Boulder Opera presents mixed double bill of contrasting works, May 3–12

Hilarious comedy and heart-rending tragedy make “quite a buffet” 

By Peter Alexander May 2, 2019, at 2:20 p.m.

Boulder Opera, a bare-bones company now in its seventh season of offering educational programs and entertaining, stripped down performances, will present two distinctly dissimilar works for their spring production.

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Bryce Bartu as Deluso and Mary Elisabeth Kettelwell as Rosine in “Signor Deluso.” Photo courtesy of Boulder Opera.

The two works are Signor Deluso, a rollicking comedy by American composer Thomas Pasatieri, and Cavalleria Rusticana, a melodramatic tale of betrayal and murder by Pietro Mascagni. Lorraine Fitzmaurice will conduct the performances which are directed by Gene Roberts from Metropolitan State University in Denver. The cast of local singers will give five performances in slightly more than a week, May 3–12 (details below).

Lorraine Fitzmaurice

Lorraine Fitzmaurice

The two operas together add up to about 90 minutes of music, plus an intermission. Performances will be in Boulder’s intimate Nomad Playhouse.

Pianist Jordan Ortman, who is staff accompanist at Metro State and assistant organist at Boulder’s First United Methodist Church, will accompany both operas. For Cavalleria he will be joined by a string quartet playing a reduced version of the orchestral score.

Boulder Opera artistic director Dianela Acosta picked the two works. “Cavalleria had been in my mind for at least three years that I wanted to do it,” she says. To go with Cavalleria, a dark tragedy, “I wanted to do something that was very contrasting in mood,” she says.

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Jordan Ortman

Signor Deluso is filled with imagined betrayals that are “kind of like a comedy of errors,” Acosta says. “I wanted to tie it in with the theme of betrayal, and be very contrasting. It goes with the other betrayal that is a real betrayal and serious drama.”

Pasatieri is probably one of the most prolific composers and successful composers most people have never heard of. He has written 24 operas, of which Signor Deluso, with more than 10,000 performances to date, is the most successful. It was written when the composer was just 28.

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Thomas Pasatieri

The plot of Signor Deluso is too convoluted to easily summarize, but the opera is 30 minutes cram packed with the kind of mistaken assumptions and ridiculous confusions that have been the staple of comic opera from the very beginning. In the words of music critic Anne Midgette, it’s “an exuberant sendup of over-the-top comic opera plots, filled with effusive lovers leaping with alacrity to wrong conclusions in floods of extreme vocalism.”

“This story is one misunderstanding on top of another,” Roberts explains, “until of course the maid, which is a parody of (conventional comic) opera, comes in and straightens everything out. And everyone of course lives happily ever after. This piece, which I have come to love, works so well and it’s so much fun to work on. It’s just wonderful.”

“The cast is fabulous top to bottom. They’ve enjoyed finding the funny little moments in the music and making then work physically,” Roberts says. “It makes me, even knowing what’s coming, burst out in laughter every time.”

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Gene Roberts

It would be harder to go farther in the opposite direction from the imaginary betrayals without consequences that form the plot of Deluso than the high drama of Cavalleria, where the betrayals are real and the consequences severe. “This one is big feelings from the start to the end,” Roberts says. “All the emotions in this music are big, big, big.”

Cavalleria Rusticana was written for a competition in 1890, when Mascagni was 26. The first performance was greeted with ecstatic applause, as Mascagni was called back for 40 curtain calls and the opera won the first prize.

The plot concerns a series of betrayals leading to revenge and death. The events take place on Easter morning in a Sicilian village, where Santuzza learns that she has been betrayed by Turridu, who was previously betrayed by his former fiancée Lola, who now also betrays her husband, Alfio.

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Michelle Diggs-Thompson as Santuzza and Joshua Zabatta as Turridu in “Cavalleria Rusticana.” Photo courtesy of Boulder Opera.

In addition to dramatic arias and duets, the score includes a number of pieces that have become audience favorites, including a Sicilian dance song, or siciliana; an offstage Regina Coeli, sung by the chorus; a rousing drinking song; and an orchestral intermezzo that has become famous in its own right.

Roberts compares the combination of a short, effervescent comedy and Cavalleria with the convention of pairing cartoons with serious films. “I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” he says. “We’d go to the cinema and see a drama and there was a cartoon before the main feature.

“This (double bill) is quite a buffet. Cavalleria seems like the main course and maybe we have dessert first in this case, like the cartoon before the movie. Signor Deluso gets people into a mood where they’re enjoying what’s coming to them, and then an intermission and this gorgeous, gorgeous music.

“It will be a lovely, lovely evening spent in the theater.”

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Opera Double Bill
Signor Deluso by Thomas Pasatieri
Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni

Boulder Opera, Lorraine Fitzmaurice, conductor
Gene Roberts, stage director

7:30 pm. Friday—Saturday, May 3–4
7 p.m. Wednesday. May 8
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11
2 p.m. Sunday, May 12
Nomad Playhouse 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder

Tickets

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Boulder Opera presents Little Red Riding Hood for young audiences Dec. 7–9

Opera by Russian composer Cesar Cui will have its Colorado premiere

By Peter Alexander Dec. 5 at 2:20 p.m.

César Cui (pronounced SAY-zar KWEE) is not a household name, anywhere. But he was an interesting person who wrote music that is always worth hearing.

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Portrait of César Cui by Ilya Respin

Born in 1835 in Vilnius, now Lithuania and then part of the Russian Empire, his principal career was as an officer and engineer in the Russian Imperial Army. But he also studied piano from childhood and pursued music as an avocation. With Mily Balakirev, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, he was one of the Russian nationalist composers known as “Moguchaya kuchka” (the mighty handful).

Among other works, he wrote more than a dozen operas, including several children’s operas—which is what recommended Cui to Dianela Acosta and the Boulder Opera, who will present the first Colorado performances of his 40-minute Little Red Riding Hood this weekend (Friday–Sunday, Dec. 7–9) at Boulder Nomad Playhouse.

“We’re always looking for new material to present,” says Acosta, Boulder Opera’s artistic director who also plays the mother in the production. “Especially stories that are well known, to continue with our mission to introduce the younger generation to opera.”

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Page Sentianin as Little Red Riding Hood and Joshua South as the Wolf for Boulder Opera Company

For Little Red Riding Hood, they are presenting three performance to school groups Thursday and Friday, with support from the Boulder Arts Commission. They have prepared a study guide that is useful for anyone attending the opera, and each performance will be followed by Q&A session for the audience with cast members.

“We love to do these Q&A at the end of the performances,” Acosta says. “The kids get to ask questions and then we ask them questions, and it’s very engaging. And because the opera is so short we decided to explore a little bit more of Cui’s music. We chose a short piano piece called ‘Orientale’ that our pianist, Deborah Schmit-Lobis, will play between the two acts.”

Cui’s music is in the familiar Romantic style of the mid-19thcentury, but with a definite Russian flavor. “There’s a lot of folkloric elements in the music,” Acosta says. “Vocally it’s not very difficult. The music really is there to tell the story, so it’s very descriptive for each character.

“Its a beautiful piece that just tells the story.”

Cui’s music is not widely available. In this case, Mathieu D’Ordine, who has conducted for Boulder Opera in the past, created a chamber arrangement that will be played by pianist Schmit-Lobis and a quartet of woodwind players.

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Boulder Opera Company’s artistic director Daniela Acosta

In the past, Boulder Opera has toured its productions to Longmont, Broomfield and Lafayette. This year, all their performances—both Little Red Riding Hood and performances in May of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Thomas Pasatieri’s Signor Deluso—will be presented in Boulder’s Nomad Playhouse.

Staying in one place gives the company the opportunity to build solid sets and invest more in the production, Acosta says. “The logistics of traveling was getting really taxing,” she says. “Instead of putting all of our efforts into touring, we’re enhancing our productions with the costumes and the sets.”

That initiative has been assisted by contributions from Nadia Artman, a member of the Boulder Opera board who is also credited as co-producer of Little Red Riding Hood.

Higher quality sets and costumes are clear signs of success for the Boulder Opera Company, but Acosta stays focused on the mission of the company, to bring opera to new and younger audiences. “It’s such a great thing to introduce children to opera,” she says. “That’s what we’re trying to do.

“It’s a familiar story with a happy ending, so it’s fun and educational at the same time.”

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BOC-Little+Red+no+text+Little Red Riding Hood by Cesar Cui (Colorado premiere)
Arranged by Mathieu D’Ordine
Boulder Opera Company

1 and 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7
2 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
1 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder

Information and tickets 

Three Classical Music groups announce seasons for 2018–19

Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova and Boulder Opera set their schedules

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 1:45 p.m.

Three different classical musical organizations in Boulder—Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Ars Nova Singers and Boulder Opera—have recently made public their planned season for the coming year. The full season for each group is listed below.

First out of the blocks will be the Boulder Opera Company, with a free concert in the Boulder Bandshell at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. The performance with piano, co-sponsored by the City of Boulder, will feature highlights from Puccini’s La Bohème and other popular operas.

Boulder Opera

Boulder Opera Company

Over the three days span Dec. 7–9, Boulder Opera will present the Colorado premiere of Little Red Riding Hood by Russian composer Cèsar Cui. All six matinee performances of this 35-minute work will be accompanied by piano and string quartet, and will offer the opportunity for children to sing ensemble parts. Part of Boulder Opera’s educational program, Little Red Rising Hood will also be taken to after-school programs and the Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette.

The season will conclude May 3 through 12 with the paring of two one-act operas, the comedy Signor Deluso by Thomas Pastieri, sung in English; and the tragic Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni, sing in Italian with English titles.

In addition to these performances, Boulder Opera will present a public masterclass in Italian opera Tuesday, Aug. 14, and a fund-raising Gala Concert, featuring highlights from the season Friday, Oct. 12.

Executive/artistic director of Boulder Opera is Dianela Acosta. More information on Boulder Opera can be found here.

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Ars Nova Singers

Ars Nova Singers title their 2018–19 season “New Horizons.” Over four concerts the season covers a wide musical spectrum, from the opening concert of “Sacred Jazz” in October, featuring Will Todd’s Mass in Blue for soprano, choir and jazz ensemble, described as “religious doctrine meets funk”; to February’s program featuring the Renaissance “Earthquake Mass” of Antoine Brumel, which has been called “one of the true marvels of Renaissance choral writing.”

The annual Ars Nova Holiday concert in December will feature the Colorado premiere of The Consolation of Apollo by Kile Smith, a work celebrating the 1968 Christmas Eve broadcast by the crew of Apollo 8. The program will also include music for the holiday season.

Ars Nova will conclude the season with “A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2.” The Arts Nova Web page describes this multi-disciplinary collaborative project: “In the summer of 2018, an online gallery of works by Colorado visual artists will be assembled. Then, poets from across the state will view the gallery and use the images as a basis for writing new poetry. This new poetry will be assembled into an anthology, and Arts Nova will commission four Colorado composers to use this anthology to create new music for chorus.”

The artistic director and conductor of Ars Nova is Thomas Edward Morgan. More information on Ars Nova Singers can be found here.

Boulder Chamber Orchestrawill present five full orchestral concerts during the year under music director Bahman Saless, plus a season-opening chamber music concert by violinist Lindsay Deutsch and her piano trio Take 3, with pianist Susan Boettger and cellist Lila Yang.

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Boulder Chamber Orchestra

Over the season, the BCO will feature several soloists from the CU faculty: pianist David Korevaar playing Mozart in December; violinist Edward Dusinberre, also playing Mozart in February; and violist Geraldine Walther playing an arrangement for viola and strings of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet. Violinist Chloe Trevor will be a guest soloist in November, playing the Vivaldi Four Seasons concertos as well as the Piazzolla Four Season of Buenos Aires.

In addition to Mozart, the December program will include Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” and settings of holiday carols. Among the latter will be one of the more unusual pieces of the BCO season, Weihnachtsmusik by Arnold Schoenberg, which is actually a little known but perfectly lovely setting of the familiar German Christmas hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (known as “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming”).

The season will end in May with a concert featuring BCO members Cobus DuToit, flute, and Bridget Kibbey, harp, playing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Not on the schedule this year will be a New Year’s Eve concert, which BCO has made part of their season for several years. According to Saless, more and more orchestras are filling that slot in the calendar, so the BCO performance was no longer unique.

More information on the Boulder Chamber Orchestra can be found here.

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BOULDER OPERA
Dianela Acosta, artistic director
2018–19 season

Italian Opera Masterclass with Anthony Michaels-Moore
Congregation Nevei Kodesh, 1925 Glenwood Dr., Boulder
2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14

Opera in the Park
Boulder Bandshell
7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18
Free

Gala Concert
The Studio, 3550 Frontier Avenue, Boulder
7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

Family Series
Cèsar Cui: Little Red Rising Hood
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
1 & 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7
2 & 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
1 & 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Sung in English

Thomas Pastieri: Signor Deluso (Sung in English)
Pietro Mascagni:Cavalleria Rusticana (Sung in Italian with English titles)
The Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave, Boulder
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8
7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11
3 p.m. Sunday, May 12

More information here

ARS NOVA SINGERS
Thomas Edward Morgan, artistic director
2018–19 Season
“New Horizons”

Sacred Jazz
7:30 p.m. Friday, October 5, SJE (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oc.t 6, BLC (Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village)
Will Todd: Mass in Blue

In the Moon of Wintertime
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 9, SPDen (St. Paul Community of Faith, Denver)
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, SJE
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, FCC (First Congregational Church, Longmont)
Kile Smith: The Consolation of Apollo(Colorado premiere)
Holiday Music

Music of the Renaissance: The Earthquake Mass
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, SJE
4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, SPDen
Antoine Brumel: Missa Et ecce terra motus (Mass “And behold the earth moved”)

A Celebration of Colorado Artistry: Shared Visions 2
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, BLC
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, SJE
New works by Colorado composers

More information here

BOULDER CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Bahman Saless, music director
2018–19 Season

Saturday October 6, SDA (Seventh Day Adventist Church)
Take 3: Susan Boettger, piano; Lindsay Deutsch, violin; and Lila Yang, cello

Friday Nov. 30, BA (Broomfield Auditorium); Sat. Dec. 1, SDA
Chloe Trevor, violin
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Piazzolla: Four Season of Buenos Aires
Janáček: Suite for strings

Friday Dec. 21, BA; Sat. Dec. 22, SDA
David Korevaar, piano
Mozart: Piano Concerto in B-flat Major, K595
Handel: Concerto Grosso, op. 3 no. 1
Corelli: Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8, “Christmas Concerto”
Schoenberg: Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music)
Selected Holiday Carols

Friday Feb. 1 (BA); Sat, Feb. 2, 2019 (Boulder)
Edward Dusinberre, Violin
Mozart: Violin Concerto in G major, K216
Sibelius: Suite Mignonne
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Friday March 29, (BA); Sat, March 30 (SDA)
Geraldine Walther, viola
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet, arranged for viola and strings
Verdi: String Quartet, arranged for string orchestra

May 12 (SDA) (Sunday Matinee)
Cobus DuToit, flute; Bridget Kibbey harp
Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp, K299/291c
Debussy: Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun
Mozart: Symphony No. 33

More information here
Season tickets

Boulder Opera’s ‘Così fan tutte’ is baptism by fire for director Ron Ben-Joseph

Production set in the 1960s aims to be relevant to the women’s movement

By Peter Alexander March 22 at 9:00 p.m.

Opera is a world of its own. Singers and conductors have their own inside language, they have traditions that seem arcane to outsiders, and they know the works intimately.

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Ron Ben-Joseph, stage director of Così fan tutte. Photo courtesy of Big Fish Talent.

Stepping into that world from outside can be intimidating, but that’s the position stage director Ron Ben-Joseph finds himself in. With a background in theater, but not opera, he was engaged to direct this weekend’s performances of Mozart’s Così fan tutte for Boulder Opera (Friday in Longmont, Sunday in Boulder).

Ben-Joseph did bring some skills to the job: As a singer he can read music and follow the score, and he has worked in musical theater. He has taken voice lessons from Dianela Acosta, the artistic director of Boulder Opera and one of the singers in the cast, and in turn he has helped coach her acting in arias that she has learned. But even with that background, it’s not easy to dive into directing an entire opera.

How is he handling this baptism by fire? “I’m learning, I’m learning,” he says.

“One of the first things I did (was) research where theater directors that jump into opera mess up. I do not want to make those mistakes! So I plunged into music theory and the history of opera, and I tried to watch two or three operas a week. I tried to get the sense, the style, just to be respectful and not come in there and go ‘Oh, I know what to do!’

“I didn’t want to be that guy.”

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Dianela Acosta, Boulder opera artistic director Dorabella) and Josh DeVane (Guglielmo) in Così fan tutte. Photo courtesy of  Boulder Opera.

The task was not made easier by the fact that Così is a difficult opera to get right. The plot is artificial and frankly unbelievable on the surface, but at the same time it deals with very basic and deep human emotions that are powerfully expressed in the music. The cast and director have to reconcile these two elements, relishing the humor and silliness of the onstage action without losing the emotional depth of the music.

If you don’t know the opera, it is about two pairs of lovers, two soldiers and a pair of sisters. The men have been bragging extravagantly about their girlfriends’ faithfulness, but a cynical older bachelor, Don Alfonso, challenges them to prove their claims. At Don Alfonso’s direction, the men pretend to march off to war. After leaving the scene, they don disguises and are introduced to the women as foreigners. Each then tries to woo the other’s girlfriend.

Over the course of the opera, the women resist, come to grips with temptation and their own weakness, and ultimately succumb. At the end the rather cruel ruse is revealed. Both men and women realize they have much to forgive. In the traditional ending, the women return to their original partners, but today other ways of ending the story are common as well.

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Michael Hoffman (Ferrando) and Ekaterina Kotcherguina (Fiordiligi) in Così fan tutte. Photo courtesy of Boulder Opera.

“You have two guys who put their girlfriends through torment emotionally, and I think that comes from a very deep insecurity,” Ben-Joseph says. “That was one of the first things I saw. I could judge these guys for being misogynist, but I had a girlfriend once that I was insecure about, so I could kind of see it. Once I saw that personal hook, I really felt for the women, especially with the #MeToo movement.”

With that insight, Ben-Joseph wanted to find a time period that would make the story more relevant today. “This reads to me as if it were set in the late 1960s,” he says. “We’re about to start the female revolution, empowerment and women’s lib. That’s how it started taking shape, and I couldn’t not tell that story, and set it in that world.”

One part of that world was the Viet Nam War, which adds a darker element to the moment when the soldiers seemingly march off to war. Nevertheless, Ben-Joseph aimed to be sensitive to the artwork. “We always stayed true to the libretto, to the score,” he says. “We don’t impose anything. All we’re doing is using a lens for people to view this in a different way.”

Ben-Joseph is extremely complimentary to the performers. “They’re so talented, and they’re doing such a good job of honoring the score and being truthful to it,” he says. “I don’t know that anyone’s going to walk away from this production saying, ‘Oh my goodness! The direction!’ I think they’re going to walk away saying, ‘Those are phenomenal singers! That is a phenomenal orchestra!’

“These performers are starting to have fun and free themselves from feeling structured. You’re seeing real people, and that’s something I’m very proud of. There are a lot of genuine moments that are beautifully acted. That is what I want people to connect with—people that are alive and communicating real emotions in a deep, organic, authentic way.

“That’s what makes it badass.”

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Sarah Parkinson-2119

Music director Sara Parkinson

Mozart: Così fan tutte
Boulder Opera
Sara Parkinson, music director
Ron Ben-Joseph, stage director

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, Stewart Auditorium Longmont
3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder

Tickets