A few companies, such as American Opera Projects and the American Lyric Theater, were starting to look for fresh approaches, and Wood was impressed by the way director Peter Brooks, back in the early 1980s, had streamlined Bizet’s four-act “Carmen” down to half its original length. But paring old behemoths to the bone was not really the answer. If opera was to grow as an art form, Wood realized, it needed new composers and new audiences — and that meant a whole new kind of opera that would last no longer than a feature film, and be relevant to 21st-century audiences.
“These two ideas — short and contemporary — were rattling around in my head,” he says. “And I thought, what if I just put them together?”
Wood began digging up neglected operas written in the past 40 years, formed UrbanArias in 2009, and last year launched the group’s first festival, showcasing Tom Cipullo’s opera “Glory Denied” and two works by Ricky Ian Gordon, “Orpheus and Euridice” and “Green Sneakers.” The event was wildly successful, and major companies are starting to pay close attention to the UrbanArias model. But for Wood, the most gratifying outcome was the new listeners who were drawn in, some who had never been to an opera in their lives but were willing to take a chance.