Peabody director Jeffrey Sharkey called the relationship between the conservatory and the new opera company "absolutely logical. It's a great opportunity for our singers and our orchestra to perform in a large theater. We'll have to raise the money for the set for 'The Rake's Progress,' which will be a lot bigger than we're used to, but I think we can do it."

Operas at Peabody are performed in a relatively intimate, 750-seat theater; the Lyric seats about 2,500. Sharkey anticipates the relationship with Lyric Opera Baltimore will eventually include opportunities for student singers in small roles for the new company's productions; there's talk, too, of the conservatory presenting concerts for orchestra and chorus at the Lyric.

Operatic activity has continued in and around Baltimore since the death of the Baltimore Opera Company, from modest, concert-form presentations with piano accompaniment to chamber-sized productions by the long-established Opera Vivente in Mount Vernon to substantial ventures by the recently organized Baltimore Opera Theatre (presented at the Hippodrome Theatre and Gordon Center in Owings Mills).

But the Lyric's historical role as the primary venue for grand opera seems to resonate most strongly.

"We were very fortunate to have a great artistic institution as a resident company at the Lyric for almost 60 years," Richmond said. "When it folded, we felt there was still an audience for opera and we saw that interest continue when we brought Washington National Opera here for a concert version of 'Turandot' in 2009, then a concert by [soprano] Renee Fleming, and then a fully staged production of 'Carmen' last February."

Such events encouraged efforts inside the Lyric organization to launch a full-fledged opera company, one that would aim to avoid the mistakes of management and budgeting.

"We have always been financially prudent at the Lyric and we will continue to be financially prudent," Richmond said. "We have a very lean staff."

Harp said that the immediate focus is on fundraising and development to ensure a fully supported launch in the fall.

"We don't anticipate any misfortune," he said, "but we are prepared to refund any ticket money if need be. We're committed to making this work."

That sort of assurance may be enough to sway people like Griffin.

"I'm pretty sure we'll be buying tickets," he said. "Opera is a great art form, and our city is the better for having it."

tim.smith@baltsun.com



Lyric Opera Baltimore's inaugural season:



•Nov. 4 and 6: "La Traviata" with Elizabeth Futral and Eric Margiore; Baltimore Symphony; Steven White, conductor; Crystal Manich, stage director.

•March 9 and 11, 2012: "The Marriage of Figaro" with Daniel Mobbs and Caitlin Lynch; Baltimore Symphony; Joseph Rescigno, conductor; Bernard Uzan, director.

•April 20 and 22, 2012: "Faust" with Stefania Dovhan and Bryan Hymel; Concert Artists of Baltimore; James Meena, conductor; Uzan. director.

For more information, go to modellpac.com.

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