From the time you enter the historic Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, also known as the Engineers Club, you feel as though you have taken a step back in time. Chandeliers, English Oak, Tiffany glass windows, and a healthy Baroque sensibility welcome you into one of Baltimore’s most impressive venues. This is where the Baltimore Concert Opera— now heading into its 10th season of operations— produces concert-style operas.
Performances are held in the ballroom, which boasts gorgeous painted plaster ceilings and red velvet tapestries. The small stage is deceptive, for this is where the audience will experience the raw power of operatic performance. That the performance is in a ballroom echoes the past grandeur of performances at The Royal Opera House at Versailles— which has the distinction of also being a converted ballroom— but with a flair that is distinctly Baltimorean.
Arriving early allows for a chance to take in a pre-show discussion of the current production, or perhaps to visit the interior Courtyard (once an enclosed conservatory- with the glass ceilings to prove it) and grab a glass of wine from the bar
The most recent performance was of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. This retelling of a classic Don Juan story is very relevant to modern operagoers. Don Giovanni is a monster. He uses and manipulates women, sexually assaults them, then moves on to his next conquest. With the #MeToo movement being so prominent, it is hard to see how the story— though originally staged in 1787— wouldn’t resonate with a modern audience.
I won’t spoil the ending, but it was deeply satisfying, despite being written almost 250 years ago. This production of Don Giovanni, stripped down to its bare bones storyline, was easily one of the best productions of Mozart that I have ever seen.
Of course, what good is an opera without fantastic singers? Baltimore Concert Opera never lets the audience down in this respect. Not only do they provide an enjoyable experience for the audience, but the layout of the seating in the ballroom allows for the audience to get close enough to see the enthusiasm of the talented performers. Often, these performances make use of the aisle between the seating, sending singers through the audience to some known or unknown destination.
Make no mistake, this hidden gem of an opera company is a must-see for opera fanatics, those who are opera-curious, and those looking for unique performing arts experiences in Baltimore.
While Mozart’s Don Giovanni was performed on September 28 and 30, 2018, there are three more productions upcoming in the Baltimore Concert Opera’s season:
Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz plays November 9 and 11, 2018
Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman plays March 1 and 3, 2019
Wang’s Scalia/Ginsburg and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury play April 5 and 7, 2019
All performances are held at the Engineers Club— 11 West Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased online.