QUEENS — The borough now has its own opera company and it has one goal: to make opera more accessible to the Queens community.
The Queens Opera Theatre will debut Saturday with its first performance at Flushing Town Hall, bringing arias and duets from Bizet’s “Carmen,” Korngold’s “Die tote Stadt,” Puccini’s “Turandot” and Wagner’s “Der fliegende Hollander” to locals for free.
“We want to introduce ourselves and the company to the community,” said Executive Director Brian Gill, who co-founded the company with Andy Anderson, its artistic director and conductor.
“Queens is the only borough without a professional opera company,” Gill added.
Anderson, originally from Louisiana, fell in love with music when he was 12 and he was not able to change the channel on TV which “forced” him to watch “Live From Lincoln Center,” with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
For Gill, who grew up in Texas, it started when his grandfather gave him his classical music record collection.
The two first met as stage crew employees at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan in 1995.
“We quickly discovered that we both had a mutual affinity for all things opera,” Gill said. “Since then we always wanted to do something together.”
Brian Gill, left, and Andy Anderson co-founded the Queens Opera Theatre. (Photo: Courtesy of Brian Gill)
They later worked together on the Kansas City Puccini Festival, founded by Anderson, and reconnected several years ago after they both ended up moving to New York, where one of Gill’s first jobs was ushering for the Metropolitan Opera.
They first discussed forming the Queens Opera Theatre in December 2015.
The company has since become the recipient of a Space Grant at Flushing Town Hall, where from now on, Queens opera lovers will be able to see their productions.
Following the inaugural performance, the company will start holding auditions to assemble a permanent group of singers and orchestra later this year.
Initially, the founders said, the company will work on only several productions a year, beginning with a holiday-themed show in December. Next year, they are hoping to show some of Puccini's operas, such as "La Boheme" or "Turandot."
In the future, they also want to “incorporate the theater component of the company,” and include in their repertoire classic songs and musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein and Jerome Kern as well as the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
“Hopefully, people will walk out whistling the tunes,” Gill said, adding they hope to make opera and theater "accessible and affordable" to everyone.
"Art and opera should not just be for the very wealthy," he added.
The inaugural performance will take place at 7:30 p.m., April 15 at Flushing Town Hall at 137-35 Northern Blvd. It’s free. To register go here.