Opera Unlimited: Opera Grand Rapids’ new Diversity and Inclusion Series

The Opera Unlimited Series is a collection of special recitals, events, and educational presentations that are designed to broaden the scope of opera opportunities in our community, support music education, and emphasize diversity and inclusion. This unique series of performances was developed following Opera Grand Rapids’ most recent community diversity collaborations: the presentation of the Spanish language opera, Maria de Buenos Aires (2016-17) and the I Dream premiere performance at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration (2017-18).

Presentations in the Opera Unlimited Series that have taken place already this season include an appearance by Opera Grand Rapids at the Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival (August 2018), a Season Kick-off Party highlighting local talent (September 2018), and 2 Masterclass presentations by Opera Grand Rapids’ Artistic Director, James Meena.

Below, Maestro Meena shares why this series was created and what makes it important for West Michigan.

Why was the Opera Unlimited Series created and how can it impact our community?

Opera Grand Rapids is a mission driven organization. This translates into our creating opportunities to engage all of our citizens through the power of music and opera. By using the universal qualities of music and opera, Opera Grand Rapids can bring people from diverse backgrounds together for a shared, positive experience. This is good for Opera Grand Rapids and good for our community. This is not about selling tickets, it is about transforming the way we interact with the public, and by our opera company playing an appropriate role in building a civil society for all residents of Greater Grand Rapids.

How have your broad experiences shaped your ideas for inclusion through music and opera in particular?

I have always believed in the universality of music, and that organizations like Opera Grand Rapids underestimate their power to go beyond the confines of selling tickets and preaching to the choir, as it were. The experience I have had which reinforced this the most was when I was first at the national symphony in Taiwan, a ballet performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The orchestra was Chinese, the ballet company, French Canadian, and here I was, the American conductor who spoke no Chinese and could only communicate with the dancers in French. Yet, when the music began, we all understood each other completely – music and dance transcended verbal communication.

Check out these Up-coming Opera Unlimited Performances!


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration Performance

Monday, January 21, 2019 | 6:00 PM | Fountain Street Church

Local opera treasure Mark Rucker and the Opera Grand Rapids Chorus will perform to close this year’s annual event, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration at Fountain Street Church, with “Va Pensiero” (Psalm 137) from Verdi’s Nabucco, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, and the event’s signature anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.


An Evening with Sean Panikkar

Thursday, February 7, 2019 | 7:30 PM | Betty Van Andel Opera Center

Hailed by Opera News as a performer who “employs [his voice] with maximum dramatic versatility,” American tenor of Sri Lankan Heritage, Sean Panikkar, has graced stages in both the United States and Europe. Following his riveting performance as a member of opera cross-over sensation, Forte, at Opera Grand Rapids’ 50th Anniversary Night with the Opera gala, Sean will be returning to Grand Rapids to perform a recital accompanied by world-renowned pianist Rohan de Silva.

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