Helios Opera to Debut with Pandemic-Driven Performance Initiative

Théodora Cottarel as Elle in Adrienne Boris’ production of Polenc’s La voix humaine by Modular Opera Project (Photo by Julien Rohel)

Modular Opera Project premieres with a modern take on Francis Poulenc’s one-act opera La voix humaine

McGRATHPR.com – In its debut performance, Helios Opera, a newly formed opera company driven by its mission to use sustainable, business-minded practices to bring opera into the future, premieres a new virtual opera through its Modular Opera Project (MOP) initiative.  MOP was created to offer performing artists the opportunity to produce one-act virtual operas online, despite performance limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  MOP’s first performance, a modern take on Francis Poulenc and Jean Cocteau’s one-act opera La voix humaine (The Human Voice), debuts virtually on Friday, August 14, 7:30 pm (EDT) at heliosopera.com/mop, admission is free.

La voix humaine is directed by Helios’s Founding Artistic Director Adrienne Boris,  and features soprano Théodora Cottarel in the role of Elle, with Celeste Marie Johnson as collaborative pianist. It is produced, filmed, and edited  by Julien Rohel, with audio production by Ken Silber of Silken Audio.   

MOP is Helios’s founders’ brainchild, created to improve the limitations challenging performing artists in their ability to rehearse and perform live during the COVID-19 pandemic.  After La voix humaine, the initiative’s premiere production, select performing artists will be hired to create their own virtual works remotely, receiving audio-visual training, professional equipment, marketing support, and artistic consultation from Helios Opera. The project is supported in part by Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative. 

“Modular Opera Project is the ideal launching pad for Helios as a company,” shares Théodora Cottarel, the company’s Founding General Director. “Helios was conceived as an innovative, flexible arts company in conversation with the needs of the contemporary world, parallel to start-ups in any other field. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we embraced the opportunity to create a new model, allowing opera performance to continue despite pandemic challenges, and delivering agency back into the hands of young artists.”

Co-Founder and Business Advisor Julien Rohel adds, “In order for opera to successfully transition online, we realized the need for an elevated value proposition – to provide our audience with unique, high-quality productions that could be created under modern day constraints, including small budgets, social distancing requirements and short timelines. We are committed to making this initiative replicable and modular, allowing artists to perform from home by applying our process and the many lessons we’ve learned along the way.”

Théodora Cottarel as Elle in Adrienne Boris’ production of Polenc’s La voix humaine by Modular Opera Project (Photo by Julien Rohel)

La voix humaine follows the story of Elle, a woman alone, exhausted and trapped, struggling to connect. In her way stands not only faulty technology but also interpersonal misunderstanding and miscommunication, alongside her own encroaching depression. As much as she detests the limits of the communication device in her hands, she knows she would be lost without it, as the only device tethering her to the person she cares most about and, ultimately, to reality.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the MOP team recognized inevitable parallels between Poulenc and Cocteau’s original 1958 monodrama and today’s contemporary reality. Stage Director Adrienne Boris has updated the production to a present day setting. 

Boris elaborates on the piece’s contemporary resonance, noting, “The pandemic has only increased our dependency on technology. We feel grateful for its existence and look to calls, texting, and social networking as a link to the communities we have left behind. At the same time, we resent it for being no substitute for real, in-person interaction.  During this pandemic, many either feel isolated or suffocated by those with whom they are quarantined, remain in abusive relationships, or are unable to receive adequate mental health care. In all of these ways, Elle’s struggles mirror our own.”

Admission to La voix humaine is free. To reserve a ticket, visit heliosopera.com/mop.

Helios Opera was founded in 2020 by Artistic Director Adrienne Boris, General Director Théodora Cottarel and Business Advisor Julien Rohel.  The company aims to bring opera into the future by creating sustainable, business-minded practices designed to engage a modern and diverse audience. It strives to provide rewarding performance opportunities and career support to talented emerging professional artists, and to make a positive socio-political impact through education and outreach. For more information, visit heliosopera.com, email contact@heliosopera.com, or follow Helios Opera on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Helios Opera

Helios Opera aims to bring opera into the future by creating sustainable, business-minded practices designed to engage a modern and diverse audience. It strives to provide rewarding performance opportunities and career support to talented emerging professional artists and to make a positive socio-political impact through education and outreach. For more information, visit heliosopera.com, email contact@heliosopera.com, or follow Helios Opera on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Modular Opera Project

Modular Opera Project (MOP), an initiative of Helios Opera, was created to address the current inability of artists to rehearse and perform live during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering select performing artists the opportunity to produce one-act operas digitally in their own homes. MOP seeks to empower artists to create their own virtual works remotely by providing audio-visual training, professional equipment, marketing support, and artistic consultation from Helios Opera.  Additional support for MOP is provided in part by the Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative.  For more information, visit heliosopera.com/mop or email contact@heliosopera.com.


About Helios Opera’s Leadership and MOP Artistic Team

Théodora Cottarel, General Director

Théodora Cottarel, courtesy image

Théodora is a Franco American soprano. She graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and has been singing internationally in operas and concerts ever since. She has worked with companies such as the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Palais de Tokyo in France, the Rome Philharmonic, and Houston’s Opera in the Heights among others. She moved to Boston in 2018 and has since worked with many companies in New England, such as Odyssey Opera, Opera del West, Commonwealth Lyric Opera Theater, Opera 51, Vox New England, and Lowell House Opera. Additionally, Théodora has had the privilege of working with the late Elizabeth Kemp and interned under her at the Actor’s Studio. She’s always been passionate about making opera accessible, about promoting women in the Arts and providing career opportunities for singers to express their talents. ​

Adrienne Boris, Artistic Director

Adrienne Boris, Artistic Director, courtesy image

Adrienne Boris is a director of opera and theater with a special interest in new work, stories about women, and opera in non-traditional spaces. She is Artistic Director of Helios Opera/Modular Opera Projects and Executive Producer & Stage Director at Lowell House Opera at Harvard University. Recent projects include La scuola degli amanti ossia: Così fan tutt(i), a feminist re-imagining of Mozart’s battle of the sexes opera (Lowell House Opera); the world premiere of DIVAS: A New Play with Opera Music by Laura Neill (OperaHub)  which The Boston Globe called a “touching, funny, and fascinating evening”, the New England premiere of Burst by Amy Leigh Horan (Chelsea Theatre Works/The Brain Aneurysm Foundation); La bohème (Long Island Lyric Opera and NEMPAC Opera Project); several world premiere ten-minute operas with Boston Opera Collaborative’s annual Opera Bites; and Or, by Liz Duffy Adams (Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company), which was nominated for the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Fringe Production by the Boston Theatre Critics’ Association. She has been Young Artist Stage Director at Opera North, Artistic Associate at OperaHub, and National New Play Network Producer-in-Residence at New Repertory Theatre. She received her MFA in Directing from Boston University. adrienneboris.com

Julien Rohel, Founder and Business Advisor

Celeste Marie Johnson,
Collaborative Pianist, courtesy image

Julien is an opera enthusiast and is passionate about creating opportunities for emerging artists, which he has done in France through his involvement in non-profits and independent projects. He is currently a business student at Harvard Business School and wants to apply his business and leadership skills to the art industry. Through his career, Julien has also developed a deep expertise in project management, business development and marketing. Even though it was in very different industries, these skills will help build a sustainable organization and allow Julien to bring an outside, fresh perspective to complement the skill set of our team.

Celeste Marie Johnson, Collaborative Pianist

Pianist Celeste Marie Johnson, described as “eloquent” by the Baltimore Sun, is a native of Rochester, MN. Most recently, she was a Young Artist with Opera Saratoga and was selected to be a participant in Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall. In 2018, she was awarded the Marc and Eva Stern Fellowship at SongFest in Los Angeles and was also a faculty coach at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Previously, Celeste has played for productions with Peabody Opera Theatre, Inland Opera Northwest, Boston University’s Opera Institute, Odyssey Opera, Atlantic Music Festival, and the Hawai’i Performing Arts Festival. She has worked as a coach and staff pianist at Boston University, Gonzaga University, and Whitworth University. Celeste holds degrees in piano performance from Baylor University (B.M.), vocal accompanying from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University (M.M.), and collaborative piano (D.M.A.) from Boston University. She is currently a Resident Artist with Minnesota Opera.