'Voices for Votes': Opera Stars Sing Out for Democratic Voters

by Lewis Whittington

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday August 27, 2020

Soprano Kala Maxym, who put together the "Voices for Votes!" streaming event
Soprano Kala Maxym, who put together the "Voices for Votes!" streaming event  (Source:Kala Maxym)

Opera singers around the country will be part of "Voices for Votes!," an online aria-fest to raise money for Field Team 6, a progressive voter activist group seeking to 'Register Democrats and Save the World." The event is the brainchild of soprano Kala Maxym, a social justice activist and entrepreneur.

"I've worked every election since 2008 and I wrote my Barnard College senior thesis on voter apathy and its effect of democracy," Maxym said in a phone interview earlier this week from her home in Los Angeles. She said that she wanted to do what she could to get people to register and ensure their rights to vote this crucial election year.

"How do you make our voices heard?" she asked. "I was in despair after George Floyd's murder. I didn't know what to do, but I woke up in the middle of the night with this idea about 'Voices for Votes, A Night at the Opera."

Maxym has collaborated with opera singers from around the country to perform classical repertoire and Broadway classics in a performance auction via ZOOM, and have attendees bid on arias that they want a particular singer to sing.

Maxym said she first approached the Biden campaign about sponsoring the event, and they thought it was a good idea but passed on participating. Then Maxym contacted Field Team 6 and "Luckily, it didn't take long for the idea to land in the best hands possible, with Field Team 6, a grassroots voter registration organization whose slogan and mission are simple."

In early August, Field Team 6 partnered with 'Ballots Over Broadway' in a recorded virtual performance by Broadway stars. The two-hour event raised $40,000 for the organization. "A Night at the Opera" will be a live ZOOM event with a line-up of current opera stars from around the country.

At press time participating singers include Maggie Finnegan (soprano); Rodell Rosel (tenor, Royal Opera House, Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera); Orson Van Gay II (tenor, Long Beach Opera, L.A. Opera); Jorell Williams (baritone, Seattle Opera, NYC Opera); Reid Bruton (bass, L.A. Opera); and others are to be announced.

Ms. Maxym (soprano, Long Beach & Spokane symphonies, Opera Santa Barbara, Diva Opera European Tour) will also be performing and co-hosting the event with Field Team 6 founder Jason Berlin.

Maxym said that it will be a unique way to connect with opera fans at this time and raise money for a good cause. "Opera singers for the most part do not use microphones and are trained to project their voices from unmiked opera stages, concert halls, so it is very tricky to sing remotely." For one most home spaces do not have reliable acoustics.

Most of the singers are working with backing musical tracks instead of live musical accompaniment which is how they usually perform. And many of the performers haven't been singing in front of an audience on opera and concert stages have been shut down since March.

Maxym noted that "yes, there might be some moments that might not be perfect, but sing un-miked and I wanted people to hear that, this what we look like and sound like. So it won't be the same as the Metropolitan Opera stage. But, the pure unenhanced setting, with just the voice and singer, Maxym assures will be part of what makes it unique and fun.

"I asked the singers to prepare three song selections, so they are preparing to sing them all. And we're hoping people will bid and whatever aria raises the most money for the registration cause, that's what we'll perform."

Berlin commented in a statement "There's nothing more beautiful than people using their voices to lift up the voices of others...With Voices for Votes, we get the chance to celebrate many types of voices from many different communities, all to ensure that the voice of the people is heard on November 3rd."

"The "Voices for Votes! : A Night at the Opera" performance takes place online on August 29, 2020 at 6-7pm. For further information & tickets visit this website.

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Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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