New Spierman to spearhead Bronx Opera
By James Palmer
While the family of composer Richard Wagner struggles for power to control their patriarch’s operatic legacy at the annual Bayreuth Festival in Germany, the relatives of Anthony and Sally Amato let the couple’s boutique opera company based in the East Village dissolve after 61 years.
But patrons of the Bronx’s most famous and longest running operatic endeavor have no reasons for such concerns thanks to Benjamin Spierman.
Mr. Spierman is the son of Michael Spierman, who founded the Bronx Opera Company in 1967.
Benjamin Spierman, who is an only child, says he plans to continue his father’s legacy in the borough. He is currently the company’s associate artistic director.
“The Wagners are all fighting for it, and none of the Amatos wanted it,” Benjamin Spierman said of the two families and their operatic legacies.
Benjamin Spierman has veered slightly off the path of his father and embraced the stage rather than conduct. Though he has performed as a bass baritone, today, he focuses on the stage direction side of opera. His credits include Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow in Indianapolis, Ind. and Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot in Dayton, Ohio. He is scheduled to work on Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma in St. Petersburg, Fla., in June.
“First, I think it would be a bit Freudian if I followed my father into conducting,” Benjamin Spierman said. “But if I went into conducting, I wouldn’t be able to work with my father, which we both enjoy”
Business and family often combine to create tension, but the Spiermans seem to depend upon one another for support. During a recent rehearsal for the company’s latest production, Kirke Mechem’s The Rivals, Michael Spierman reached a particularly complex part of phrasing in the score and experienced difficulty synchronizing with a singer onstage when he called to his son from the orchestra pit, “Ben, please help me!”
Similar to Mr. Wagner’s grandsons, Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner, Benjamin Spierman has found his calling and fulfillment in the stage directing of operas.