While attending the OPERA America conference this summer, I learned of a Miami-based program that marries opera and civic action. The project, called Cadenza, is a collaboration between opera and human trafficking support groups. Together, they guide participants toward therapeutic betterment through music.
This project and OPERA America’s strong focus on civic action is how Pensacola Opera’s Bravi and Opera United were born. Realizing that our guild needed a major face lift, we rebranded the group as Bravi. This allowed us to shift the focus from primarily serving the opera’s needs to serving the community.
This season, Bravi will work on service projects in Pensacola and the surrounding areas. In late October, members of Bravi served the Ronald McDonald House families dinner and shared the joy of music. As the season continues we will add more events: a Hurricane Michael relief effort at our annual holiday party and a beach clean up in March as we “go green with Florencia.”
Arts organizations across the country are working towards civic engagement outside the realm of their art forms. With this at the forefront, Pensacola Opera will launch an initiative called Opera United. Opera United is a partnership with Lakeview Center’s Victim Services and Trauma Recovery Program, which will provide opportunities for clients to experience opera as a means of art therapy. The Lakeview staff stresses that one of the largest hurdles their clients face is “social anhedonia,” disinterest in social contact and lack of pleasure in social situations. Lakeview’s work focuses on allowing clients to find a new joy through alternative social experiences. They hope that through these Opera United events, clients can unearth new interests and readjust to social life in a safe, encouraging environment.
In addition to one-on-one encounters with artists, participants will experience cosmetology/stylist sessions, transportation services, backstage interactions, and private receptions. By creating a safe place to encourage the regaining of trust, clients move forward in their recovery process.
While our production-related events provide healing opportunities throughout the opera season, our on-site initiatives will be the core of what Opera United hopes to accomplish. As relationships develop, clients will collaborate with the opera’s creative staff to create their own operatic narratives. Additionally, operatic elements will be included in existing art and music therapy sessions. Throughout these interactions clients will gain autonomy, taking control and writing the script of their recovery. Victim advocates and therapists will benefit from educational sessions with Pensacola Opera to implement lyric analyses of different arias in their arsenal of therapeutic tools.
We’re excited about this new direction for our volunteer group. We hope to continue making a difference in a community that strongly supports the arts.