Christian Elser seeks to make opera less intimidating

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Donna Isabel Walker | City People – The Greenville News 

December 19, 2012

Christian Elser loves opera, but he knows that some people find it intimidating or hard to understand. Elser, one of the founders of Greenville Light Opera Works, set out to “demystify” opera, to give others the chance to see it as he does. GLOW, which came together in 2009, has presented comic operas such as “Don Pasquale,” Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, even the self-explanatory “Rock Opera.” Elser, who co-founded GLOW with his wife, Jenna Tamisiea, wants to change the perception of opera just a bit. “We try to make it accessible,” Elser says. “It’s not stodgy costumes where people stand and sing and it’s boring. We stage everything almost as if it were music theater. … It’s active. We try to keep up the energy and the pace, and to show people that this art form is hard to get. Opera actually does pretty well in this country, it’s just expensive to produce.”

A native of Milwaukee, Elser came to the Upstate five years ago to teach voice at Presbyterian College. He’s also an opera singer, a baritone who has performed with the Chicago Opera Theatre, Lyric Opera Cleveland, and many more. He grew up in a musical home; his mom was an R&B organist who played with the Righteous Brothers and performed in a group called the Shattertones. In high school, Elser got into a rock band with some pals, but “it soon became apparent that I could certainly sing, but I wasn’t going to be Rod Stewart. I was probably going to be a classical singer.” He went to college at University of Wisconsin, where he majored in voice. Elser came to the Upstate from Kansas City, and he never expected to find such dedication to the arts. “I was impressed with Greenville on many levels,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised at the vibrancy of the cultural community here.” But, Elser says, despite the city’s well-established theater and ballet companies, he thought there needed to be a company dedicated to the professional vocal arts. “I hadn’t really planned on getting in the impresario business, but I thought, well this is an opportunity,” he says.

Name: Dr. Christian Elser, general director of Greenville Light Opera Works
Family: Wife, Jenna Tamisiea, artistic director of GLOW
Education: Bachelor’s in voice from University of Wisconsin, master’s in music from Northwestern University, doctor of music from University of Kansas
Also: Elser is a voice professor at Presbyterian College and director of music at Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Interests: University of Wisconsin football, Kansas basketball, cooking, traveling
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