The annual preview of the New Orleans Opera Association season, “A Taste of Opera,” has a new location this year: the Dutch Alley Performance Pavilion in the French Market, where passers-by can hear compositions from the upcoming season.

Among the preview pieces: Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” Antonin Dvorak’s “Rusalka,” Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

The hourlong performances are free, starting this Sunday at 4 p.m. and continuing every Sunday in September.

In his fifth season as the executive director at the New Orleans Opera Association, Todd Simmons will be accompanying the singers on piano.

“We do things not only from the shows that are coming up but that are also connected with the shows,” Simmons said. “For instance, you will have a couple of numbers from Bizet’s ‘Carmen,’ but then you will have another piece by Bizet but from a different opera, or another piece by a different French composer but of the same time period.”

Soprano singer Kathleen Halm is a regular performer in “A Taste of Opera.” She’s been cast as the foreign princess in Antonin Dvorak’s “Rusalka” — a story that parallels Hans Christian Andersen’s the “Little Mermaid.”

“I consider myself a conduit of the music to the audience. It is my job for the audience to feel every emotion that I (or the character) is feeling,” said Halm. “That is why people want music: It gives them permission to feel in a safe environment.”

Originally from Chicago, Halm has performed all over the country. Starting out in her teenage years in art song and musical theater, she switched to aria in college. It was within the musical genre of opera that Halm found her place.

“If you haven’t been to an opera, then go,” said Halm. “It is not stuffy or elitist; it is what the movies are to us of that period. It was the common man’s entertainment, and it still is.”

Opera singers are renowned for mesmerizing their audiences with their capacity to reach into the depths of human emotions.

“You sing how it feels, not how you hear it,” said Halm. “The emotions that I get to convey to the audience, feeds my soul.”

Capturing multiple art forms, opera incorporates singing, acting, costumes, orchestra, stage fighting, and visual arts. With the vast majority of opera’s being sung in a foreign language, French, Italian, German, or even Czech, opera absorbs the audience with universal stories and emotions.

“Singers have to be good actors. You cannot just be standing there and singing without any kind of emotions or any kind of action ... the public just won’t put up with it,” Simmons said.

Although New Orleans is more often associated with other musical genres, opera in the United States has its roots in the city’s cultural history.

“I would say nearly half of what we consider standard opera today had its American debut here in New Orleans,” said Simmons. “At one time, the real pathway to the United States was through the Mississippi River … so for a long time the real cultural center of America was here in New Orleans.”

In 19th century New Orleans, there were multiple opera companies competing with each another. In modern times, opera may not be thriving as it once was, but there is still a high demand with outreach programs such as “A Taste of Opera” capturing people’s attention.

“We have a very healthy arts community. There’s a lot of expansion, new venues and a lot of new groups popping up to perform,” Simmons said. “There is a great hunger for entertainment and for the classical arts in New Orleans.”

A Taste of Opera at the French Market

Where: Dutch Alley Performance Pavilion

WHEN: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday Sept. 7, 14, 21, 28.

Cost: Free

New Orleans Opera 2014-2015 season

Where : Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts

Cost: Tickets start at $26


Georges Bizet

Sung in French with English subtitles projected above the stage

When: Friday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 12


Antonin Dvorak

Sung in Czech with English subtitles projected above the stage

When: Friday, Nov. 14, and Sunday, Nov. 16

“Lucia Di Lammermoor”

Gaetano Donizetti

Sung in Italian with English subtitles projected above the stage

When: Friday, March 13, and Sunday, March 15

“The marriage of Figaro”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sung in Italian with English subtitles projected above the stage

When: Friday, April 10, and Sunday, April 12