Stepping Out

Operas, driveways and Dastoor

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Courtesy of Khori Dastoor
Khori Dastoor, Opera San Jose’s general director, lives in Los Altos.

Opera San Jose is inventing creative ways to stay connected with its patrons during an audience-free period. Los Altos resident Khori Dastoor, the opera’s new director, is spearheading the operation.

Dastoor is no stranger to opera. Her career took her from performing in shows to working as head of several performing arts companies. Eventually, she landed at Opera San Jose, becoming the general director late last year.

As the pandemic unfolded, Dastoor canceled the planned operas for the year and instead launched “Three Decembers” into the digital space. She said the decision was made in part to deliver an exceptional at-home performance and to keep Opera San Jose’s singers employed.

Dastoor said she selected the operatic piece “Three Decembers” to showcase the company’s ability to adapt to the state’s restrictive measures amid the pandemic and deliver quality performances in a digital format. It is scheduled to open Thursday and run through Dec. 31.

“Three Decembers,” written by Jake Heggie, is based on Terrence McNally’s unpublished play “Some Christmas Letters.” The chamber opera follows a mother and her two children through three Christmases, each a decade apart.

Aside from being well suited for these COVID-19 times – the performance involves only three characters – Dastoor kept coming back to “Three Decembers” because it mirrored the present day.

“‘Three Decembers’ takes place in 1986 in the throes of the AIDS pandemic, and there are a lot of similarities (to today) ... I was thinking about the ideas of connection, isolation and loss, which are what the piece deals with,” she said.

Susan Graham, Maya Kherani and Efraín Solís will star as the three members of the family “Three Decembers” centers on. The 90-minute performance is conducted by Christopher James Ray and directed by Tara Branham.

“Three Decembers” is especially poignant as McNally, the writer of the original play, died of COVID in March.

Aside from producing “Three Decembers,” the opera has been busy performing in the driveways of local residences. The singers, tested for COVID regularly, observe social distancing and sing only in outdoor settings.

“It’s a safe way to enjoy live music,” Dastoor said.

She has hosted several “driveway serenades” with the singers. Neighbors are invited to bring a glass of wine to enjoy from a safe distance – with their face mask in tow, of course.

“People can hear the singing down the block and they come out of their home. It’s been a nice moment to connect,” Dastoor said.

Dastoor made it clear that Opera San Jose is firmly planted with one foot forward.

“Too many arts organizations right now have shuttered their doors, and I think that’s really, really dangerous,” she said. “I think that the longer arts and culture stays out of the conversation, the more damaging (it will be) to our long-term recovery. We have to confront this, and we have to move forward. ‘Three Decembers’ seemed to me a piece that needed to be produced.”

Tickets to stream “Three Decembers” on demand start at $40.

For tickets and more information, visit operasj.org/three-decembers.

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