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New leadership, unique performances highlight Virginia Opera's comeback season

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Posted at 8:09 AM, Aug 30, 2021

It's the most unlikely 'opera house' around, but on September 12 Virginia Beach Topgolf will play host to the Virginia Opera and its season-opening performances of Wagner's Das Rheingold.

It's a comeback nearly two years in the making. Virginia Opera canceled its 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We haven't been able to do our work, which is no fun. However, it has given us time to plan," said Peggy Kriha Dye, Virginia Opera's new General Director and CEO.

Dye arrived from Opera Columbus in October with a fresh set of eyes, ready to capitalize on the rare opportunity the pandemic provided; a complete restart.

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Virginia Opera Chorus Master Brandon Eldredge accompanies soprano Catherine Goode during a rehearsal at Harrison Opera House. Goode is an Emerging Artist with the Virginia Opera and will perform in Das Rheingold.

That's where she says Topgolf came into play.

"We've had a lot of time to think and be innovative and this is how we're starting the season," she said.

The performers will use the normally golf ball-covered turf as their stage. The audience will sit socially distanced in bays with food and drinks.

Virginia Opera is planning two performances of Das Rheingold in Virginia Beach and two at Topgolf Richmond a week later on September 19.

The opera's traditional local home, Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, is currently serving as a rehearsal space, with golf-related pictures lining the stage's back wall for inspiration.

For those who prefer this traditional performance setting, shows will return November 5 with La Boheme. Dye tells News 3 the company will ease back in with a smaller amount of people on and around the stage.

This version of La Boheme will also be shorter with no intermission, but with the same characteristics that make opera such a beloved form of art.

It's the perfect opportunity, Dye says, for opera newcomers to catch their first show.

"You have the orchestra, you've got big drama, along with big voices. It's only about 100 minutes, we've got $25 tickets. Really, come to the opera," she said.

Because under this new leadership, sooner or later, the opera will come to you, Dye promises.

Whether its through continued virtual programming or in-person performances, like free Wednesday Wind Down shows beginning September 1 outside Harrison Opera House.

"We're going to do some new works, we're going to do some new approaches. We're going to leave the opera house and partner in the community. We've got over 25 non-profits we've talked to and are working with since I got here," she told News 3.

Click HERE for a chance to win a FREE set of four tickets to the Virginia Opera's performance of Das Rheingold at Topgolf Virginia Beach.