An area for arias: Gulfshore Opera christens hotel with love songs
Gulfshore Opera is bringing an evening of love songs, Champagne and hors d' oeuvres to a spot likely to impress your sweetheart. Neither of you has ever been there, and probably didn't know it exists.
Innovation Hotel sits quietly within the block that holds medical device developer Arthrex and its conference center in North Naples. While it's owned by a separate company, its clientele are visitors to or clients of the complex. That did not stop Steffanie Pearce, founder and general director of Gulfshore Opera, from appealing to Innovation become a concert venue.
"We heard about it and we thought, 'Let's try,'" said Pearce, who said she's become a space sleuth because of the pandemic, which shut down a number of their usual performance places. "They were very gracious."
"I can't wait to hear their voices in here," she continued, gazing around the four-story atrium, with its glass ceiling, a lattice of lights and lush groves of tropical foliage. Before their first rehearsal was over, at least two of the singers would be serenading from its open glass-and-steel staircases.
They would get an appreciative audience. Two visitors from Waco, Texas, in town to visit Arthrex, took a seat in the lobby to enjoy it.
"That's why we're sitting here," said Scott Hecox, who said he was "absolutely" enjoying a live midday performance. Jared Clements, who sipped a beer with him, listened, intrigued: "I've never heard opera before," he said.
Opera is part of the evening, with favorite arias such as "Recondita Armonia" from Puccini's "Tosca" and even one for bromance: the tenor-baritone duet from "The Pearl Fishers." But there are songs from "West Side Story," "Kismet" and other musicals, and songs simply chosen for romantic appeal
Pearce was more than happy with what Innovation offered for social distancing. The lobby concert area offers greenery-enveloped circles of seating that can contain 80 people in small-group "bubbles" 6 feet or more from others.
It did require some stage shifting: "Otherwise they're going to be cut off by that big palm," Pearce warned. She led soprano Robyn Marie Lamp and tenor Derek Stark in a simulated stroll around the gray weed-and blue seating areas that will let them sing more intimately to audience groups: "Let's just play with the space."
This is the hotel's first event of this kind, observed Innovation General Manager Gary Hyre, watching as they choregraphed. It's not that the hotel is seeking concert business, he said. But it may consider a few events that would have to be vetted through its No. 1 client.
If they do, Munich-born mezzo Daniela Madura, who grew up in Naples, might come back. "It's very creative. I love it!" she declared.
Her partner, baritone Jean Carlos Rodriquez, said he had performed in hotels and conference centers, but nothing like this atrium, he said.
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To Carson Gilmore who is working as stage manager for the organization, it was a rare opportunity to spread out. Except for the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers, this has been season of snug venues, such as the Sanibel Island Community Center and Naples Art.
"We've become a very compact touring company," he said.
Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com. Reach her at 239-213-6091.
'Songs of Love'
What: An evening of love songs from operatic arias to American songbook and Broadway ballads sung by Gulfshore Opera stars; evening includes a Champagne and passed hors d' oeuvres, with a cash bar available
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13
Where: Innovation Hotel, Naples, 1290 Innovation Drive (corner of Creekside Boulevard and Goodlette-Frank Road), Naples
Tickets: Starting at $75
To buy: gulfshoreopera.org