CU Eklund Opera presents colorful ‘Postcard from Morocco’

Surrealistic opera by Dominick Argento Friday through Sunday in the Music Theatre

By Peter Alexander April 18 at 5:35 p.m.

Dominick Argento and John Donahue’s one-act opera Postcard from Morocco definitely doesn’t feature a postcard, it may not take place in Morocco, and it does not really have a plot.

Colorful characters in the CU Eklund Opera’s Postcard from Morocco by Dominick Argento

What it does have is seven curious and colorful characters who collide and interact while waiting for a train that may, or may not—shades of Waiting for Godot—ever arrive. The next production of CU’s Eklund Opera Program, this unique opera will be presented Thursday through Sunday in the Music Theater space of the Imig Music Building (see details and ticket information below).

The student performances are stage directed by Leigh Holman and conducted by Nicholas Carthy. Stage design is by Ron Mueller, with costumes by Ann Piano based on drawings by Maya Hairston-Brown.

If you think this does not sound like any other opera you’ve seen, you might be right. “In a normal opera, we get a plot and hints of a character,” Carthy says. “And in this one we get the character and hints of a plot.”

“We wanted to dig into this piece because it was different,” Holman says. “It’s a way for our singers to dig into a whole genre of opera that’s completely different from other things they’ve done. They have the freedom to really search for the characters they want to develop.”

The CU Eklund Opera’s set for Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco

In many ways, it is an ideal piece for a university opera program. “As an educational project it is perfect,” Carthy says. “Everybody’s onstage all the time. Everybody has an aria. People sing alone, people sing together, people sing in ensemble—basically it’s all there, and [the opera] is so astonishingly well put together.”

Beyond the educational advantages, Holman emphasizes the sheer fun of the piece. “There is a ton of humor in it,” she says. “There are many really funny moments. [During rehearsals] we are just guffawing. There are some very serious moments too, but it’s a nice ride for the audience.”

For Holman one of the pleasures of performing Postcard from Morocco is the fact that it is not often done. “There are no traditions to adhere to,” she says. “That opens up the students and the direction and the music to just do what you would like to do with it. It gives [the singers] space to dig in and find things” in each character.

The central conceit of the opera is that each character is carrying some kind of luggage or box with them. These vary from a cornet case to a paint box to a cake box, but none of the characters is willing to show the others what’s in their luggage. “Everyone has their little secret,” Carthy says. 

The seven characters of Postcard from Morocco with their luggage

This is a clear metaphor for the “baggage” that we all carry with us through life, which is one of the covert subjects of the opera. “We put on a facade of who we are and what we do, but very few people know what’s really going on inside,” Holman says. 

The characters—three women and four men—are deliberately kept mysterious, and only one of them has a name. “An eclectic bunch of characters demands an eclectic score,” Carthy says, and the score features a kaleidoscope of musical styles, from tap dancing to Richard Wagner. The latter appears several times, including a vaudeville scene ironically titled “Souvenirs de Bayreuth.”

Postcards is scored for a chamber ensemble of eight players, who will be costumed and placed onstage. In addition to the singing characters, there are two mimes, and “the maestro is one of the characters onstage, too,” Holman says. “He’s interacting [with the others].”

Carthy points out the many literary references in the libretto—everything from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, to James Joyce’s Ulysses, to The Odyssey, to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses. “You could spend a lifetime deconstructing it,” Carthy says. As for Stevenson’s poetry, “There’s little quotes, but [the opera] has nothing to do with that,” he says. “It’s far away from that.”

Ann Piano’s costumes feature drawings by Maya Hairston-Brown and a distinctive color for each character

The CU production aims for a kind of timelessness and placelessness that is neither Morocco nor not  Morocco. The sets and costumes will be as colorful as the characters, literally. Early in the design process, Holman studied the characters and assigned a color to each. “I had someone sketch little picture of the various things they supposedly hold in their containers, so you’ve got hats, shoes, a cornet,” she explains.

That artist, Maya Hairston-Brown, sent the sketches to a company that printed them on fabric, a different color for each character, and then costume designer Ann Piano turned the fabric into costumes. “This is really amazing,” Holman says. “We never loose sight of who’s who and who is connected to what.”

At the end of the opera, either a train arrives, or it doesn’t, depending on your interpretation. Everyone leaves the waiting room to go onto the outside platform, but, Holman says, “We don’t know if this is a fantasy, or what it is.”

You also get a small hint of what everyone has been hiding, but like so much else in the opera, it’s enigmatic. “It’s really up to the audience to figure out what it means,” Holman says.

“It’s Dadaist, it’s surrealist, it’s fun,” Carthy says, referring to artistic movements from the mid-20th century when the opera was written. “And it is such an incredible ride to go and see!”

# # # # #

Postcard from Morocco by Dominick Argento and John Donahue

CU Eklund Opera Program
Leigh Holman, director, and Nicholas Carthy, conductor

7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 22
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23
2 p.m. Sunday, April 24
Music Theatre, CU Imig Music Building

TICKETS

Eklund Opera travels to 1950s with Guys and Dolls

Performances Friday through Sunday at Macky Auditorium

By Peter Alexander March 9 at 5:07 p.m.

The Eklund Opera Theater at CU will transport audiences back seven decades this weekend.

Their production of Frank Loesser’s Tony Award-winning 1950 Broadway hit Guys and Dolls, certainly one of the greatest of the era’s classic musical shows, runs Friday through Sunday at Macky Auditorium (details below). Performances, featuring students in the opera and music theater programs, have been stage directed by Leigh Holman, with choreography by Tracy Doty. Nicholas Carthy conducts.

Sky Masterson (Ian Saverin)in Eklund Opera’s Guys and Dolls. Photo by Lily Valdez.

Based on stories by Damon Runyon, Guys and Dolls features characters from prohibition-era New York, including gamblers and their henchmen, nightclub “girls,” tough cops and Salvation Army missionaries. The main plot revolves around two pairs of potential lovers: the gambler Nathan Detroit and his long-waiting fiancée, nightclub singer Miss Adelaide; and the even flashier gambler Sky Masterson and the pious Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown.

Other Runyon-esque characters surrounding the leads include such colorful personalities as “Nicely-Nicely” Johnson, “Harry the Horse,” “Big Jule,” police lieutenant Brannigan, who is always one step behind the gamblers, and an ensemble of Hotbox Club dancers.

The Eklund production is set not in the prohibition times of Runyon’s stories, but in the 1950s of the show’s premiere—when alcohol was not illegal as in the ‘30s, but gambling still was: illegal and a little bit glamorous. Spoiler alert: this being golden-age Broadway, “it is a feel-good story,” Carthy says. At the end, the two couples get married and the leading men renounce their shady habits to adopt respectable lives.

Miss Adelaide (Annie Carpenter) and the Hotbox dancers. Photo by Lily Valdez.

As far as the 1950s are from today’s college students, Holman says the cast members were eager to do the show. “Students came out in droves to audition for this piece,” she says. “We were able to choose really good singers and dancers.”

Not only were students eager to audition, they have really immersed themselves in the show. “They are so absolutely committed to it,” Carthy says. “They put in the work, and it’s incredibly gratifying—they love it.”

Holman says they have also been doing their research into the time period. “They’re teaching us!” she says. “They’ve got the accents down, the way to walk—it’s made our job super easy. And there are so many references to things that don’t exist today: Brooks Brothers, Ovaltine, A&P, Whitney Colors”—the last being the livery colors for racehorses owned by the prominent and wealthy Whitney family.

As for the style of the classical Broadway musical, “they love it,” Holman says. “They really get the timing and the style of this type of musical.”

One thing Holman did have to teach was how to use a pay phone—something that was new and strange for the young people in the cast. “They said, ‘I’ve heard of it,’ Holman recalls. “I said, ‘You pick up the receiver, and then you put the coin in, and then you dial,’ and they’re doing it with me like it’s choreography. ‘You dial, and then you listen, those four steps: receiver, coin, dial, listen.’

Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Sam Bruckner) at the Save-A-Soul Mission. Photo by Lily Valdez.

“Nick and I are the caretakers of all the 20th century. We’re teaching whatever from the 20th century that these folks don’t know.”

Such details of life in the 1950s as forgotten brand names and pay phones are quaint, but it was also an era when social conventions were very different than they are today. It was a largely patriarchal society, and the women are looking for traditional 1950s marriages, but both Carthy and Holman are adamant that the show is not inherently sexist.

“I don’t see it,” Holman says. “Are there examples of men objectifying women? Of course there are. But the women don’t take it! They’re strong women! Adelaide is doing exactly what she wants to do, and Sarah is on a mission. But I don’t think any one of those women put up with much.”

“I do not think it’s a sexist piece in any way,” Carthy says. “It is a child of its time, and child of its time means it’s got fantastically witty dialog and amazing show tunes. It needs to be enjoyed for what it is: an intelligent, non-sexist story with fabulous music and dance.”

Holman is especially pumped about the dance. “The dance is not like anything you’ve seen at Eklund Opera before,” she says. “It’s worth the price of admission on its own! Tracy Doty, who did the choreography, has done wonders with them.”

In fact Holman is, as always during the rehearsal process, pumped about the whole show. “This is one of the strongest books I’ve ever been involved with,” she says. “There’s a lot of dialog, but it’s so brilliantly written, and it really does carry the story forward. We’ve had a lot of fun with that. We’re really excited to be doing this piece!”

For his part, Carthy summarizes the show’s longstanding popularity, saying, “It’s full of big tunes and witty text, (so) how could you not love it, really?”

# # # # #

Guys and Dolls
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
CU Eklund Opera Theater

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12
2 p.m. Sunday, March 13

Macky Auditorium

TICKETS

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly listed the photos as by Collin Ring. They were taken by Lily Valdez. We apologize for the error. Correction posted 3/10.

Eklund Opera presents ‘the perfect Verdi Opera’

CU production of La traviata will be in Macky Auditorium Oct. 22–24

By Peter Alexander Oct. 22 at 11:43 a.m.

Nicholas Carthy describes La traviata as “the perfect Verdi opera.”

Certainly one of the best known and most loved operas, La traviata is a production of the CU Eklund Opera, to be presented in Macky Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22-23 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24. As music director, Carthy will conduct the performances by student singers and the CU orchestra. Leigh Holman, director of Eklund Opera, is the stage director. 

The performances will be sung in Italian with projected titles in English. Tickets for all performances are available from the CU Presents Web page. Masks are required in all public indoor spaces on the CU Boulder campus, regardless of vaccination status.

The performances will be sung in Italian with projected titles in English. Tickets for all performances are available from cupresents.org/performances. Masks are required in all public indoor spaces on the CU Boulder campus, regardless of vaccination status.

Photo courtesy of Eklund Opera

Based on the 1848 novel by Alexandre Dumas the younger La Dame aux camélias (The lady of the camelias), La traviata tells the tragic story of Violetta, a high-society courtesan who falls in love with Alfredo, a young man from a respectable family. Alfredo and Violetta move together to the country in search of a quiet life together. 

Because of Violetta’s status as a social outcast, Alfredo’s father demands that she leave Alfredo, to clear the way for his younger daughter to have a respectable marriage. Under pressure, Violetta returns to her prior life in Paris, but she is suffering from tuberculosis, which took the lives of a quarter of the adult population of Europe in the 19th century.

The social issues of 19th-century Paris may seem remote, but Carthy says they are easy for today’s students to understand. “The idea of a disease that kills, and a family that disapproves is not terribly far away,” he says. 

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

CU Eklund Opera offers “toe-tapping good music”

Handel’s 1709 opera Agrippina will be streamed starting Friday

By Peter Alexander May 13 at 9:30 p.m.

“It’s toe-tapping good music,” Leigh Holman, director of the CU Eklund Opera Theater, says. “There’s always a beat going!”

George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner

She’s talking about the company’s next production, Handel’s 1709 opera Agrippina, which opens in a streamed production at 7:30 p.m. Friday (May 14). The stream, which is offered on a pay-what-you-can basis, will be available here for three weeks, until 11 p.m. Friday, June 4.

The opera was rehearsed and performed with strict observance of social distance protocols. After a postponement due to the March snowstorm, two casts were filmed over a single weekend in the Music Theater of the Imig Music Building. The singers will be accompanied by a reduced orchestra of five players under the direction of Nick Carthy.

Baroque opera can be a challenge for audiences, because the stories are often based on classical mythology or, in the case of Agrippina, Roman history that may be unfamiliar to modern listeners. The music is presented in a series of arias that expose emotions, alternating with recitatives that advance the action. With all the arias structured the same, the lack of variety can be monotonous.

“That’s where I come in,” Holman says, referring to all the ways she as director can make the show accessible and more fun to watch. In the case of Agrippina, a story about the rise of the infamous Roman emperor Nero, Holman and CU have placed the production the board room of a modern high-tech firm in Silicon Valley.

For longtime PBS fans, the story of Agrippina starts up where the 1976 TV series I, Claudius leaves off. Emperor Claudius’ wife Agrippina wants her son, Nero, to be the next emperor—or in the CU production, the next CEO. When a false report arrives of Claudius’ death, she goes into overdrive trying to position Nero for the top job.

Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome

When Claudius turns up alive, Agrippina tries to manipulate everyone—Nero, who desperately wants to be emperor; Ottone, who is madly in love with Poppea; Claudius, who also lusts for Poppea; Poppea herself; and several minor characters—to clear the way for Nero’s ascent. After many twists and turns, Claudius realizes that Nero wants to be emperor and Ottone wants to marry Poppea, which he facilitates. Everyone is happy—for the moment. (History tells more that is not in the opera.)

In spite of the high stakes game being played by everyone, Holman insists that the opera is funny. “It’s a comedy, and we really had a good time bringing that out,” she says. “There is a pair, Pallante and Narciso, [who] are goofballs.”

At the same time, there are arias that are serious. “The aria by Ottone, when he realizes that nobody wants him and he’s left all alone—he sings this gorgeous aria and it’s one of the most touching things in the world.

“But in the next scene you’ve got goofball antics.”

Leigh Holman

Holman had to get the students to find the right groove for the opera’s comedy. “I kept saying to the students, I know this is Handel, and I know that this music is hard for you to sing,” she says. “But for those moments that are funny, don’t be too reverent!”

Handel, Holman likes to point out, wrote operas for entertainment. “This is for people to enjoy,” she says. “There are some very touching moments, but most of all it’s just entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with that. We need that right now!”

This is the third Baroque opera Holman has directed at CU. There was Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea—which takes up where Agrippina leaves off—in 2015, and Handel’s Ariodante in 2018. “Baroque opera is a challenge, because the actors, the director and the conductor can find so much,” she says. 

“There’s so much room to dig without it being handed to you. It opens up lots of different different ways to play it. I think that’s fun.”

The difficulty of having so many arias strung together, all in the same structure—diagrammed ABA—Holman sees as another challenge to the performers. She asks the singers what changes during the aria. “How does the character change in that aria,” she asks, “during A and then the different music in the B section, and then going back (to A)—why does the character do that? That gets them to think about those things.”

The singers have responded to the challenges of Baroque opera. “These students are very serious,” Holman says. “The only thing they need to do is read about the history of these characters. They’re really good about it—they seem to enjoy it.”

Holman has no doubt that people will enjoy Agrippina. “The music’s beautiful, and this is one of the greatest groups of singers we’ve had at CU,” she says. “People that are attracted to opera because they want to hear good voices, they’re going to get it. If they like good storytelling, they’ll be really happy. If they like good acting, they’re going to see students that are doing far more than I could ever imagine.

“There’s something for everyone in this production.” 

# # # # #

CU Eklund Opera
George Frideric Handel: Agrippina
Performed in Italian with English titles

Leigh Holman, stage director
Nicholas Carthy, music director

Stream available at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 14, though 11 p.m. Friday, June 4.

Full cast and credits, and pay-what-you-can access to the streamed performance, are here.

Opera in a time of pandemic

Following strict health protocols, CU stages Hansel and Gretel for streaming

By Peter Alexander Dec. 9 at 4:15 p.m.

Putting on a staged opera during a pandemic is challenge.

There are many restrictions: distancing of performers, at least 12 feet because of the spread of aerosols by singers; no orchestra in the pit; rehearsal and performance space having to be aired out every 30 minutes; and of course no audience.

Leigh Homan

All of those challenges and more have been met by CU Eklund Opera director Leigh Holman and music director Nicholas Carthy. Fully staged, streamed performances of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel will be available online starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, through 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, 2021.

The pandemic has had a major effect on the CU opera program. But the students depend on their experiences at CU to prepare for their careers, and Holman and Carthy were not willing to lose a full year of students’ educations.

The pandemic arrived in March just as the opera program was preparing Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. “When we got in dress rehearsal for Figaro and that turned into nothing, the outpouring of both grief and love was enormous,” Carthy says.

The opera planned for the late spring was Beatrice and Benedict by Hector Berlioz. Unwilling to let it drop, Carthy and Holman found a way to record individual musical numbers with singers performing separately. Holman worked over the summer with a videographer to make those numbers available online (see the final product here.) 

After that, they turned their attention to the fall production. As it turns out, Hansel and Gretel is the ideal opera to produce at this time: the cast is small, the opera is fairly short, which made it easier to observe time limits singing together, and it is a Christmas tradition in many opera houses. And another benefit: CU produces the opera every few years, so there was a complete set and costumes in storage.

Nicholas Carthy

But obstacles remained, including the orchestra. “We were told by the College of Music in no uncertain terms that we could not have the orchestral members to do it,” Carthy says. But rather than deny the students the opportunity of singing with an orchestra, he entered the entire score into a music writing program and sampled the score through a symphonic sound library. The result is a sampled orchestra, using real players and instruments.

Carthy set the tempos throughout. The performance tempos are not rigid—there are ritardandos and accelerandos—but they will be the same each time. “My role changed from somebody whose sole object in the pit is to be with the singers, to somebody who has to force the singers to be with me,” Carthy explains.

Holman had her own obstacles. “We had quite a list of protocols that we needed to follow (to stay safe),” she says. “When we practiced the staging all of the singers wore masks.”

They had to limit the singing in rehearsals, Holman says, because “even if you sing through the mask it starts the clock, and you can only sing for 30 minutes before you have to leave the room for 15 minutes.”

For the early staging rehearsals, no one sang—a rehearsal pianist would play the score while the singers spoke their lines in rhythm. “Once we had a scene ready to sing through, they would take their masks off,” Holman says. “We sang for 30 minutes and then left the room.”

Linsey Duca, Tommy Bocchi and Kely Riordan observing social distancing in CU’s Hansel and Gretel

The staging too had to observe the protocols. The singers had to stay 12 feet apart. ”Our technical director Ron Mueller was so helpful in marking out the stage so that we knew exactly where 12 feet was,” Holman says.

“We tried to make it as active as possible but stay 12 feet apart——a lot of circles around the stage. There’s a sword fight with brooms but the brooms are six feet long, and we used little bandanas that they could use when they weren’t singing, or when (Hansel and Gretel) were asleep under the trees.”

The stored sets for Hansel and Gretel were designed for Macky Auditorium, but the rehearsals and recordings took place in the much smaller Music Theater. This meant individual set pieces had to be combined on the small stage; scenic artist Jennifer Melcher Galvin hand painted a backdrop that other set elements could fit into. “It is one of the stars of the show!” Holman says. “It really brings it all together.”

The performances will feature three different casts, two singing the original German and one singing an abridged version of the opera in English, designed for school outreach, that lasts about an hour. Purely orchestra material—the overture and the Witch’s Ride—are cut from both versions. All the performances were taped the weekend of Oct. 24–25.

Tenor Tommy Bocchi as the Witch

You will notice that in all three casts, the witch is sung by a male tenor. This is often done in opera houses, to give the witch an additional bit of humor and to add a man’s voice to a cast dominated by women. In CU’s case, there is another reason: a male witch gives more male students the opportunity to be cast. 

Although the origin of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale is quite dark, Carthy and Holman point out that the opera is more humorous than scary. In the opera, Carthy says, “It wasn’t an evil stepmother, it was a mother with two boisterous children and a headache. And the witch has to be so funny!”

Holman agrees. “This is a story about a real family who love each other but they are going through hard times,” she says.

It is overcoming the challenges of presenting opera at all that Holman keeps coming back to. “We really paid attention and stressed the protocols that our epidemiologist gave to us,” she says.

“Our singers were very, very serious about these protocols. I did want to make that point, because when people see the video of people on stage together, that can make them nervous. Everybody did take it so seriously. And we’re really proud of them about that.”

# # # # #

Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck
CU Eklund Opera
Nick Carthy, conductor
Leigh Holman, stage director

Stream available from 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, through 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15

Detailed program information and stream access available here.

NOTE: Edited for clarity 12/9/20

CU Eklund Opera production of “Marriage of Figaro” now available online

Spring performances were canceled due to Coronavirus

By Peter Alexander June 23 at 9 p.m.

The University of Colorado College of Music/Eklund Opera student production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro was in the final week of dress rehearsals in March.

PR still for the Eklund Opera production of Le Nozze di Figaro (Photo by Glenn Asakawa—University of Colorado)

The production, under the musical direction of conductor Nick Carthy and stage directed by Eklund Opera director Leigh Holman, promised to be an outstanding realization of one of the greatest—or the greatest—operas in the repertoire. (Read my original preview story in Boulder Weekly.)

But at one of the very last dress rehearsals, Holman had to tell the cast that all performances on the CU campus had been canceled. They ran through the opera one last time, they cried, they hugged one another, and then they went home.

Now that final dress rehearsal has been made available through CU Presents. You can access the stream of the full dress rehearsal here. The stream is described as a “pay what you can performance,” in which viewers are asked to make whatever contribution they can afford after watching the stream.

The performance lasts 150 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes), and has English titles throughout. The CU Presents Webpage does not say how long the stream will be available.

Eklund Opera’s “Marriage of Figaro,” production shot.

UPDATE: Cancellations of CU Performances; statement from Boulder Phil

Eklund Opera, Takács Quartet are included in the latest round of cancelations

By Peter Alexander March 11 at 3:57 p.m.

CU Presents and the University of Colorado, Boulder. have just announced the cancellation of all Spring 2020 College of Music events. Their statement specifies that:

This includes Eklund Opera, Artist Series, Takacs Quartet, ensemble performances and all other events. We will be in touch with ticketholders soon regarding next steps.

Please note that this includes the Eklund Opera production of  The Marriage of Figaro (scheduled for March 13–15) and the performance by the Kronos Quartet (March 19) previously covered in Boulder Weekly and on this blog.

The following is also posted on the CU Presents Web page:

We are currently working with the university to understand the impact this has on our events and will update patrons with more information as soon as possible. . . . CU Presents is committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone at our events. We are actively monitoring the global coronavirus or COVID-19 situation and would like to point you to updates and resources from the University of Colorado Boulder and Boulder County Health.

The Boulder Philharmonic has sent a statement to its patrons and ticket buyers concerning the cancelation of its upcoming concerts March 21 and 22. This information will be shortly available on the Boulder Phil Web page.  Here is the message that has been sent to patrons:

We regret to report that the Boulder Phil will be unable to proceed with concerts scheduled for March 21 at Macky Auditorium and March 22 at Pinnacle Performing Arts Center. CU announced today the suspension of all campus classes and gatherings, and we are supporting public health and safety by suspending our concerts until the virus threat has passed. We hope these preventative measures will be effective as our community does its part to protect our citizens.
We view this change as a postponement, and we will reschedule the concert if at all possible. We will keep you informed of developments as we have information.
For all ticket holders, your tickets is valid for a rescheduled performance of this program, or for exchange to a future concert. If you prefer you may donate the value of your ticket to the Phil, or request a refund, by calling the box office, 303-449-1343 starting Monday.
___________________
NOTE: As much as possible, I will attempt to keep updates concerning cancellations due to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 current on the Web page. Anyone with further information is encouraged to contact this site at alex.peterm@gmail.com.

‘Subversive, seditious, bawdy, proto-feminist’ opera NOW CANCELED

Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at CU has been canceled 

By Peter Alexander March 5 at 5 p.m.

AC_Glenn-AsakawaUniversity-of-Colorado-1536x2048

CU Production of Marriage of Figaro. Photo by Glenn Asakawa.

Conductor Nick Carthy says that Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is “the first great proto-feminist opera, and on top of that it’s subversive, it’s seditious, it’s bawdy, and Mozart wrote it!”

Widely considered one of the greatest operas ever written, The Marriage of Figaro will be presented by the University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program March 13-15. Carthy will conduct the student orchestra and cast, and Eklund Opera Program director Leigh Holman will be stage director.

Figaro, servant to the Count Almaviva, is about to marry Susanna, servant to the Countess. The Count, however, desires Susanna and wants to re-instate an old feudal right for masters to sleep with servants when they marry. The Countess and Susanna, and to a lesser extent Figaro, plot together to embarrass the Count and force him to abandon his plans.

There are many other twists involving minor characters, but those revolve around, and reinforce the main themes of, the plot: Not only do the servants thwart their master — a common basis for comedy in the 18th century — but the women foil the men. That is especially powerful, and is one of the things — with Mozart’s music — that elevates Figaro above other operas of its time.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

The Marriage of Figaro
By Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte
CU Eklund Opera Program

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14
2 p.m. Sunday, March 15
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

 

A beloved staple of the holiday season in a new medium

Eklund Opera brings ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to the Macky stage

By Peter Alexander

Overtones_Glenn-AsakawaUniversity-of-Colorado-1024x768

Photo by Glenn Asakawa for the University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program

It’s a Wonderful Life, a new opera by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, started its performance life with a workshop at CU Boulder in 2016, then went to its world premiere in Houston, followed by performances in Indiana and San Francisco, and now it returns to Boulder.

Based on the much loved film of the same title, the opera will be presented this weekend (Nov. 15–17) in a completely new production by the CU Eklund Opera Program. The student orchestra will be conducted by Nick Carthy. Leigh Holman, head of Eklund Opera, will direct the student cast.

“To take it home to Boulder is special, because we workshopped it there, and made so many artistic decisions in the process of creating it there,” Scheer says.

It’s a Wonderful Life was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, Indiana University and San Francisco Opera. Essentially the same production was used in all three locations. After Houston, Scheer and Heggie trimmed, streamlined and improved the opera in various ways. Eklund Opera will therefore present only the second physical production in the latest version of the opera.

The opera follows the basic story of the film, which tells of George Bailey’s despair and thoughts of suicide on Christmas Eve. He is rescued by an angel who shows him all the people he has touched in his life, and what his hometown of Bedford Falls would have been without him. The 1946 film, directed by Frank Capra, has become a beloved staple of the holiday season.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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It’s a Wonderful Life
An opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer
CU Eklund Opera

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16
2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

 

CU’s Eklund Opera presents a Victorian-era ghost story

You’ll have to decide what really happens in ‘The Turn of the Screw’

By Peter Alexander April 18, 2019, at 1:30 p.m.

The next production of the University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program, Benjamin Britten’s TheTurn of the Screw, is a Victorian-era ghost story. Whether the ghosts are real or not, however, Eklund Opera director Leigh Holman won’t say.

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Photo for CU Presents by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado

“I want that to be part of the mystery of the piece,” Holman says. “As a stage director I usually stay away from ambiguity, but in this case, I’m not doing that. I want people to leave and have those discussions — was it real?”

Performances will be April 25-28 in the Imig Music Building’s intimate Music Theatre. A cast of graduate and undergraduate students will be accompanied by a 13-piece chamber orchestra of freelance professional musicians, conducted by Jeremy Reger.

Britten’s opera is based on a short story by Henry James, about a governess hired to care for two children living in a remote English country home. Strange things start to happen, beginning when the boy, Miles, is permanently dismissed from his school without clear explanation.

Then the governess starts seeing ghosts, who apparently are Peter Quint, a former servant in the household, and Miss Jessel, the previous governess. She believes the ghosts are trying to lure the children — Miles and his younger sister, Flora — into demonic activities. Whether they are real, or creations of her overheated imagination, is the issue Holman wants the audience to decide for themselves.

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The Turn of the Screw
An opera by Benjamin Britten
Eklund Opera Program, Leigh Holman, director
Jeremy Reger, music director

7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25–Saturday, April 27
2 p.m. Sunday, April 28
Music Theater, CU Imig Music Building

Tickets