfellows of art and business, a relationship that holds greats personal meaning for New Orleans. We’ll have no trouble creating a fantastic, unusual, evening of opera.”
The Self-Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins is portrayed by a relatively small cast of performers. There are five lead roles that share the stage with a small battalion of supporting roles accompanied by musicians from the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra (NOVO). This is an intimate setting not often found in the large houses that dominate the opera world. The performers and audience are able to make a connection, making this premiere a perfect introductory opera for the curious and a reinforcement of opera’s relevance to the well-versed patron.
The Self Portrait of Jonathan Jenkins will be performed at Mardi Gras Zone Thursday November 15th at 7pm, Friday the 16th at 5pm, Saturday the 17th at 9pm, and Sunday the 18th at 11pm.