Bold. Brave. Brilliant.

Cultural Kaleidoscopes: Arizona Opera's Cultural Festivals

Josh Borths – February 3, 2015

Opera is considered by many to be the ultimate artform. More than any other discipline, opera brings all of the arts together into one—hopefully—seamless theatrical experience. Opera is not created in a vacuum. and the history and culture of its creators influence and shape the pieces we perform.

To celebrate and explore the arts and culture that inspired Tchaikovsky, and our new production of Eugene Onegin, Arizona Opera presented a Russian Cultural Festival from January 12th-January 30th in Phoenix and Tucson. This festival commemorates the first Russian opera in Arizona in more than a decade and celebrates the Russian population of Arizona. Almost 300 people came to at least one of 6 events designed to entertain and educate about Russian art and culture.

*Ballet Classes— This event was collaboration with Ballet Arizona and Ballet Tucson, respectively. Participants learned about Tchaikovsky’s influence on ballet, learned some of the basic positions and combinations used in dance, and watched demonstrations by the professional dancers of each company… Everyone rocked it.

*Film Series— For the first time (and certainly not the last) Arizona Opera presented a film series with the help of No Festival Required. We screened 2 contrasting films that together provide incredible insight into the world of Imperial Russia. Fabergé: A Life of Its Own received its public premiere on January 20th. This fast-paced documentary charts the fascinating world of Fabergé from the Tsars to the present day. Russian Ark mesmerized almost 100 viewers in Phoenix and Tucson. This film holds the world record for the longest single take in cinematic history (the whole movie is one shot) and it is a fascinating, meditative fantasia on over 300 of Russian History. It was a good thing that University of Arizona professors were on hand to interpret the film!

 *Art Lectures— Supplementing our normal opera previews, we presented an art lecture called An Iconic Legacy. This lecture gave an overview on the history and development of Russian music, literature, and fine art. Members of the Arizona Opera chorus sang Russian Orthodox chant and local artist and iconographer Aleksandar Tešanović explained process of creating an Orthodox icon. Apparently, you can only use glue made from rabbit. Who knew?

Interestingly enough, 35% of the audiences for these cultural events had never been to Arizona Opera and 80% said that their interest in attending the opera increased after attending one or more of these events.

This season, almost 1,000 people have attended a cultural festival event here at the opera. From our Hispanic Heritage Festival to our Russian Cultural Festival, many have enriched their opera experience with events that celebrate the culture and art that inspired these pieces and contribute to Arizona’s diversity.

Please check out for more information about our cultural festivals for the 2015-2016 season.

We can’t wait to explore more fascinating cultures with you next year.