Opera Maine’s first live performance in six months drew so much interest that the nonprofit hosted a second Garden Serenade Sept. 12 — and, even then, reservations were full within five days.

Gala committee member Robin Webber suggested the venue: the grounds of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Falmouth Foreside, where she attended “picnic Eucharist” services this past summer. Opera Maine assigned each reservation a numbered circle on the lawn, supplying chairs and boxed charcuterie from The Cheese Shop for the 50 guests at noon and 62 guests at 4 p.m.

“People are ready to get together in a safe environment,” Webber said. “And we really lucked out with the weather.”

Pianist Scott Wheatley accompanied soprano Malinda Haslett, director of vocal studies of the University of Southern Maine, and her husband, tenor Jonathan Boyd. As their voices rose, an occasional early fall leaf fluttered down in the afternoon sun.

“This is charming,” said Sharon Reilly of Portland. “This may be the beginning of a whole new event style.”

The last time Maine’s opera community gathered in person was for a serenade at the Cumberland Club in Portland on March 8, just a week before the shutdown.

“Six months later, almost to the day, we are coming out of isolation,” said board President Arlene Schwind, wearing an Opera Maine face mask. “This event was the brainchild of the gala committee. The gala was originally scheduled in April, then we hoped to reschedule in June.”

The Garden Serenade was a smaller fundraiser than a gala and a smaller performance than a full opera, with guests socially distanced and masked anytime outside their reserved circles. And no one seemed to mind. “It’s what we can get,” said John Wilson of Waterboro, who has attended operas in Portland for at least a decade.

“We are thrilled to be able to get everybody together to enjoy some music,” said Leslie Hart, who co-hosted the serenade with Kevin Schochat.

“Being here altogether has definitely lifted my spirits,” said Executive Director Caroline Koelker.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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