Robert Wood And Susan Derry

Urban Arias Opera Company
Headshots of a woman next to a man.

Photo by Alysa Turner

Music Credit: excerpt from Blue Viola. Music by Peter Hilliard, libretto by Matt Boresi, featuring Jorell Williams and Alicia Olatuja, with Robert Wood conducting Inscape Chamber Orchestra

Bob Wood: There's something very exciting about participating in new work, you feel like you are able to discover with the singers and with the orchestra and with the composer, how this thing is going to go. And also, you can change things--you can't just ask Puccini if you can change this note, but if something doesn't work, you can ask the composer and see if she'll make a change.

Jo Reed: That's conductor, Robert Wood. He's the founder and general director of the contemporary opera company UrbanArias. And this is Arts Works the weekly podcast produced at the National Endowment for the Arts—I’m Josephine Reed.

Robert Wood conducts opera across the country. He spent years with San Francisco Opera and Minnesota. He loves classical opera—but he also longed for work that speaks to our present time in a more informal way. He had an idea to bring short contemporary operas that are sung in English and present them in smaller less intimidating venues. He wanted to be part of the process that brought opera into the 21st century and return it to the vital popular art form it once had been. Eight years ago, he did just that when he founded Urban Arias, a company that commissions and stages contemporary opera for a contemporary audience in the Washington DC area. Operating with a small budget and a big imagination, Robert Wood and Urban Arias board president singer, Susan Derry, procure first-class talent in all aspects of their productions and the results have been remarkable. Critics and audiences alike have been wowed by the concept and by the music. Susan Derry and Bob Wood stopped by the NEA studios recently to talk about UrbanArias—and I began our conversation with the basics.

Jo Reed: Help me with a definition of opera, it's obviously more than a piece of theater that's sung through because "Hamilton" for example could be an opera, there's only one line of dialog in the whole thing, but it's not, it's musical theater. So how should we define opera?

Bob Wood: I think your sung through definition is essential, but I would add to that that it is meant to be and can only be performed by people with a certain kind of trained voice and even though opera may cross over with other things like musical theater, jazz, blues, what have you, it's that classical solid training and the demands. The vocal demands that are in the operatic literature even in the contemporary literature, that's what separates it from musical theater which has a different set of demands like for example, tap.

<laughter>

Bob Wood: We don’t ask that or—

Susan Derry: At least not yet.

Bob Wood: <laughs> Yeah, so how would you characterize it?

Susan Derry: Well, I think it's that soaring moment, that emotional expression through the human voice that's so exciting in opera and we have it in music theater too but it's just to the nth degree.

Jo Reed: More heightened in opera? Is that—

Bob Wood: Yeah.

Susan Derry: Mhm.

Jo Reed: Is that a way to think about it?

Susan Derry: For sure.

Bob Wood: I have to laugh, a prominent musical theater composer who also crosses over to opera once asked me to prepare a chorus for him and he said, "You know, it should sound really natural and authentic, you know, like musical theater." I knew what he meant in terms of acting style being often more naturalistic but musical theater is just as artificial, just in a different way.

<laughter>

Jo Redd: People don't break into tap dances when they're in love, are you kidding?

Bob Wood: Right, right.

Susan Derry: Well I do.

<laughter>

Jo Reed: Thank you, Susan, thank you for giving me hope out there. Let's talk about your organization which is UrbanArias, a name which I think is really kind of brilliant.

Bob Wood: Thank you.

Susan Derry: That's nice.

Jo Reed: What is it, what is it that you want to do with UrbanArias?

Bob Wood: When I founded the company, I had an idea to create something that was not going to duplicate what other people were doing. You know, I've worked as a conductor for 20 plus years and often you approach the standard rep, and everyone is always interested in what you're going to cut. So shortened versions of operas seemed like that could be a thing, right? The Peter Brook's "Carmen" was so terribly successful, it's a wonderful adaptation of the piece, he removes the chorus, he shortens it all by at least an hour, right, which <laughs> for some audiences is not a bad thing. But the idea of doing just short pieces that were condensed versions of other stuff didn't appeal to me as much as doing chamber works that were meant to be the length that they were, and I settled on about 90 minutes, that's a feature film length mostly, right? So, figuring that if people's barriers to embracing opera and loving it as much as I do are usually length and language, what if we did everything in English and what if nothing we did was more than 90 minutes long. And then the contemporary part of it came from, "What can I do for this art form that will help it continue to propagate, continue to be a meaningful part of the 21st Century dialog around the arts?" And I had worked for a long time at the San Francisco Opera and Santa Fe Opera. And a lot of places that did a lot of big commissions—underlining big so some of those were really awfully successful like "Dead Man Walking" or "A Streetcar Named Desire," some of them were less so. And one of the things that I thought was, "Why couldn't this person have started something smaller with a company that was going to help that person learn how to write in her own style? Or simply give that person an outlet for a really wonderful, brilliant, shorter piece of work that would then inspire audiences to come and see smaller stuff?" And it would also help this person continue to find her voice. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is with a smaller company and with less financial pressure, the stakes are more realistic and they're really about whether or not the audiences is entertained and if they've been moved and if their perspective has been broadened.

Jo Reed: So, because of the size, it enables you to be much more flexible straight across the board.

Bob Wood: We're very nimble.

Jo Reed: That's the word I was looking for!

Susan Derry: Yes, it's a good word.

Bob Wood: We'd like to be bigger and the NEA has actually helped us achieve that. Yeah, we'd like to be bigger and we've grown, I would say reasonably and carefully since our inception, we've now been around for seven years, eight years—

Susan Derry: Yes.

Bob Wood: eight seasons, which I think is a testament to slow and steady.

Jo Reed: Now Susan, what attracted you to take on the happy task of being president of the board?

Susan Derry: Well, that's a fun story, so Maestro and I went to college together and we found ourselves in D.C. at the same time and he said, "Are you interested in doing this?" and I said, "For you, sure." And here we are, here we are. And I love it and it's great and I think what's so important about the company as well in terms of what we're doing and what our mission is. We love, the two of us, we love "Madame Butterfly" we love "Traviata" that's the stuff we were doing together in college, but it is so important to bring the stories of now to the stage as well. And it's so exciting to see yourself on a stage being depicted by someone who has a kick ass voice with a beautiful score and telling your story essentially, something that you can truly related to, not just beautiful Cio-Cio-san and "La Bohème" long may they live.

Bob Wood: <laughs>

Jo Reed: Yeah, of course it isn't either/or. And I just have to ask with opera companies really facing a graying of the audience and really hanging on by their fingernails, it is bold to decide you're beginning an opera company.

Bob Wood: Well yeah, I mean the date at which I had this idea was 2009 which might tell you something about <laughs>

Susan Derry: Yes.

Bob Wood: —the overall economic situation. So, from my perspective, there was no place to go but up.

<laughter>

Bob Wood: And I thought, "You know, we're investing at the bottom of the market." So that's not a bad thing.

Susan Derry: Yeah, it was definitely a question of why not, not why, but why not, just do it.

Jo Reed: Why not, yeah, and why not? Because what you're trying to do is something, as you say "very new" that hasn't been done, where do you get the material to perform? Do you commission composers?

Bob Wood: We do now, we are in fact embarking on our, I think it's our fourth commission from Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi, a really, really talented duo who—and in fact we have the NEA to thank for our very first commission—

Susan Derry: Thank you!

Bob Wood: which happened because of the NEA, they helped provide the funds for that and it was the same duo. They have a good sense of humor and they're not afraid to do comedy in opera and that's so rare, so rare to have anyone even attempt it.

Susan Derry: Oh, it's so rare, it's really difficult. And they write in a voice that's so accessible and colloquial and fun and funny and engaging and they're really just, they're terrific.

Bob Wood: They fuse things, the first commission we did from them was called "Blue Viola" and it was based on the real story of a guy who left his priceless viola on the sidewalk. He was the principal violist at the CSO, it wound up in the hands of a junk dealer who it was then stolen from him by his sometime girlfriend, she tried to pawn it off with the help of her boss and its a—it’s a farce but it's sort of a dark one, they get caught, needless to say. But Peter wrote just this extraordinary part for the viola as part of this and an ensemble of six of which the viola was sort of the principal thing and then four singers.

*excerpt from "Blue Viola" 9:22

Our latest one from them, the working title is "The 13ther" and this is a dark comedy for our times on the blue state, red state divide. So yeah, we do commission, we find stuff also from one really wonderful source for new work which is the American Opera Projects, they're based in New York, they do a lot of our work for us. They find composer, librettist teams and they match them up and they commission stuff from them. And then Susan has also pointed me in the direction, we do—we like crossover stuff, we try for accessibility.

Susan Derry: Yeah, accessibility is really key when it comes down to it. If it gets too crunchy then, you know, our listeners are not—they can't get past that to get to these amazing stories.

Jo Reed: Obviously the music is important—

Susan Derry: Yes.

Jo Reed: but so is the story—

Bob Wood: Right.

Jo Reed: and it needs to be—

Susan Derry: Bottomline.

Jo Reed: it needs to be coequal.

Susan Derry: Mhm, mhm.

Bob Wood: Yeah, absolutely. If you think of opera as sung stories, then they are absolutely equal, and you want the music to be really specific to being able to tell that story. And you want to feel like another score would not have done that work, but at the same time, if the difficulty of hearing the music for the first time provides such a barrier. That can be tremendously off putting to somebody embracing this for the first time. I will say we don't dumb things down—

Susan Derry: No, not at all.

Bob Wood I mean we've done really challenging stuff, but we're more open say to an opera that is a fusion, like "Blue Viola" was actually quite bluesy and it was meant to be a fusion piece between blues and opera. Other companies are now becoming more open to that, Memphis Opera, or sorry, Opera Memphis just did it. So yeah, I think this idea of taking smaller scale pieces and doing them in smaller venues and doing contemporary work that are telling contemporary stories is starting to catch on.

Susan Derry: It's great to see them move to other companies because that way we know that we're adding to the canon for future generations and it's really exciting.

Jo Reed: Tell me about the audience who's coming to see your work.

Susan Derry: We have a strong core of folks who really enjoy what we're doing and every season we are gaining in young opera goers, people who are interested in theater who might not necessarily know about this art form who say, "Oh, that sounds like a really great story," and, "I'm going to go see that," they may not necessarily have said, "I think I'm going to go see an opera," but there they are. So, it's growing slowly but surely.

Bob Wood: Yeah, I think we formed the company in Arlington, Virginia and in the D.C. area, there's some reluctance to exit your particular jurisdiction and go someplace else—

<laughter>

Bob Wood: largely because of traffic.

Jo Reed: We have to cross a river?

Susan Derry: Oh my gosh.

Bob Wood: Yeah, exactly, I mean you wouldn't—

Susan Derry: What's a bridge?

Bob Wood: I moved here from San Francisco, I thought crossing the Bay Bridge was a big deal but that's nothing compared to crossing the Potomac. So yeah, and then we've seen moved to the Atlas Performing Arts Center, we split our time between there and Signature Theatre in Arlington and so that's been really exciting because just purely demographically about who's living in those neighborhoods. We get a lot more people of color that have joined our audience since we've gone to Atlas and we are fortunate that they follow us where we go other places too and vice versa, we're getting suburban people to come into H Street Northeast.

Jo Reed: When I think of traditional opera I think of things that are heavily produced and rightfully so, it's supposed to be very theatrical. How does UrbanArias come down on this?

Bob Wood: Think of it as downtown theater, so we perform in black boxes, the scale of the production can be obviously less than what you would see on a Broadway stage, or on a major opera house stage but that doesn't mean that the elements aren't significant and compelling. And Susan still is an actress and so she does a lot of theater, musical theater and I think—you've done a lot of stuff in various kinds of venues, how does that—how would you react to that question?

Susan Derry: Well I think it's on a smaller scale, but we really invest heavily in our designers and by investing, I mean we really look for folks who are at the top of their game and are incredibly creative, so we've had sets that are as simple as a park bench or in "Blue Viola" a wall of cardboard boxes which was fantastic, to really thrilling work with projections which translates well in a black box space. So, while it's on a smaller scale, it's just like theater is developing, we're going that direction as well, what else can you do with the space, do you need a big piece of scenery or can you evoke the space in a different way? And thereby give the actors, the singers something else to play with, something to spark their creativity as well.

Bob Wood: And by being in a black box, you get an entirely different experience as an audience than you do in a large opera house, so you are close enough to the stage that you can see all of the facial expressions which means we have to hire, Susan corrected actors to singers, but I wouldn't do that, I mean we have to have people that are really very skilled at both. Everything is unamplified, and this is what I love with our first-time opera goers, they are so impressed with how much sound these people put out and in such a small space. You feel it too in your own body.

Susan Derry: Yeah, and they're right there and it's reverberating in you so yes, you're right, actors.

Jo Reed: Bob, you conduct every opera ever presented by UrbanArias and you work with a music ensemble.

Bob Wood: Yes, we work with Inscape Chamber Orchestra, an excellent chamber orchestra that's based in Maryland. We've been working with them now for four seasons and they have a core orchestra, I think of probably 25 people or something like that, and we take whatever portion of that the composition demands. Our upcoming production is called "Florida" by Randall Eng and Donna Di Novelli. This is a big one for us, it's an orchestra of seventeen. That's a big deal for us financially but also, it's a big deal in terms of the space.

Jo Reed: I was just going to ask you, is this at the Atlas?

Bob Wood: Yeah, and we're going to find out how that blends.

<laughter>

Jo Reed: Where are you going to put them?

Bob Wood: Well what we do very successfully is put them kind of in a long rectangle at the back of the whatever our stage space is and this means that I typically have my back to the stage where I'm standing in a corner of the orchestra so that I have some direct contact with the stage, it's like conducting a concert. It works very well. With this kind of stuff, we have to prepare so thoroughly, and we have to rehearse it so well because it's all new and new music is difficult. It's not like you can go get six recordings and choose your interpretation of it or much less that you've been studying the arias since you started college. So, everyone is working really hard to just get it in and as a result the preparation period means that it's not a bad thing for me to be standing behind the singers.

Jo Reed: I'm glad you brought that up because I was going to ask you about how much you have to rehearse because you are dealing with new pieces and singers who might not be used to singing contemporary work or—

Bob Wood: Well we don't hire the later kind.

<laughter>

Susan Derry: Yeah, we're pretty specific about that.

Bob Wood: Yeah, you know, resume and reputation and word of mouth are really important for hiring people, I still freelance conduct around, Susan works around a lot and so we both have a large network of people that can recommend people that are going to be the right people for each role.

Susan Derry: It's very specific.

Jo Reed: Tell me about the rehearsal process—like with "Florida."

Bob Wood: Sure, so we typically rehearse as we will for this two or three days with just music and that helps-- I mean in opera, unlike spoken theater, people are expected to arrive with everything learned and memorized and in theater, you don't do that. So, because of that particularly working peccadillo, you can stage opera in about two weeks and of course because we have short works that don't have chorus in them, you don't have to spend three weeks and then have umpteen chorus calls and do it separately with the chorus and the principals and then put it all together, the scale of what we're doing helps make that process faster. And then we have a week of tech in the theater and that is always, it seems like less than we need but we always pull it off.

Susan Derry: What I think is so exciting about the young people, the actors out there that we're able to hire is that they come in with this incredible musical ability that's so intense but more and more we're getting folks who are so compelling as performers and that is really exciting to see for the future of sung theater.

Jo Reed: And are the composers typically in the theater when you're rehearsing?

<laughter>

Bob Wood: As little as possible. <laughs> No, they will--we have an open-door policy on that and we've had a variety of responses to it. We've had some people that really wanted to be on board the whole time and other people that, you know, trust us and will come in for the first rehearsal with the orchestra or a couple of technical rehearsals in the theater or the last rehearsal in the rehearsal room or something like that. There's something very exciting about participating in new work, you feel like you are able to discover with the singers and with the orchestra and with the composer, how this thing is going to go. And also, you can change things—you can't just ask Puccini if you can change this note, but if something doesn't work, you can ask the composer and see if she'll make a change.

Jo Reed: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that actually when we were talking about the composer and the composer being there before if you're finding everybody's up there and it's just not flying.

Bob Wood: Yeah. Well, and that's really important and I think we tend to try to work with just as we engage singers that are very good actors and that are easy to work with, we also try to engage composers that are easy to work with because that kind of flexibility is really important. I mean if the—I've been there in situations in my life where the elephant in the room is that the scene doesn't work but—and there are 20 people that think that, but the composer isn't one of them. And—

<laughter>

Jo Reed: Whoops!

Bob Wood: Yeah.

<laughter>

Bob Wood: And then you're stuck. And I think that also being a smaller company and a more nimble company, our whole atmosphere and our ethos is just more casual. So, while we care a lot about the standards of what we put on the stage, the working atmosphere is very collegial and I think that those conversations are probably easier.

Jo Reed: How do you, the conductor, work with the director? Susan, you still perform, and you sing, you sing musical theater and you sing opera.

Susan Derry: Mostly just musical theater now but I'm also teaching around town so that's actually really fun to see young people coming up, coming to see the opera and saying, "Hey, maybe I want to do that."

Jo Reed: And do you find young people are interested in opera?

Susan Derry: Yes, yes, they are out there. And when they think that they're not interested, when they see what we're doing, they go, "Huh, that's really kind of cool to be able to use your instrument in that way to tell a story."

Jo Reed: I need to know about Opera Improv, please.

<laughter>

Susan Derry: It is so fun. So, when I was in graduate school in New York, we had this fantastic teacher come in to do our singing acting class and her name was Rhoda Levine, "Hi Rhoda if you're out there!" And she had us do improvisation in this class and let me tell you we were all terrified. She would give us a situation and she would give the pianist, the accompanist a mood and also sort of a time period and they would just start to play, and you had your other person and you were required to start singing your improvisation. And after a while this became the class that we all looked forward to and it was so much fun! And you got to—you were using your voice but you were also doing all this silly stuff and so we decided to recreate it here and it goes over big and I think the singers really enjoy it.

Jo Reed: Are the terrified?

Bob Wood: Yeah.

<laughter>

Bob Wood: You have to get used to it and there's a certain amount of just letting go which I think they find very useful in performing generally.

Susan Derry: Absolutely, absolutely, it is so important to be able to do that when you're in an audition situation, even if you're doing something planned to figure out how can you respond to a director, how can you respond to someone that you are being asked to read with or sing with? So, it's really, really useful even though they all look like they're going to throw up when we ask them to do it.

Bob Wood: And this is not everyone's strength, so we audition very carefully for people that clearly can demonstrate an aptitude for this and in fact, we have improv auditions periodically to fill out this part of our roster, right? And now we've figured out we have an actual series of these so now we're able to do these with more regularity than we have been for the last several years. And so, I've now found a bunch of people that can—that can really do this well.

Jo Reed: And I think it's so smart because it's two—it's just two art forms that you just never think of combining.

Bob Wood: Well right, that dissonance is really exciting for people because they think it's a real gas. And then the other thing is finding—the buzz is all about, "Well what do we do to make people find--to make people embrace live theater and the arts and what have you and they're being asked to sit quietly in seats and no one wants to do that anymore. Improv is interactive because we take suggestions from the audience about what they're going to see so we create skits and scenarios, one of our favorites is to ask somebody in the audience to tell the story of their first date or their worst date and then we recreate that as a three or four-person opera.

Susan Derry” And it's fantastic because—

Bob Wood: It's hilarious.

Susan Derry: the person who gave you the story has a hand in essentially composing, creating this new work of art, it's really fun.

Bob Wood: Yeah.

Jo Reed: You said that you're looking to diversify your audience and moving to Atlas to a certain extent of course did that. What about in terms of the artists who are on your stage because you're a D.C. company and D.C. is still a majority Black city, a huge Hispanic population, so in terms of the artists on the stage and the artists composing?

Bob Wood: Yeah, I mean we're always mindful of that and I think as a colleague of mine once said, this was a big discussion, a big subject of discussion at an Opera America conference a couple of years ago and this colleague got very frustrated because everyone was speaking about it in a certain way and her view was this is a networking issue <laughs>. If you don't know enough people of color or with the right kind of diversity that you're looking for then you just need to try and meet them, you know, and just ask around. For example, we just did an opera based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright and we cast Wright as an African American. It wasn't something that I deliberately thought of that I needed to do until the person that was the best for the role was Black, so I thought, "Well, all right, that's what we're going to do.

Susan Derry: Suddenly right in front of you who's fantastic.

Jo Reed: Opera was once popular entertainment, but now it's seen as elite. And in no small way it's because of ticket prices. Opera, I understand, is very expensive to produce but ticket prices can really put it out of reach for most people. How do you price your tickets?

Susan Derry: Where are we right now, we're at—

Bob Wood: Forty-three to 45, which is really cheap for who we're offering as artists. I mean we cast, like for example, Michael Mayes has sung with us a bunch of times and he just did "Dead Man Walking" at the Kennedy Center with Washington National Opera, he's done that role a lot. I mean I challenge you to find a seat in the Kennedy Center where you can see his face for 45 dollars.

<laughter>

Bob Wood: And we deliberately keep them low.

Susan Derry: Yeah, it's really vital, really vital to getting the community to come in the door.

Jo Reed: And opera can also sometimes—I don't know, make people feel like an outsider. It can be intimidating because people think that there's this code of behavior that's associated with it.

Bob Wood: And we knocked down those barriers too, I mean we're in a black box, you're already not going to feel as formal as you would in a jewel box theater.

Susan Derry: Yeah, we encourage our patrons to go to the bar and come in with their beverage of choice.

Bob Wood: Which you can't do in some older places because the maintenance for cleaning all that up would be tough.

<laughter>

Bob Wood: Yeah, so I think we do have that advantage and, you know, other more formal organizations are embracing that at least in part of their season as well. They try to do things in smaller venues where they do have that flexibility because I think we're all aware that the zeitgeist's just pointing us towards again movies. So, you want something that's feature length and you also want to be able to bring your popcorn in, so.

Jo Reed: And what about things like talkback and that kind of audience engagement?

Susan Derry: We do one for every show, every performance and it is always fun and interesting, and it could go on if I didn't waive at Bob from the back of the house and say, "Dunzo!" We could go on for hours.

Bob Wood: We have a very engaged audience and I would say easily a third to half of them stay after every performance and we always have the entire cast and then whoever is present from the creative team, if the director is still there, if the authors are there at that performance, they join in as well. They're lightly moderated by me, I just throw a few softballs and then I get the audience to ask questions. And I have to say the Washington audience is so well educated—

Susan Derry: Oh my gosh.

Bob Wood: these are always really interesting and the participants, the performers will always say to me afterwards, "Wow, god, you have a really smart audience."

Jo Reed: And how many productions do you do a year, now?

Bob Wood: We do three a year now, two at Atlas and one at Signature and that's a lot but it's very good. We noticed that being out of the public eye for such long periods of time, opera by its nature doesn't have very long runs, so doing more and this cabaret series now that we've been able to really double down on it and make it more systematic so that people that there's something UrbanArias is doing through most of the year. That really helps keep the visibility up.

Jo Reed: Okay, ten years from now, where would you like to see UrbanArias?

Susan Derry: I would like to see us have our own home.

Bob Wood: <laughs> yes.

<laughter>

Susan Derry: A mostly permanent home.

Bob Wood: Yeah.

Susan Derry: I mean that's dreaming a little—a little big but why not?

Bob Wood: I think in ten years our own home, a regular commissioning thing where we're commissioning once a year. Right now, we do it maybe every other year, being able to commission more than that would be huge. And I think, yeah, about the same number of productions that we're doing.

Susan Derry: And regular commissioning is so important because then we are able to continue to add to the art form which is our goal.

Bob Wood: Yeah, and we're investing in particular people when we do that that we think are really great and we don't want them to be one or two hit wonders, we want them to produce as many operas as Verdi did because they're that good, right, so.

Susan Derry: And get them seen around the country as often.

Bob Wood: Yeah.

Jo Reed: And what's next for UrbanArias?

Bob Wood: We have our grandest opera coming up, which is, I told you before, "Florida" this is based on, it's sort of very loosely based on some actual events but it's about a teenage girl who is falsely accused of matricide, we got NEA funding for this actually, so thank you. <laughs> She's falsely accused of matricide, the main characters are her, her mother and her boyfriend who lives next door. It's a feminist piece, the main point of this is how women and specifically teenage girls, the minute they try to explore or be open about their sexuality, and society just comes after them with a vengeance. And so, her boyfriend is the one who murdered her mother and he did it because he was afraid of losing Florida, that's the girl's name, her name is Florida Fandango, as the libretto says, "A name you can dance to, not a name you can trust."

<laughter>

Jo Reed: That is a great line.

Bob Reed: Yeah. Donna Di Novelli is just a fabulous librettist, she has such an amazing way with words. So, I mean it's humorous but it's also a serious piece.

Jo Reed: And there we have to leave it. Bob, Susan, thank you so much. I look forward to seeing your production of "Florida."

Susan Derry: Thank you so much for having us.

Bob Wood: Thank you.

#### End of Urban_Arias.mp3 ####

Jo Reed: That’s Susan Derry and conductor Robert Wood of the opera company, UrbanArias. Their new opera "Florida" opens at the Atlas Theater in Washington DC on April 7th — for more information go to urbanarias.org.

You’ve been listening to Art Works produced at the National Endowment for the Arts. Please subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a rating on Apple—it will help people to find us. For the National Endowment for the Arts, I'm Josephine Reed. Thanks for listening.

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Contemporary opera for contemporary audiences.