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Opera Magnifico

About us

Opera Magnifico, a 501c3 non-profit organization, presents professional operatic productions for the local community surrounding Gladstone NJ , providing a niche that enriches the cultural offerings in the area near Somerset County. At the same time, Opera Magnifico provides emerging local operatic artists with an opportunity to perform operatic scenes and full roles in a professional setting, while receiving a modest stipend. Opera Magnifico is a platform for young and emerging artists to garner performance experience and dip their feet into the professional operatic world. We source these singers through a rigorous audition process. Our mission is to keep the bel canto tradition of opera alive and provide elegant productions that invoke the glory of golden age era of opera. We believe in compensating our artists for their work and supporting the careers of emerging and aspiring operatic artists.  Opera Magnifico also highlights some of the outstanding talent from the local NJ area in its professional operatic productions.

Stephen Walley, Artistic Director

Cassidy Dixon, Director of Operations

About: About Us

A Note About Bel Canto Singing and
The Golden Age of Opera

Bel Canto, in the operatic vocabulary, comes with a variety of meanings and interpretations. Literally translated from Italian, "Bel Canto" means "beautiful singing." Bel Canto refers to a genre of opera that developed in Italy in the mid 1700s and declined in the mid 1800s with the advent of Verismo opera. However, Bel Canto also refers to a technique of singing that was developed during this era. Bel Canto singers were able to project their sound to great volumes while maintaining immense beauty. As loud as the voice could get, it could also sing just as softly and sweetly. The voice could also achieve impressive agility, executing rapid passages with ease and poise, while always continuing strong enough to be heard by thousands of audience members over a full orchestra.

While the operas of the Bel Canto era fell out of fashion during the early 20th century, the style of singing remained stagnant and enabled singers of Puccini, Verdi and Wagner, composers who used even larger orchestras, to project, maintain beauty and meet the ever increasing demands from the composers. During the 1940s and 50s, highly publicized singers like Maria Callas and Montserrat Caballe, who could achieve spectacular virtuosity in bel canto repertoire, brought the repertoire back to prominence. The combination of wonderful technique and the frequent production of both Verismo and Bel Canto Operas of the 1920s-1950s, earned this era the name of "The Golden Age of Opera." Productions were also elegant and spectacular involving fire, live animals and hundreds of performers. 

Unfortunately, with the advent of microphones in our technological era, the technique of opera singing has shifted to a less visceral and dramatic form than bel canto singing. The new technique is beautiful in recording, but often inaudible and underwhelming in the theater. Opera used to be more about live vocal drama. Opera Magnifico strives to maintain the true bel canto tradition of singing and bring vocal drama to all of its productions.

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