The Forrópera Experiência was an arts collaboration showing the capacity of arts to adapt to the pandemic, and to technology. The program’s three parts included workshops, filming choreographed works, and a virtual concert. All program content was created virtually, and then, for the dance choreography, staged in a physical location for professional filming. The virtual concert took place on May 7, 2021.
The premiere of the Forrópera Experiência was birthed out of the duo and musical style called Forrópera; created by Chrystal E. Williams, mezzo-soprano, and Felipe Hostins, Brazilian accordionist and composer, in collaboration with the Esperanza Arts Center and Astral Artists.
Chrystal Williams said, “Hostins and I started creating Forrópera in 2016 and it premiered in 2018 as a way to foster unity, peace and understanding through music. The Forrópera Experiência built on that foundation – helping to bridge gaps, break down barriers, and open the door to creativity and possibility. It helped stretch, if not remove altogether, boundaries and limitations.
This collaboration, with the Esperanza Arts Center and Astral Artists, began in 2018 with the gathering of the minds to share ideas and start the path of co-creation and collaboration. Hostins and I met with Esperanza and Astral numerous times, and through a series of workshops, we would share the genesis of Forrópera, and thus the Forrópera Experiência-teaching and sharing differing styles of music, culture, language; all while creating an opera, a Forrópera, that we would all explore and experience together, in the moment. The proposed premiere date was scheduled for 2020. Alas, along came Covid 19. We would go on to postpone the premiere date, and later come up with a hybrid version of in person/live and pre-recorded/digital. This project morphed and changed countless times since planning in 2018; and it was only by staying true to the heart of the project that we were able to continue.
In the end, we moved the workshops online and with the integral help of Tania Y. Ramos Otón, Stefanie Wakeman, and Dan Visconti, we were able to build and create even though we were all still socially distanced. Through digital workshops, we created something beautiful and meaningful-captured moments of our collective subconscious. Yet, we must clarify. We can say it was through digital technology that we were able to go forward, but that technology would be nothing without the passion, dedication, commitment, perseverance, and true essence of the Forrópera Experiência and its team, its community. Forró means for all and Opera means work. It was through this work of art for all that we were able, still, to bring people together from all walks of life, make great art available and accessible TO and FOR all, shift the way music is perceived and received, and help redefine the theatrical experience.”
Lourdes Starr-Demers,Executive Director at Astral Artist, said «At Astral, we are fortunate to work with early career artists performing at the highest level, and with a curiosity about creating new musical adventures with others. Chrystal E. Williams and Felipe Hostins created the sound of Forrópera through interweaving the worlds of Opera and Brazilian Forró music. Forrópera Experiência built on that soundscape, by creating original music, lyrics, poetry, visual art and dance with talented young artists from Esperanza Academy, the Esperanza Academy Dance Ensemble, and guest artists Gabe Hall-Rodrigues, accordion and Davi Vieira, percussion. Forrópera Experiência allowed us all to be part of the magic of creativity, and the power of the arts to express what often feels impossible to capture with words alone.”
The students were equally moved by the experience:
“The experience in Forrópera was amazing. Every day we would get to know each other more, whether it was through small activities or everyone showing their skills to one another to create something beautiful. What surprised me was the immense growth in the people in this project, and the way we were so quiet at the beginning but then grew to the point where we were comfortable with each other; also the amazing talents everyone had whether it was visual art, music, or even dancing.”
-William, EA sophomore
“I really enjoyed being able to create a music piece with all the amazing artists from Forrópera. The fact that I was able to play and record a piece that would be watched meant a lot to me, even if I did not get to perform in person. One of my favorite moments was when Gabe did a play-along to a random solo I did using my trumpet. I was so surprised but mainly I just felt honored that such a great performer went along with something random I created.”
-Ilian, EA senior
All the participants in this project showed that even a pandemic, and a switch to technology platforms, cannot stop the power of artists working together.
Producción Forrópera Experiência.