Luca Pisaroni Headlines Decameron Opera Coalition’s Operatic Reimagining of ‘The Decameron’

By Chris Ruel
(Credit: Frances Marshall)

In 1353, a few years after the Black Death raged in Florence, Giovanni Boccaccio finished “The Decameron,” 100 stories told by seven women and three men holed up in a countryside villa as they awaited the passing of the plague. It’s a classic of literature, many times bawdy, sometimes tragic, and extremely apropos considering our present-day pandemic.

Enter Decameron Opera Coalition (DOC), a newly launched collaboration between nine U.S. based independent opera companies. The Coalition announced a multi-week, online streaming performance of “Tales from a Safe Distance,” a reimagining of Boccaccio’s masterpiece that brings the work forward nearly 670 years into the Zoom-era in which our connections are virtual, more often than not.

Starting October 9 and continuing through October 30, new episodes of “Tales from a Safe Distance” will be released by the Coalition. Each episode includes two to three works (one work by each participating company), creating a total of 10 unique tales.

Hosting the project is acclaimed bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, who will bookend the opera with a musical and dramatic prologue and epilogue.

“Through this project, the Decameron Opera Coalition members are supporting so many singers, creative teams, and administrators during this challenging time. We are all looking forward to sharing this new opera and connecting with audiences around the world,” Pisaroni stated in the DOC press release.

The Coalition’s mission is three-fold: keep opera vibrant, keep new work thriving, and keep audiences engaged with the art form. Members of the Coalition include Resonance Works (Pittsburgh); Lyric Opera of the North (Duluth); UrbanArias (Washington DC); Bare Opera (New York City); Opera in the Heights (Houston); Chicago Fringe Opera; Milwaukee Opera Theatre; Fargo-Moorhead Opera; An Opera Theatre (Minneapolis); and composer and librettist Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi.

Independent opera companies are the lifeblood of the art’s future as they push the boundaries of sound and storytelling while demonstrating a commitment to underrepresented voices. Through these companies based in cities large and small, new audiences are built, new works created, and seasoned operagoers explore the avant-garde.

Maria Sensi Sellner, Artistic and General Director of Resonance Works, the lead producer of Decameron Opera Coalition, stated in the DOC press release, “We are daring to think big in a time of limitations, creating collaboration that is uniquely born of this time, but will help opera thrive far beyond it.”

“Tales from a Safe Distance” weekly release schedule is as follows:

Episode 1 – October 9: “Both Gladsome and Grievous” (Lyric Opera of the North, Bare Opera)

Episode 2 – October 16: “Prompted by Appetite” (Fargo-Moorhead Opera, UrbanArias)

Episode 3 – October 23: “So Noble a Heart” (Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Opera in the Heights, An Opera Theatre)

Episode 4 – October 30: “The Bolts of Fortune” (Resonance Works, Chicago Fringe Opera)

For additional information, visit Decameron Opera Coalition.