Franklinton’s devastating 1913 flood inspires original, collaborative opera production

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One constant in the history of humanity is our need to share our stories. Whether through oral traditions handed down from generation to generation, hieroglyphics on tomb walls, meticulously hand-painted vellum or podcasts, we share our stories, and through them our history, our culture and our humanity.

This recent train of thought was sparked by the impending world premiere of The Flood. For those not familiar, The Flood is an original opera being co-produced by two Columbus-based organizations: Opera Columbus and ProMusica.

Tom Katzenmeyer

Tom Katzenmeyer, president of the Greater Columbus Arts Council

The Flood tells the story of the great flood of 1913 that devastated Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood. It is a story of human tragedy, loss and redemption, but unlike older, more familiar operas, this story is ours.

The opera explores the lasting effect of the Great Flood and that trauma can be passed from generation to generation. The community commitment of our nonprofit arts organizations can be seen in the great care that has been taken to partner with Columbus organizations to ensure that the people of Columbus, and particularly the people of Franklinton, are able to experience this story in person.

Last fall Opera Columbus and ProMusica partnered with LifeCare Alliance to provide a special sneak-peek performance for 200 community members, which was followed by a Q&A. During the community discussion, several members of the audience shared personal stories about their families’ history with the Great Flood. Through this partnership as well as one with Gladden Community House, approximately 100 free tickets and transportation are being provided for a group of Franklinton residents.

Another partnership with United Schools Network has included school visits by artists involved in the production, and an opportunity on Feb. 6 for the students to attend the dress rehearsal. One of the buildings on USN’s Dana Avenue campus still bears a flood marker on one of its walls.

Capital University, Ohio History Connection, Thurber House, Columbus Young Professional Group and Columbus Landmarks Foundation all have joined in on everything from class visits, talk backs, ticket discounts and more.

Co-produced by Opera Columbus Director Peggy Kriha Dye and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra’s Executive Director Janet Chen, The Flood’s creative team is a nationally recognized trio including composer Korine Fujiwara, librettist and director Stephen Wadsworth, and Steven Osgood as conductor.

This project is a once-in- lifetime event that shares an important piece of our city’s story. I hope you are able to experience this unique artistic interpretation of a moment in history that is cemented in Columbus’ collective consciousness.

Find out more about the event and purchase tickets for The Flood on ColumbusMakesArt.com.

— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.

Image of The Flood rehearsal by Amanda Lynn Bottoms.