We are back with another great episode! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with plenty of food and company.

Today’s guest, Nicole Dupré, is the founder of Opera del Sol, an immersive production company right here in Orlando! She is all about bringing Opera to Orlando in a way that is fun, unique and new. I have to say, after speaking to Nicole, her energy made me want to check out her first production of Opera Wars which opened this past weekend (note I paid for it 100% out of my own pocket). The show was absolutely phenomenal! This is definitely an event you want to keep on your radar as Opera del Sol’s season progresses this year!

Also, you can catch the next performance of Opera del Sol with their Messiah Sing-Along on Sunday, December 10, 2017, at 2pm at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Cloud.

1) You can build a community audience by drawing inspiration from others.

Nicole has an extensive background in opera and the theatre scene as a makeup and wig designer, so it was a no-brainer to channel this creativity into her company.

“I wanted to blend together what I love about opera with what I love about our community.”

Over her career as a makeup artist, she has worked on more than 25 operas. Nicole noticed that these shows didn’t really resonate with a modern audience. “That’s not necessarily cool or hip or sexy, but the messages they’re delivering really are.”

So she wanted to take all the fun parts of opera shows and blend it with the talent here in Orlando to offer something different for the city.

Nicole drew inspiration from people she met through her theatre work. These people are from all over the country. As she grew her creative community, Nicole felt inspired by these new contacts and their work in other cities. She started to see a lot of really fun concepts, and she wanted to figure out how to bring that magic to Orlando.

“It’s been the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also really, really inspiring.”

2) Modern elements and out of the box ideas bring new elements to Opera.

Nicole knew she needed to do something different to “make Opera sexy again.” She wanted to include non-Opera elements and change the format slightly to liven up her performances. Some of the ideas Nicole incorporated into her show was to make it shorter, to add lots of opera favorites, and to include non-Opera songs like Broadway hits to further the story along.

When it came to how to package this new type of Opera, Nicole wanted an idea that was modern and drew from pop culture and could utilize her skills as a visual effects artist. That is where the idea of Opera Wars was born, the first production from Opera del Sol. Opera Wars opened on Thanksgiving weekend and was a space-themed opera with plenty of pop culture references to please any fan of the genre.

While developing this first show, Nicole asked herself, what is it about Orlando that she really loves, that defines us? For the art and theatre community, she knew the Orlando Fringe Festival was a defining characteristic of our community. She was also drawn to all the visual effects that events like Halloween Horror Nights attract, and the visual creativity included in that artist community.

Nicole also wanted to give performers the creative leash to really be artistic and perform the song the way they have always imagined. So the development of the show was a true collaborative effort from all those who were involved.

The show is also immersive. Performers enter from different areas of the room, and even encourage audience members to participate tearing down the 4th wall and keeping the audience on its toes.

3) You can build something you love, even when you aren’t formally trained, based on vision, passion, and collaboration.

Nicole isn’t classically trained in opera, but she is so passionate about it that she wants to bring that love to others. She wants people to enjoy the art form and appreciate it in a way that they can connect to. That is the drive that motived Nicole to start this company.  “I’m opera’s biggest cheerleader! I love the singers and performers, and the whole process of it coming together,” Nicole said.

Nicole pointed out that while the average operagoer is 70 years old, the average age of a resident in downtown Orlando is between 35 and 40. She needed to figure out what they love and what they want to do. She wants to create a place where people will talk about Orlando as a spot for classical music to thrive in a few years, thanks to the efforts of Opera del Sol and other artists in the community. “We don’t want these classical art forms to die, but we want to get a much younger crowd that speaks to who we are. We want both of the generations there.”

“We are a city that is building and growing, and still figuring out our identity. And I would love to be one of these people that are a part of that change and that group,” Nicole said, “if we can keep the music the same, but delivered in a new way, I want to be known for that.”

Nicole worked with other creators in the community to find out what was already working and attracting audiences, like SAK Comedy Lab and local hip-hop groups. The whole idea is to change the opera stigma and to deliver the art form to a larger audience.

“These stories are timeless and can be set from caveman to space aliens.” Nicole believes if we just pick the right stories that resonate with a modern audience, there will be a whole new generation of opera lovers out there.

Plus, Nicole wants to be really conscious of what the community wants to see. She wants to pay attention to what will attract them, what will engage them, and how to make all this attainable to them. “I really believe in curating it based on the community,” she said. “I want to take this particular art form out of the performing arts center for a while. Take it to the people. Make it dirty. Take it somewhere where we can start to fall in love with it. I think we’re not going to get the audience that we want when they’re not already coming to the performing arts center to see us.”

“Why not have a beer and listen to a baritone, or pop up at Leu Gardens and perform next to a silent movie?” There are so many different ways that Opera del Sol could make an impact in the community.

4) Nicole’s love for transformations came from her background as an esthetician.

Nicole was introduced to the Opera community because of her background as an esthetician. It was a career she was drawn to because her stepmother is one and instilled a love of skin care and makeup into Nicole.

After receiving her esthetician’s certification, Nicole realized she needed to network and build her community as she moved forward in her career. One of the first contacts she met was Jim Hobart at Macbeth Photography (Lady boss Beth Hobart’s husband!). She started participating in his First Friday photos and was introduced to a large circle of inspirational people in the media and theatre fields.

Soon she found herself taking a visual effects makeup class, and explored makeup in theatre settings. Her connections in theatre eventually lead to makeup jobs in Opera settings too.

Once backstage and working for the Opera, Nicole felt a sense of nostalgia that brought her back to time spent with her grandparents listening to classical music. She also fell in love with the show stories and how timeless each one was.

The transformation of the actors also amazed Nicole because opera talent is hired based on vocal ability and not necessarily looks. This means makeup and visual effects play a large role in the look of the performer. This offered a lot of creativity to Nicole who had to take into consideration the story, director’s vision, how the actor actually looks, and how it would all translate on stage.

“I fell in love with the production crews, the stories, and Mozart!”

Nicole believes her connection to people is what drives her career decisions. The part she has always loved about being an esthetician is hearing someone’s story, allowing them to be vulnerable, and then transforming them in a way that makes them feel amazing. “When they come to me [at] their most nervous, their most vulnerable, and we go through that transformation process, [that] is really deep for me,” Nicole said

5) Music brings the community together.

Nicole’s vision of creating an event that is community-focused and community-driven as it is developed is also showcased in how she thinks about bringing the shows to life. She takes the collaborative artistic community and tries to think about how you can incorporate other businesses into the model.

She looks to see what innovators in Orlando are already doing, what kind of city they are contributing to, and gains inspiration from their projects. These are also the people she is interested in collaborating with to unite the best parts of Orlando.

“What can we do as a whole to make this city better and have an impact on its identity?”

Nicole believes that music can be a way for people to come together. It can bring back moments from your history that you can relive. The music also deals with a lot of deep-rooted emotion. When the music is delivered in the right setting in the right way, it can move people. “We don’t want to just create art for art’s sake, but [think about] how does it unite us and how does it bring us together?” she asked.

Plus, Nicole loves the artistic expression musicians can add to classical pieces of music; to add their own spin on it and make it their own, while also respecting the original piece. “Why not be flexible with our methods when all we really want people to fall in love with is Mozart, classical music, and opera.”

This helps the artist create a new, shared experience with an audience. If she can build shows that invoke those feelings using a modern flare, she knows that opera will resonate with newer generations!

About Nicole Dupré

Since 2009, Nicole Dupré has worked alongside and within numerous Performing Arts institutions, including Opera Orlando, The Orlando Philharmonic, Stetson University, UCF, The Orlando Ballet, Vero Beach Opera Company, among others. As a heavily sought after Hair, Makeup and Wig Designer her work has been seen in such productions as: Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, Tosca, Barber of Seville, Marriage of Figaro, Impresario, Les mamelles de Tiresias, Don Pasquale, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Don Giovanni, Magic Flute, Candide, Beauty & the Beast, Don Quiote, Dracula and many more. Her highly regarded expertise in skincare has earned the trust of such notable clientele as: FORBES Magazine, The Today Show, MSNBC, The Golf Channel, WESH2News, and even a 500lb. tiger.

Affectionately regarded as the unofficial Empress Of Orlando, Nicole Dupré is unapologetic about her love and zeal for Orlando. As a graduate of The Mayor’s City Academy, she has determined to help shape Orlando’s Performing Arts culture. Opera del Sol endeavors to re-imagine operatic classics, cultivate and create modern gems and expose audiences of every age and background to the wonders of the Performing Arts.

Links from the Show

Visit Opera del Sol’s Website
“Like” Opera del Sol on Facebook
Follow Opera del Sol on Instagram

Check out the next Opera del Sol performace:
Messiah Sing-Along
December 10, 2017 at 2pm
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
700 Brown Chapel Road, St. Cloud, Fl 34769