Don Palma, conductor of Symphony by the Sea, said that the popularity of opera starts with the fact that it always tells a story.
“With 19th-century opera, you’re dealing with mostly either comedies or romances, and I think people can relate to that,” he said. “There’s always a direct emotion associated with each specific aria and duet.”
Palma includes an opera program in each of the symphony’s seasons, and this Sunday will present arias and duets sung by baritone Ryne Cherry and mezzo-soprano Britt Brown.
Palma also links opera’s appeal to the expressive power of the human voice, which is heightened by dramatic presentation.
“I think people enjoy contact with somebody who is singing to them,” he said. “It’s very different from somebody playing an instrument — it’s more personal.”
He thinks several of the selections this weekend will be familiar to everyone, because they are touchstones of musical culture.
“A lot of it is in our psyche already,” Palma said. “People recognize the big tunes they’ve heard through the years.”
Cherry and Brown, who first met in 2005, are engaged to be married, but they don’t often sing together.
“There’s not a whole lot of repertoire out there for mezzo-soprano and baritone as a duet,” Brown said.
Both voices are in the low range, so composers don’t usually pair them together in scenes.
But Brown said that she and Cherry are both comfortable showcasing “the top end of our voices” and have chosen a program for Sunday that will climb up and down the scale.
Their two duets will begin with “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” which is a seduction scene.
This can be staged in a range of ways, Cherry said, but for Sunday’s concert program, the singing will take precedence over the acting.
“Everyone is different, but when I do something like this, you stage it slightly,” he said. “You make it cute and tasteful.”
The concert will close with another duet, when the pair sings “Dunque io son” from Gioachino Rossini’s “Barber of Seville.”
“Figaro and Rosina, who is the love interest of the tenor in the show, they’re scheming to get the tenor to fall in love with her,” Brown said.
The role is “a little outside” of what she normally does, but Brown said that her range has increased over the years and she is starting to sing a larger repertoire.
“It moves very quickly, in bel canto style, and has lots of runs in it,” she said. “It’s melodramatic.”
Cherry’s arias will include “O du, mein holder Abendstern” from Richard Wagner’s “Tannhauser,” which Cherry describes as “kind of like a prayer to the stars to protect the soprano.”
Palma, who plays bass and recorded Wagner’s “Ring” cycle with the Metropolitan Opera from 1988 to 1990, said that this is the first time that Symphony by the Sea has played anything by the German composer.
He said that Wagner’s music often requires special instruments and is difficult to orchestrate for an ensemble the size of Symphony by the Sea, so he is pleased that they are playing this piece.
“It’s one of the big baritone arias, and I’m glad that Ryne wants to sing it,” Palma said.
Cherry will also sing arias from “Don Giovanni” and Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman,” while Brown’s arias will include two from Jacques Offenbach’s “La Perichole,” one of which is called the “Tipsy Aria,” because the character is drunk.
“I’ve played it pretty straight, where I’m pretty tipsy, and I’ve played it full-out drunk,” Brown said.
She will also sing “O mio Fernando” from Gaetano Donizetti’s “La Favorita,” in which her character is overjoyed that she can marry the man she loves, but also fearful that he will discover she has been a mistress to the king.
“This is a barnburner,” Brown said.
Sunday’s program will include four orchestral selections, which will be played between vocal performances.
They will include the overture to “Barber of Seville,” before Cherry and Brown sing their duet, and some ballet music from Mozart’s “Idomeno,” which will be played in advance of the duet from “Don Giovanni.”
Palma said that this is the first time he has worked with Cherry and Brown, who met as undergraduates at Stetson University in Florida and moved to Boston in 2012 to attend Boston Conservatory.
“They were highly recommended to me by a friend who specializes in local operatic voices, so I was glad they were able to do it,” Palma said.
Both singers said that concerts like the one they are singing with Symphony by the Sea, featuring excerpts from renowned operas, are actually uncommon in Greater Boston.
“Boston specializes in very early music, and your sort of out-of-the-box, experimental, contemporary new music,” Brown said.
But Cherry said that the diversity of interest in classical music of every kind is what led him to move here, and it has allowed him to make a living as a singer.
“In greater New England, every decent-sized town seems to have a musical organization doing something,” he said. “I’m still finding new groups to reach out to.”
If you go
What: Symphony by the Sea presents “Opera Anyone?”
When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
Where: The Cabot, 286 Cabot St., Beverly
How much: $37.50