Central City Opera cancels all performances through July 24

COVID-19 cases reported within the company

By Peter Alexander July 20 at 6:40 p.m.

Central City Opera has released the following statement, cancelling all performances through July 24:

In consultation with our medical partners and in order to protect the health and safety of patrons, artists and staff, all Festival performances scheduled for Tuesday, July 19 through Sunday, July 24 have been cancelled.

Due to recently reported COVID-19 cases in the company, Central City Opera has made the difficult decision to cancel all festival performances for this week. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we navigate these challenging circumstances in order to protect the health and safety of our community.

We sincerely apologize for this disappointment and inconvenience. We are working with our medical consultants to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps when we resume performances. We hope that we can reseat as many patrons as possible for the following week’s performances, but we may not be able to guarantee that all patrons will be reseated.

Details for ticket holders may be found on the CCO Web page.

There are No Tragic Endings on Central City Opera MainStage this year

Rollicking comedy and light-hearted drama lead the summer schedule

By Peter Alexander July 8 at 5:30 p.m.

There will be no babies thrown into the fire (Il Trovatore, 2018), or innocent girls murdered in place of a dissolute count (Rigoletto, 2021) at Central City Opera this summer.

CCO has not been able to perform in their exquisite opera house in Central City since 2019, and between returning to their home and this year’s 90th anniversary, the company wanted a cheerful summer. In the words of Central City Opera chief executive officer Pamela Pantos, the aim was that “after what we’ve all been thorough, people will come and smile, be back in the opera house and enjoy themselves.”

Opening Night at Central City Opera. Featured in Central City Opera’s 75th anniversary book, “Theatre of Dreams, The Glorious Central City Opera—Celebrating 75 Years.”

Both mainstage productions in the Central City Opera House will be light-hearted works: the frothy Viennese confection of Johann Strauss, Jr., Die Fledermaus; and The Light in the Piazza, a Tony-winning Broadway musical by Adam Guettel, which has moments of melancholy but ends happily with boy-marries-girl.

The only darker tones come later in the summer, with a production of Two Remain, a chamber opera by Jake Heggie based on the stories of two Auschwitz survivors. That will be performed at the Martin Foundry in Central City (see dates and time below).

Broadway musicals have often been performed by Central City Opera: Carousel (2021), Man of La Mancha (2015), The Sound of Music (Denver, 2014), Show Boat (Denver, 2013), Oklahoma! (2012) among others. Pantos hopes that there will be ongoing support for musical comedies, for the breadth they bring to the repertoire.

Central City Opera’s production of ‘The Light in the Piazza.’ Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

A Light in the Piazza tells the story of 1950s American housewife Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara—who seems to be developmentally disabled from a childhood accident. This being a musical, Clara falls in love with a handsome young Italian man, and Margaret has to decide if the young couple will be allowed to see each other, and ultimately, to marry.

The conflict revolves around Margaret’s desire to protect her daughter, and to let her live her own life. There are also cultural differences between the Americans and the Italians, which create another level of dilemma for everyone. With her husband busy in the United States, Margaret has to find her own path, just as Clara does.

Rebecca Caine (Margaret Johnson) and Diana Newman (Clara Johnson) in the CCO production of ‘The Light in the Piazza.’ Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography.

“While there are moments of seriousness to the piece, it is quite lighthearted,” Pantos says. “It had a long run on the stage in New York, (and) Tony-winning is always Tony winning! There’s a little bit of melancholy, but beautiful music—it is a romance!”

Composed by the grandson of Broadway legend Richard Rodgers, A Light in the Piazza reflects the style and traditions of 20th-century American Music Theater. Die Fledermaus, however, reflects just as deeply the style and manner of a very different world: that of 19th-century Vienna. There are swirling waltzes (of course), a grand party thrown by a bored Russian count, mistaken identities and masks, and hilarious comedy from beginning to end, all capturing the splendor and decadence of Imperial Vienna.

The plot is almost too complicated to explain, except that it is a tale of foolishness, and of revenge between friends, that starts in an elegant home and ends in a dreary prison, with a glamorous dinner party in between. But even in the prison, everyone comes away happy. The musical numbers will be performed in German but the dialog in English so everyone should be able to follow the story.

Conductor John Baril.

The Viennese musical style, combining elegance and sentimentality, is not always easy for non-native performers. There are unwritten rules for modifying rhythms and tempos that are known to the Viennese, but not necessarily outsiders—kind of like the unwritten rules in American jazz.

“The trick in getting Fledermaus right is all of the little things that aren’t on the page,” conductor John Baril says. “There’s a lot of little Viennese things that are done, especially in waltz tempi. You rush the second beat—it’s not written down that way so you have to explain it to an orchestra.

“And then you also have to get them to not play it when you don’t want it. There’s a lot of little things that are traditions, little slow-downs here and little commas there. None of that is written, it all has to be explained. And getting singers to do that and not just do what’s written on the page can be hard.”

One traditional showstopper is a very flashy Hungarian Czardas, sung by one of the characters in the second act. “It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever conducted,” Baril says. “It’s super hard to conduct because again everything that the singer needs to do with that piece, to make it interesting, is not on the page.“

In addition to singing one of the lead characters himself, Baril says he has studied recordings and performances by native Austrian and Viennese conductors. “I’m going to do it the way I want to do it,” he says. “And the way I want to do it is all the Viennese things that I’ve heard done.”

Baril mentions one other challenge to any performances at Central City Opera. “We’re at 8500 ft., and some of the phrasings that you could do at sea level you simply cannot do,” he says. “We never know—there’s no way TO know—when a new artist is coming up here, whether they can adapt.”

The production is one that CCO bought from Virginia Opera and modified to fit their small stage. “I saw the set at Northwestern and it’s beautiful,” Baril says. “It is a set that takes place in Vienna, so it will be as Viennese as we can make it. 

“I love Fledermaus. I think it’s a masterpiece of the order of anything else.”

Pantos wants people to make the trip up the mountain to Central City to see the shows, but also just to experience the intimate 550-seat opera house, built in 1878. “Being in such a jewel of a theater and being so close to the stage, you have the unique opportunity of experiencing theater in a way that you’ll never experience it anywhere else,” she says.

The interior of the Central City Opera House

“Because it is such an intimate theater, there is not a bad seat in the entire house. You’re so close to the performers, that it’s exhilarating and the energy literally emanates from the stage and you feel it because its is such a beautiful small theater.”

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Central City Opera
Summer 2022 season

The Light in the Piazza
By Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas
Performed in English

Adam Turner, conductor
Ken Cazan, stage director

2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10; Tuesday, July 12; Sat. July 16; Wednesday, July 20; Friday, July 22; Sunday, July 24; Thursday, July 28
8 p.m. Friday, July 8; Thursday, July 14; Tuesday, July 26

Central City Opera House

Die Fledermaus (The bat)
By Johann Strauss, Jrs., Karl Haffner and Richard Genée
Performed in German with dialog and titles in English

John Baril, conductor
Joachim Schamberger, stage director

8:00 p.m. Saturday, July 9; Friday July 15; Thursday, July 21; 
2:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 13; Sunday, July 17; Tuesday, July 19; Saturday, July 23; Wednesday, July 27; Friday, July 29; Sunday, July 31

Central City Opera House

Two Remain: Memories of Auschwitz
By Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer

Performed in English
John Baril and Brandon Eldridge, co-conductors
Dan Wallace Miller, stage director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 16 (sold out); Wednesday, July 20
2:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21 (sold out)
11 a.m. Thursday, July 28

Martin Foundry, 212 Eureka St., Central City

Tickets available through the Central City Opera Web page.

Statement from Central City Opera Board co-chairs

Comments on the resignation of artistic director Pelham (Pat) Pearce

By Peter Alexander June 18 at 10:05 a.m.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce, the longtime artistic director of Central City Opera, announced his resignation from the company yesterday (June 17). His departure, after more than 26 years with Central City Opera, appears to have been unexpected, as it was first announced by Pearce early in the morning on his personal Facebook page.

Today (June 18) the co-chairs of the company released the following statement:

We wanted share the news that Pelham “Pat” Pearce has decided to step down from his role as Artistic Director of Central City Opera. Pat’s 26+ years have been essential to who Central City Opera is and the fact we are celebrating our 90th Anniversary this year. He has been a visionary and will be missed.

Pat has done an excellent job of preparing for this year’s Summer Festival and has a terrific team in place. We have confidence that our directors, artists and technicians have the expertise to put Pat’s vision on stage and look forward to seeing their wonderful work come to fruition.

We celebrate and thank Pat for his tremendous work and the important legacy he has left on Central City Opera and the whole industry.

–Anne McGonagle and Roopesh Aggarwal
Co-Chairs of the Central City Opera Board of Directors

The announcement comes only two weeks before the opening of the company’s 2022 summer season. There has been no announcement if or when Pearce would be replaced in his role as artistic director. The company hired Pamela Pantos as president and chief executive officer of the company in February.

Further information and tickets for the summer season are available on the CCO Web page.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce resigns from Central City Opera

Surprise announcement made this morning (June 17)

By Peter Alexander June 17 at 3:15 p.m.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce, the general/artistic director of Central City Opera who has been with the company since 1996, today announced his resignation from the company.

Pelham (Pat) Pearce

The announcement was made by Pearce on his facebook page early this morning. The company has not yet responded to Pearce’s sudden announcement, which in its entirety was: “Dear Friends: I have resigned as Artistic Director of the Central City Opera. Please use my personal email, cell or social media to contact me. I look forward to new possibilities.”

The announcement comes only two weeks before the opening of Central City Opera’s 2002 season on Saturday, July. 2. The season, marking their return to Central City after two years that were affected by the COVID pandemic, features the musical Light in the Piazza by Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel (opening July 2) and Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, Jr.  (opening July 9).

For more information on the summer season, visit the Central City Opera Web page.

More information will be posted as it become available.

Central City Opera announces 2022 summer festival season

90th season is planned to be back in the beautiful Central City Opera House

By Peter Alexander Oct. 6 at 5:40 p.m.

Central City Opera has announced three delicious offerings for the 90th summer season in 2022, scheduled to be back in  the exquisite but small Central City Opera House in Central City, after last year’s outdoors performances at Hudson Gardens in Littleton.

Opening Night at Central City Opera. Featured in Central City Opera’s 75th anniversary book, “Theatre of Dreams, The Glorious Central City Opera—Celebrating 75 Years.”

The 2022 season will open on July 2 and run through July 31. The two works scheduled for mainstage performances in the Central City Opera House will be Die Fledermaus, the frothy Viennese operetta by Johann Strauss, Jr., and  The Light in the Piazza, a 2005 Broadway show by Adam Guettel—Richard Rodgers’s grandson—based on a novella by American writer Elizabeth Spencer. The third production will be Two Remain, a two-act opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer based on the true stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska and Gad Beck. Two Remain will be performed in the Martin Foundry in Central City.

The mainstage productions promise lighter fare for next summer, with no murder-for-hire plots (Rigoletto, 2021), suicides (Carousel, 2021, and Madame Butterfly, 2019), hangings (Bully Budd, 2019), or burnings at the stake (Il Trovatore, 2018). This may be just what audiences need after the COVID pandemic; I for one look forward to a summer without operatic death. I also look forward to all three works: one I love (Die Fledermaus) and two that I am eager to discover (The Light in the Piazza and Two Remain).

Central City Opera has provided the following descriptions of the works in the 2022 season:

  • The light comic operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr. premiered in 1874 and continues to be treasured by audiences today. Gabriel von Eisenstein playfully tosses his friend Doctor Falke out of a carriage en route home from a lavish costume party. Dressed in a ridiculous bat disguise, Falke is now known about town as Doctor Bat, or Die Fledermaus. Later, Eisenstein is attempting to dodge a short jail sentence for yet another overture of mischief. Under the guise of one final night on the town, Falke launches a champagne-soaked prank with the help of Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinde, determined to entertain the evening’s dinner party host Prince Orlofsky.
  • A 2005 Broadway premiere by composer Adam Guettel (grandson of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein), The Light in the Piazza sees strong-willed Southern housewife Margaret Johnson and her charming daughter Clara vacationing in Italy in the summer of 1956. Margaret hopes the magic and memories of Florence will sweep her off her feet, but it’s Clara and earnest inamorato Fabrizio who fall in love at first sight. Torn from their guidebooks, mother and daughter must brave blossoming love, buried secrets and a startling cultural clash to uncover the hopeful new chapters they didn’t know they’d been searching for.
  • Two Remain tells the powerful true stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska and Gad Beck. Premiering in 2016 under the title Out of Darkness, the two-act opera was commissioned by Music of Remembrance at Benaroya Hall in Seattle and composed by Jake Heggie. The libretto by Gene Scheer is based on documents and journals found in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Central City Opera’s production will be the Colorado regional premiere of this stunning piece.

New subscriptions to Central City Opera will be available in January, 2022. Single tickets will go on sale April 1, 2022. More information and access to tickets sales can be found on the Central City Opera Web page.

NOTE: Typo corrected 10/7.

Central City Opera’s Rigoletto at Hudson Gardens packs a punch

Fine cast is led by Alisa Jordheim’s radiant Gilda

By Peter Alexander July 12 at 10:45 p.m.

Central City Opera’s second production of the 2021 festival season, Verdi’s Rigoletto, opened Saturday night (July 10) on a beautiful summer evening at Littleton’s Hudson Gardens.

The season had opened the previous Saturday (July 3) with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. The locale, chosen when CCO had to move from the close quarters of their opera house in Central City, proved idyllic for the Rigoletto opening. The opera—condensed to a single 100-minute span with no intermission—successfully used the outdoor location in the conception of the production, and mostly successfully moved the time to a near-present that featured a golf-playing Duke, a curse- and bible-brandishing preacher, and news passed by cell phone.

Galeano Salas as the callow, golf-playing Duke of Mantua. All photos by Amanda Tipton.

In updated productions, the Duke of Mantua has been transformed into a Mafia boss in New York’s Little Italy, a Sinatra-like singer in Vegas, and a skirt-chasing politico modeled on Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. This is a tempting way to convey the dissolution of the Duke’s court to modern audiences, but it offers a problem, too: Rigoletto himself.

In the original setting, Rigoletto’s status as court jester—forced to amuse the Duke and hated by everyone for his cutting tongue—is visibly apparent from his first entrance. There are no modern equivalents that quite capture that level of degradation and humiliation. In the case of the CCO production, effectively stage directed by Jose Maria Condemi, the other updatings worked well, but Rigoletto’s status remained problematic.

Alissa Jordheim as Gilda.

One example: In the second act, Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda flees from the Duke’s bedroom following her ravishment, to find her father among the courtiers. The impact of this scene lies partly in her immediate recognition of the depravity of his status in the court. But here, there is no dress or other sign of his debased status, which diminishes the impact of their reunion.

In just about every other way I found the updating effective. The Duke as a callow and callous ex-frat-boy surrounded by a posse, Monterone as a Bible-thumping televangelist, the tart Maddalena dressed in a scarlet (get it?) corset—these all worked. The informal dress, adapted for outdoor performances on warm summer nights, was effective. Gilda’s swing was a nice touch, suiting the outdoor venue well. This Rigoletto definitely packs a punch.

Sound was the greatest sacrifice to the outdoor venue. A reduced orchestra—eight strings, 22 players in all—is seated beneath a tent behind the stage. Each of the players and singers is individually mic’d, making the sound technician—seated in a stage-side tent of his own—the most important person you don’t see. Conductor John Baril communicates with the singers via video monitors.

But eight strings is not enough to create the weight you want in Verdi’s score, and the amplification only makes the orchestra sound tinny, not hefty. The woodwinds were often under-powered. The singers came across better, always present and easily understood.

One way the opera was condensed was by reducing the cast. The bevy of courtiers around the Duke was reduced to three named roles and some of the larger scenes and choral numbers were cut. The drama does not suffer from such reductions, but the musical breadth of the score does.

Alissa Jordheim as Gilda and Aleksey Bogdanov as Rigoletto

Of the cast members, Alisa Jordheim as Gilda was the star of the night. Her glittering, burnished soprano and splendid vocal technique made her every scene a delight. The tender wonder and brilliant coloratura of “Caro nome,” her anguished cries in the great Act III quartet, and above all her powerful resolve before sacrificing herself for the Duke—all were both musically and dramatically compelling.

Galeano Salas brought a lovely lyric tenor sound to the role of the Duke of Mantua and was at his best on the solo arias. His phrasing became more fluid as the evening wore on, but occasionally his phrasing was more pedestrian, lacking depth of expression.

In the title role, Aleksey Bogdanov sang with a resonant baritone. He was never less than effective, although his portrayal sometimes seemed directed rather than spontaneous. His best moments were his powerful rage in Act II and his final scene as Gilda dies in his arms, prompting his fierce cry of “Ah! La maledizione!” (Ah! The curse!).

John Paul Huckle as Sparafucile and Michelle Monroe as Maddalena.

John Paul Huckle was a menacing and deep-voiced Sparafucile who brought his small but essential role convincingly to life. Michelle Monroe was exactly as coarse and suggestive as she needed to be as Maddalena without losing vocal effectiveness. Together they made the final act a potent highlight. 

As Monterone, Phillip Lopez gave a hard edge to his voice that matched his character’s harsh pronouncements. All the other roles were filled by a small but resilient cast of capable performers who sang well and made even their entrances across the visible spaces around and behind the stage part of the drama.

Sound issues with the amplified orchestra aside, John Baril conducted with style. He knit the through-composed score together with great effectiveness, building powerful momentum where necessary. The final act storm was driven but underpowered. Condemi’s clear direction of the smallish cast helped propel the story ahead.

Kudos to Central City Opera for finding a venue and a way to produce the season. Opera at Hudson Gardens is a unique experience for Colorado audiences, and one well worth taking in. It was a daunting challenge to move the production to a space that was new to the CCO, even as opera was new for the people at Hudson Gardens. If you don’t believe that it was a challenge for all, go to a performance and look at all the lights hung over the stage, then realize that the space is alternating two different shows. 

Rigoletto continues in repertory at Hudson Gardens through July 30. Tickets are available here.

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Rigoletto
Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave

REMAINING PERFORMANCES:

7 p.m. Friday, July 16; Tuesday, July 20; Thursday, July 22; Saturday, July 24; Wednesday, July 28; Friday, July 30
3 p.m. Wednesday, July 14; Sunday, July 18; Tuesday, July 27

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo.

Tickets

Carousel at Central City Opera: a Twisted Tale of Redemption

Production faces dark themes of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit show

By Izzy Fincher July 11 at 12:45 p.m.

The smell of love—and fresh cut grass—is in the air. Two young lovers gaze into the settling dusk, framed by glowing carousel banners and scintillating plastic stars, cottonwood fluff falling like blossoms.

Yet despite this idyllic opening scene from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, the show is filled with dark themes of toxic relationships, domestic abuse, crime and suicide, ending with the bittersweet promise of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Central City Opera’s production, which opened on July 3 at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colo., under director Ken Cazan, does not shy away from the darker themes, and it also doesn’t attempt to reframe the outdated storyline for a modern audience. With a minimalistic approach to staging and costumes, the focus is on the abusive relationship between Billy Bigelow (Steven LaBrie) and Julie Jordan (Anna Christy), which unfolds with heartbreaking realism.

Carousel at Central City Opera. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Carousel, written in 1945, was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s second collaboration after their Broadway hit Oklahoma!. Based on Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, the musical takes place in a small town in Maine in the early 1900s. It depicts the troubled relationship between charming carousel barker Billy and naive millworker Julie, contrasted by the light-hearted love story of Julie’s best friend Carrie Pepperidge (Jennifer DeDominici) and the pious, ambitious fisherman Enoch Snow (Will Ferguson).

From the beginning, the whirlwind romance between Billy and Julie is clearly ill-fated. Billy is lazy, quick-tempered and emotionally stunted, while Julie is a hopeless romantic, too forgiving for her own good. A few months into their marriage, Billy physically abuses Julie, an upsetting yet hardly surprising development. (He later denies it, saying, “I wouldn’t beat a little thing like that—I hit her.”) Later when he learns Julie is pregnant, he decides to commit a robbery to provide for his future family and kills himself when it fails.

Steven LaBrie as Billy Bigelow. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Although domestic abuse was largely ignored (and sometimes encouraged) at the time, Rodgers and Hammerstein initially had misgivings about turning Liliom into a musical. After all, a “wife-beater” who abandons his pregnant wife is hardly a sympathetic protagonist. 

So the duo crafted a more optimistic, though morally problematic, ending: while his counterpart Liliom is banished to purgatory, Billy is redeemed and goes to heaven (after abusing his daughter on his second chance and offering a few words of encouragement and an “I love you” on his third). By reframing the dark tale as an uplifting story of redemption, they managed to appeal to mainstream audiences, and the show became an instant hit on Broadway.

However, since the #MeToo movement Carousel revivals have faced intense criticism. The musical has been accused of romanticizing an abusive relationship and having a sympathetic portrayal of Billy as a flawed man worthy of redemption. 

In response, several recent productions have cut a few of Julie’s controversial lines, but these small deletions are a superficial fix at best and to an extent deny the realities of how victims may perceive their abusers. The main issue that productions, including this one, haven’t yet dared to address lies in Billy’s final redemption, even though his abusive nature has not fundamentally changed.

In Central City Opera’s production, Cazan has taken a more hands-off approach to the issue. Julie’s controversial lines remain intact, and the production leaves the moral dilemma of Billy’s redemption unanswered.

In her role as Julie, Christy skillfully portrays a nuanced character, a compassionate girl who loves a cruel man deeply and unconditionally, even when she shouldn’t. In “If I Loved You,” Christy’s sparkling soprano soared across the garden, filled with love and hope. Then as the play progresses, her bright, spirited disposition fades, and she sinks into herself, hiding in an oversized olive sweater draped over her elegant dress. When she is with Billy, she flinches away from him, defiant but afraid.

LaBrie, in his portrayal of Billy, leans into the despicableness of his character. Cutting an imposing figure onstage, LaBrie towers over Christy as Julie, his booming voice and menacing movements evoking a sense of dread. Though he never hits Julie onstage, he seems poised to do so at any moment, like a coiled spring ready to snap. 

Will Ferguson (Enoch Snow) and Jennifer DeDominici (Carries Pipperidge). Photo by Amanda Tipton

Yet, there are also sweet, charming moments early on in “If I Loved You,” the closest Billy ever comes in life to admitting his feelings. In “Soliloquy,” a tender song about his future child (whom he hopes will be a boy, of course), LaBrie captures the essence of Billy, a man riddled with toxic masculinity and prone to self-destructive behavior, unable to express his love for his wife and unborn child in a healthy way.

Despite the difficult material, the show is sprinkled with several funny and heartwarming moments, mostly from Carrie and Enoch. Their relationship is imperfect and at times sexist—Enoch imposes his dream of a big family onto Carrie and blames her for being sexually assaulted by Billy’s crony Jigger Craig. Yet, overall Ferguson portrays Enoch as a good-hearted man, who tries his best to love Carrie, while also providing much-needed comic relief with his infectious guffaw and social awkwardness. 

The ending, however, remains a twisted tale of redemption. With closed eyes, the final sweeping chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is deeply moving. The uplifting music is almost enough to convince us that Billy deserves to be redeemed. 

Almost. But unless we are as forgiving as Julie, after the music fades, it’s hard to believe that a single moment of kindness could make up for Billy’s sins.

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Carousel
Music by Richard Rogers, book by Oscar Hammerstein

Remaining Performances:
7 p.m. Tuesday, July 13; Thursday, July 15; Saturday, July 17; Friday, July 23; Tuesday, July 27; Thursday, July 29\
3 p.m. Wednesday July 7; Sunday, July 11; Sunday, July 25; Thursday, July 29; Sunday, August 1

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo.

Tickets can be purchased here.

After three sets of designs, Central City Opera is ready to open

2021 Summer season at Hudson Gardens and outdoors in Central City

By Peter Alexander July 1 at 4:10 p.m.

Central City Opera (CCO) is ready to go for the 2021 summer season, but it wasn’t easy to get here. 

From July 3 to Aug. 1, the season offers Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, opening the season Saturday, July 3Verdi’s Rigoletto, opening Saturday July 10; and an English Baroque opera, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (sold out; see full schedule below). Because the opera house in Central City is too small to allow safe distancing, all three will be performed outdoors. 

The two larger productions, Rigoletto and Carousel, will be performed on the outdoor stage at Hudson Gardens in Littleton. The sold-out performances of Dido and Aeneas will take place in Central City.

Hudson Gardens outdoor stage

It all sounds simple enough. After all, this was the same season that was planned for 2020 and simply postponed for a year. Most of the same singers were able to move their schedules to 2021. So half the work was already done, right? What could be the problem?

Design, for one thing. CCO general/artistic director Pelham (“Pat”) Pearce explains: “The designers had originally conceived these shows in the opera house. Then last fall we thought we would be producing (in a facility near Central City), so there was an awful lot of thought given to how that would be done.

CCO GEneral/artistic director “Pat” Pearce

“Then we found out in January that we would not be given the ability to do that, so on a dime we had to turn and find a place to produce this summer. And so we spent four to five weeks trying to find a place to go. And when we had a good idea about what that was going to be, not only did they have to re-design again, but they had to re-design together, because they would have to use the same floor.”

At that point they were down to only about four months to get the sets designed and built, a process that normally takes most of a year. And they were going into a space that they knew almost nothing about, either acoustically or physically, an outdoor space previously used for pop and rock music acts. In fact, they had so much to build that they had to get a building permit for their sets!

The partnership with Hudson Gardens was a real stroke of fortune for CCO. “As soon as we saw we did not have access to where we thought we were going to be, we put out the call to our friends in the (Scientific and Cultural Facilities District), does anybody have a space outdoors where we can produce a season,” Pearce explains. 

They got several responses. But Hudson Gardens was the best possibility, particularly because of parking and the availability of electricity, which is crucial for theatrical lighting. “We’ve worked with the people at Hudson Gardens, because they have a rhythm about how they have always worked with these outdoor concerts,” Pearce says.

“They’re been very, very helpful, helping us navigate these unusual conditions—overnight security, things that we never think about because we can walk away from the building (in Central City) and lock it, but we can’t do that here.”

Of course another issue is weather. “We’re going to learn a great deal about outdoor performing and working with the elements,” Pearce says. “I’m used to people complaining to me that it’s too cold or its too hot, but I can’t control the weather. So this is going to be a large learning experience for everybody. None of us, not any of us, are used to performing this way.”

One concession to weather is that the stage will be covered by a large tent that will extend back of the stage to cover the orchestra as well. That in turn means that every single performer has to be mic’d—every singer and every orchestral player will have their own microphone. “The sound designer will be constructing what people hear and what they don’t hear,” Pearce says. “All of that will done by a single person sitting at a sound board.

“The orchestra will be behind the set and the conductor will be behind the set. Everyone will be working with monitors for sight, and in some cases monitors for sound. So it’s going be all kinds of challenges. But we have been determined to produce and have figured out a way to do it.”

The circumstances will affect performances in other ways. For one, both works have been shortened to about 90–100 minutes, so they can be performed without intermission—in order to reduce the mingling among audience members. Instead, Pearce suggests that people come early and wander through the gardens before the performance. “They’re absolutely gorgeous, right up against the Platte River,” he says.

For another, both shows will be set in a time closer to now than is usual. This is partly to avoid heavy costumes that would be unbearable outdoors on a hot night. For another, Rigoletto will be placed more outdoors than usual. “The duke may be dressed for doing things outdoors, and Gilda is actually going to be on a swing,” Pearce says. 

The designers “embraced the setting we’re in, and they’re telling the story using where we are. We will tell the story well, but we’re going to tell it not ignoring the fact that we are outdoors.”

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo. map of grounds.

Carousel will be stage directed by Ken Cazan and conducted by Christopher Zemliauskas, both veterans of previous CCO seasons. The director of Rigoletto will be Jose Maria Condemi, who directed Carmen at CCO in 2017. Conductor will be John Baril, a longtime mainstay at CCO, and stage design is by Steven C. Kemp. Dan Wallace Miller will direct Dido and Aeneas and Brandon M Eldredge will conduct. Full cast and credits are posted on the CCO Web pages for each production. 

You may want to consult the 2021 Summer Festival FAQ page for the latest information. Ticket-holders will receive detailed “know before you go” information via email prior to their purchased performance. 

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Central City Opera
Summer Festival 2021

Carousel
Music by Richard Rogers, book by Oscar Hammerstein

7 p.m. Saturday, July 3; Friday, July 9; Tuesday, July 13; Thursday, July 15; Saturday, July 17; Friday, July 23; Tuesday, July 27; Thursday, July 29
3 p.m. Wednesday July 7; Sunday, July 11; Sunday, July 25; Thursday, July 29; Sunday, August 1

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo.

Rigoletto
Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave

7 p.m. Saturday, July 10; Friday, July 16; Tuesday, July 20; Thursday, July 22; Saturday, July 24; Wednesday, July 28; Friday, July 30
3 p.m. Wednesday, July 14; Sunday, July 18; Tuesday, July 27

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo.

Dido and Aeneas
Music by Henry Purcell, libretto by Nahum Tate

1 p.m. Saturday, July 17; Tuesday, July 20; Thursday, July 22; Wednesday, July 28

Central City Opera House Gardens 

Information and tickets

Boulder-area summer festival tickets go on sale

Central City Opera, Colorado Music Festival tickets now available for purchase

By Peter Alexander April 21 at 10:15 p.m.

Two area organizations have now put tickets on sale for their summer festival seasons. Both Central City Opera and the Colorado Music Festival had announced their summer seasons earlier, but now tickets to individual events may be purchased for both. Both festivals will take place more or less as in past years, but with some important changes in access and ticketing brough about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Central City Opera will present all of its performances this summer at outdoor venues. Two mainstage productions—Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and Verdi’s Rigoletto—will be presented at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. There will be three differently-priced seating sections: a “VIP Section” closest to the stage, with seats provided; and two areas on the lawn farther back from the Hudson Gardens Concert Amphitheater where patrons can bring their own chair or blanket. 

Concert Amphitheater at Hudson Gardens

A smaller production of Henry Purcell’s Baroque-era opera Dido and Aeneas will be performed in the Central City Opera House Gardens. Relatively few seats are available for these performances.

For more information and dates of performances, see the previous article on Central City Opera on this blog, or the Central City Opera’s 2021 Festival listing. 

Tickets for all three productions may be purchased through the Central City Web page or or by phone through the Central City Opera box office, at (303) 292-6700. Due to COVID, there are no in-person box office sales. Frequently asked questions (FAQ) for the 2021 Central City Opera summer festival are listed here.  

The Colorado Music Festival will return to their usual home at the Chautauqua Auditorium for all summer programs—a total of 22 performances—but because it is an indoor facility, the auditorium brings its own problems.

Chautauqua Auditorium

The CMF will address health concerns by selling tickets in “bubbles” of 2, 3 or 4 seats, with appropriate distance between the bubbles. All tickets within each bubble will be sold together, so there will be no single tickets available for the summer. Because the orchestra has to expand the stage to maintain safe distances between the musicians, the first six rows of seats will not be available. Most aisle seats will be held back as well.

A full chart of seats available for sale, as well as answers to ticketing FAQs, can be found here. For a description of the 2021 summer festival, you may read the previously published post on this blog, or consult the calendar on the CMF Web page. You may also purchase tickets through the CMF calendar page.

Central City Opera moves 2021 mainstage productions to Hudson Gardens

Outdoor venue will host socially-distanced RigolettoCarousel

By Peter Alexander March 19 at 1:50 p.m.

Central City Opera has announced that due to COVID precautions, their 2021 mainstage productions—Verdi’s Rigoletto and Rogers and Hammerstein’s Broadway hit Carousel—will not be performed in their intimate theater in Central City.

Hudson Gardens Concert Amphitheater

Instead, CCO has partnered with Hudson Gardens in Littleton to present both productions in an open-air theater. The summer’s third production, Henry Purell’s Dido and Aeneas, will be presented outdoors in Central City, in the Opera House Gardens, as will the CCO AL Fresco concert series. All three operas were postponed from the planned 2020 season, which was canceled.

In a media release sent out in early March, Central City Opera’s general/artistic director Pelham “Pat” Pearce was quoted saying, “We had hoped that by now it would be safe to return to the Opera House and resume normal operations.

“In order to prioritize the health and safety of our patrons, performers and company members, we determined it was necessary to secure an outdoor venue in order to return to live, in-person performances this summer. We are thrilled to partner with Hudson Gardens to host our 2021 Festival in their beautiful outdoor amphitheater.”

CCO will release tickets in phases, in accordance with the State of Colorado and CDC guidelines for capacity in the Hudson Gardens Concert Amphitheater. Subscribers to the 2020 season will be contacted b the CCO Box Office about tickets options for the 2021 season. Single tickets will go on sale in late April. Free parking will be available at Hudson Gardens, and subscribers will have priority access to purchase reserved parking. Other policies for the summer—including weather policies and the opera bus—are currently under review and will be announced in coming days. For more information, access CCOs 2021 Festival Frequently Asked Questions here

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Central City Opera
Summer Festival 2021

Carousel
Music by Richard Rogers, book by Oscar Hammerstein

7 p.m. Saturday, July 3; Friday, July 9; Tuesday, July 13; Thursday, July 15; Saturday, July 17; Friday, July 23; Tuesday, July 27; Thursday, July 29
3 p.m. Wednesday July 7; Sunday, July 11; Sunday, July 25; Thursday, July 29; Sunday, August 1

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo.

Rigoletto
Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave

7 p.m. Saturday, July 10; Friday, July 16; Tuesday, July 20; Thursday, July 22; Saturday, July 24; Wednesday, July 28; Friday, July 30
3 p.m. Wednesday, July 14; Sunday, July 18; Tuesday, July 27

Hudson Gardens, Littleton, Colo.

Dido and Aeneas
Music by Henry Purcell, libretto by Nahum Tate

1 p.m. Saturday, July 17; Tuesday, July 20; Thursday, July 22; Wednesday, July 28

Central City Opera House Gardens

Information and tickets