“A mostly quiet, touching, intimate family drama.” – Oregon ArtsWatch
“Go see it!” – Portland Mercury
Viva’s Holiday is a one-act opera based on the memoirs of local stripper, spokeperson, and writer Viva Las Vegas. A lyrical story about a young woman on an unconventional path testing the limits of family acceptance during a holiday visit, the opera runs 50 minutes and is written for four singers and a twelve-piece chamber orchestra. It played to full houses and earned glowing press in its premiere run in 2015.
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Opera has always loved the courageous female character – Beethoven’s Leonore, Puccini’s Tosca. Viva’s Holiday offers a modern hero in this tradition: a bright woman comfortable in her own skin, at once intellectual, rebellious, spiritual, and eager to connect with her family. Drawn from a celebrated Portland memoir, the opera explores the intersection of sex work, filial convention, and self-realization.
When Viva returns home for Christmas, she finds a family torn between care for her and discomfort with her chosen occupation – and the knowledge that self-love may seek an expression at odds with the expectations of her loved ones.
Following a sold-out first run at Portland, Oregon’s Star Theater, Viva’s Holiday has the makings of a Christmas tradition. Corbell’s music is approachable and multifaceted, drawn in colors from a palette rich with humor, motivity, and charming lyricism. The libretto – in English, adapted with much care and approved artistic license from its namesake’s original account – retains the vivacity of its source text. A 12-piece orchestra accompanies the four singing roles of mother, father, daughter, and son in delivering their moments of intimate comedy, audacity, and poignance.
This is an opera for friends of opera, but also an opera for the people, thick with the jovial poetry of the American vernacular, rooted in tradition and reaching into rare, impious spaces.
The excerpts here were recorded at the opening night performance. They feature soprano Helen Funston as Viva, tenor Matt Storm as Brother, baritone Bobby Jackson as Dad, and mezzo-soprano Sadie Gregg as Mom, under the musical direction of Erica Melton.
In Scene 2, Viva’s brother is interrogating her about her work as a stripper, saying he considers it demeaning.
The father’s aria in Scene 3, following a dialog with Mom, displays tender and measured parental concern – Dad does not yet know about his daughter’s chosen occupation.
In Scene 4 we see an interaction inspired by the real-life exchange between Viva and Mom during that holiday visit: Viva shows Mom some of her stripper clothes thinking she will enjoy how ‘girly’ they are, and tension builds.
Radio Interview: All Classical FM
Andrea Murray of All Classical FM’s Northwest Previews interviews composer Christopher Corbell and author Viva Las Vegas about the making of Viva’s Holiday, including musical excerpts from the production rehearsals.
Portland Mercury: A very Portland Christmas
But if you’re looking for a theatrical alternative to the staged equivalent of a sugary, mass-produced holiday cookie, you probably can’t do better than Viva’s Holiday, which is a Christmas opera about a stripper… Yes, that’s right! It’s a Christmas opera about a stripper!
-Megan Burbank Full article online
Artslandia: From Stripper Saga to Christmas Opera
In Viva’s Holiday, we see themes beyond the story: The sex worker without the sex…. The liberal left-coast pioneer returning reluctantly and briefly to the Midwest fold for Christmas. And the familiar need to be accepted for who we are, even when that radically changes.
– Matt Stangel Full article online
Willamette Week: Santa’s Lap Dance
A pastor’s daughter who came from Minnesota in hopes of building a music career, Viva Las Vegas is probably Portland’s most famous stripper now. She’s also an internationally touring advocate for strippers’ rights and the inspiration for local composer Christopher Corbell’s Christmas-themed opera, Viva’s Holiday…
– Enid Spitz Full article online
Oregon ArtsWatch: ‘Viva’s Holiday’: Making an opera, evoking a community
Viva’s Holiday is neither a violent romantic extravaganza nor a pontification on feminism or art nor even a lurid look into old Portland’s sexy, seamy side. It’s a mostly quiet, touching, intimate family drama…
– Brett Campbell Full article online