Santa Fe Opera comes to Denver Friday

World Premiere production of UnShakeable will be at Newman Center

By Peter Alexander


Costume sketch by Wilberth Gonzalez for Wyatt in Unshakeable. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Opera)

Love opera, but you can’t get to Santa Fe? The Santa Fe Opera is coming to Denver!

The SFO will present the world premiere production of UnShakeable, a new opera by Joe Illick with a libretto by Andrea Fellows Walters, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 15, in the Hamilton Recital Hall of the Denver University Newman Center.

The performance, part of tour through New Mexico and southern Colorado, will be free and open to the public.


Costume sketch by Wilberth Gonzalez for Meridian in Unshakeable. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Opera)

UnShakeable, which incorporates language from Shakespeare, was written in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. The score, designed for touring, calls for two singers and a chamber orchestra. After its April 9 premiere in Santa Fe, it will be on the road for ten free performances.

The action takes place in an abandoned theater in New Mexico 25 years in the future. Wyatt and Meridian (soprano and baritone) are Shakespearean actors and former lovers who have fallen victim to Erasure, a viral pandemic resulting in memory loss. Separated from Meridian at the beginning of the pandemic, Wyattt has been searching for his love ever since.

It was the Shakespeare commemoration that sparked the whole idea, Walters says. “I believe we tell stories to remember,” she says. “Talking to Joseph Illick, the composer, I said ‘I think memory needs to be a core theme.’ He said to me, ‘well then, somebody needs to forget something.’

“So I started with the idea that we were in some sort of future world with lost language, and that these two characters were recovering language through Shakespeare.”


Librettist Andrea Fellows Walters

As the characters of Wyatt and Meridian evolved in Walters’s imagination, she thought of the pandemic that erased parts of memory to differing degrees for different people. “Meridian is more seriously afflicted than Wyatt,” she says. “He’s spent the last three years looking for her, going to every place they ever performed together as part of a Shakespearean troop, hoping that she’ll be there. And the opera begins with him breaking into the space where she is.”

UnShakeable is part of the Santa Fe Opera’s “Opera for all Ages” outreach program. The SFO stresses that the production is “perfectly suited for audiences of all ages.” This is the 23rd year that the SFO has mounted a spring tour as a public outreach program. Until the past two years, the tour was generally in New Mexico. Last year it they came as far into Colorado as Colorado Springs. This is the first year for a performance in Denver.

The singers for the Denver performance will be soprano Jacquelyn Stucker and baritone Samuel Schultz. Kathleen Clawson, assistant director of the SFO Apprentice Program for Singers, is the stage director. Kristin Ditlow of the University of New Mexico faculty, is the music director for the tour performances.

Illick is general director of Performance Santa Fe, which was formed in 1937 as Santa Fe Community Concert Association. Since that time it has presented music, dance, theater and community opera, and since 1968, youth concerts.

Walters is director of education and community engagement for the Santa Fe Opera.

# # # # #

By Joe Illick with libretto by Andrea Fellows Walters
7 p.m. Friday, April 15, Hamilton Recital Hall of DU Newman Center
Free and open to the public

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