Two productions will bring live music back to Boulder

Outdoor performances Ag. 14–16 and Aug. 29 will observe Coronavirus safety protocols

By Peter Alexander (Aug. 11 at 11:20 p.m.)

Live music is back in Boulder—in a limited, outdoorsy sort of way.

Two outdoor performances later this month will provide live music, for the limited audiences who can get tickets. Both presenters have worked with Boulder Parks and Recreation Department to meet all health requirements. Both will be strictly social distanced, with limited numbers admitted and carefully spaced.

The Gerald Stazio Softball Fields parking lot, site of drive-in performances Aug. 14–16

Boulder Arts Outdoors will present what it calls “A socially-distanced drive-in performance pop-up” this coming weekend, Friday–Sunday, Aug. 14–16. The mixed program of classical, blue-grass, soul, salsa, dance and juggling, will be presented before a drive-in audience at the parking lot of the Gerald Stazio Softball Fields off 63rd Street in East Boulder.

Later in the month, Boulder Opera (BOC) will present its annual Opera in the Park performance in the Boulder Band Shell on Canyon Drive, to an audience limited to 175 people. The performance Saturday, Aug. 29, will be in two parts, with separate admission for each so that more people might have the opportunity to attend. The first half will be music from fairy-tale and fantasy operas, and the second half will be music from Zarzuelas, a popular genre of Spanish musical theater.

Mara Driscoll, the organizer of the Drive-In Festival, recently returned to Boulder from New York, where she dances at the Metropolitan Opera. “I’m still connected to the Boulder arts community, having gown up here, and as a performer I was feeling the disappearance of live performance,” she says.

The band Lady Romeo, one of the groups performing on Boulder Outdoor Arts
drive-in concert

“I really value everyone’s efforts to make things digital and to live stream, but we all know it’s just not the same. I was watching drive-in movie theaters pop up all over the country, and seeing how that made it possible for people to assemble safely, I thought, why not apply that same model to performance? There’s very, very stringent health regulations right now; a lot of the permit process was making sure that I could keep everyone socially distanced.”

The cars the parking lot will be spaced apart, in every second space, and arranged in a horseshoe shape for maximum visibility of the elevated stage located at one end of the lot. The music will be amplified, and also streamed through an FM transmitter for anyone who does not wish to lower their windows.

“The capacity is 40 vehicles, so people will be close enough to the stage that they can hear well, and see the performers,” Driscoll says. “It should feel like an outdoor amphitheater experience, you’re just looking through your windshield.”

The bluegrass duo Sugar Moon

Driscoll used her connections to the Boulder dance and music communities to invite artists and groups to be part of the performances. Some contacts suggested other performers, so that the total program grew to be extremely diverse. 

The schedules over the three nights includes members of the Boulder Symphony, the Renaissance-music vocal quintet Solis Singers, the soul/rock band Lady Romeo, the Bluegrass groups Chandler Holt & Eric Wiggs, Sugar Moon and Bowregard, djembe drumming by Abdoul Doumbia, a new piece created for the occasion by dancer Helanius J. Wilkins, Salsa dance by Marcela Lay and Musa Starseed, Third Law Dance/Theater, and juggling by Peter Davison. The program is slightly different each evening; the full program by date can be seen here

Helanius J. Wilkins

“It’s all about the artists,” Driscoll says. “I really wanted to create a platform for artists to do what they do. It’s exciting what everyone’s going to bring to the table, and I think audiences are going to go for this great ride and leave with a sense of awe at all the creativity and talent that’s right here in Boulder.”

Boulder Opera has offered “Opera in the Park” for several summers running, but this year was different due to the pandemic. “We definitely had to go through a lot of hoops putting in an application with the city of Boulder, to make sure we are following all of the safety precautions for performing live,” Dianela Acosta, the company’s artistic director, says.

“The event is going to be capped at 175 people, and we usually attract between 400 and 600. We have to do social-distance seating, and everybody has to wear masks. We’re going to have to set out some areas where people can sit and be six feet away from each other.

Boulder Opera’s 2019 “Opera in the Park”

The performance is free, Acosta notes, but audience members have to register in advance through Boulder Opera Web page , and bring a copy of their registration with them. Boulder Opera staff will be on hand to direct people to their seats and ensure that no-one who is not registered gets inside the audience area. 

“Our overhead expense have gone up, because there’s  lot of work we have to do to prepare for this,” Acosta says. “And then, for the performer’s safety, we follow the same guidelines, and there’s going to be a protective plastic barrier in front of the stage.”

The program is divide into two halves, each with its own theme and content. “You can register for the first part, or the second part of the concert, or you can register for both parts,” Acosta explains. The music from operas based on fairy tales, including “Hansel and Gretel” and “Cinderella,” on the first part might be more family oriented. The second part features music from a popular Spanish style of light opera, Zarzuela.

Singers from the 2019 performance of Boulder Opera’s “Opera in the Park”

Featured on the first half will be a scene from Hansel und Gretel by Humperdinck; an aria from Rimsky Korsakov’s Snow Maiden; “Olympia’s Song” and the “Barcarolle” duet from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman; “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka by Dvořák, an opera based on the same folk tale as “The Little Mermaid”; a duet and quartet from El Gato con Botas (“Puss in Boots”) by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvage; and several numbers from La Cenerentola (“Cinderella”) by Rossini.

Forming the second half of he program, “Zarzuela is a traditional opera from Spain,” Acosta says. “It’s based on the folkloric tales and folk songs that have been adapted for operatic singing. And it’s very well known in Spain.”

Dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Zarzuela is contemporaneous with the rise of operetta and musical comedy in the U.S. Neither the titles nor the composers—including Gerónimo Giménez, Federico Moreno-Torroba and Francisco  Barbieri—are familiar to American audiences. Singers for both halves of the program are members of the Boulder Opera company, including Acosta herself. They will be accompanied on piano by Nathália Kato, the BOC staff pianist.

“Our theme is opera for people, and we want to bring these beautiful pieces to our audience as a way to bring the community together,” Acosta says. For those we cannot be brought together on this occasion, when the audience size is limited, the performance will be live streamed through the BOC Facebook page

“That [distanced performing] is going to be just for a little while, and then we are going to hopefully meet together soon again,” Acosta says. “[Online viewing] cannot replace live performances. That’s the beauty of what we do, performing in a live stage! 

“Nothing can substitute for what it means to be sitting there and feeling the vibration of the voice in the instant.”

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Boulder Arts Outdoors: “Drive-in Festival”
6:30 p.m. Friday–Sunday, Aug. 14–16
Gerald Stazio Softball Fields parking lot
Tickets

Boulder Opera: “Fairy-Tale Opera, Zarzuela and Dance”
7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29: Fairy-Tale Fantasy
8:10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29: Zarzuela and Dance
Boulder Bandshell, 1212 Canyon Drive
Tickets
Live stream on the Boulder Opera Facebook page