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

CU Presents’ 2019–20 season features Grammy winners and nominees

Kronos Quartet returns, Eklund Opera presents It’s a Wonderful Life

By Peter Alexander April 4 at 4:15 p.m.

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CU Macky Auditorium

The coming season of CU Presents at Macky Auditorium will feature the return of the Kronos Quartet, not heard in Boulder since 2014; the first appearance here by A Far Cry string orchestra; and the combination return/first local performance of Jake Heggie’s and Gene Scheer’s opera It’s a Wonderful Life, workshopped at CU in June 2018 and now scheduled for a full production by CU’s Eklund Opera Program.

These and other music, dance and theater events have been announced as part of the 2019-20 season of CU Presents. The full schedule for the season is listed here; see a schedule of the music events below .

In addition to CU’s own Takacs Quartet in their annual series on campus, the Grammy winners on the schedule are Kronos Quartet and the Chick Corea trio. A Far Cry was nominated for Grammys in 2014 and 2018.

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A Far Cry sting orchestra. Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

Founded in Boston in 2007, A Far Cry is an adventurous string orchestra. They are a democratic, self-conducted ensemble in which decisions are made collectively and leadership rotates among the players—or “Criers,” as they like to call themselves. They were recently part of a commissioning project with pianist Simone Dinnerstein for Philp Glass’s Third Piano Concerto, which Dinnerstein played with the Boulder Philharmonic as part of the orchestra’s 2017–18 season.

A Far Cry will perform a new program for the tour that will bring them to Boulder on Feb. 8, 2020. Under the title “Memory,” the program will comprise works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Arvo Pärt.

Kronos

Kronos Quartet. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Over 46 years, Kronos Quartet has been known for the innovative programming and presentation of music for string quartet, and especially new works. More than 900 works have been written for Kronos, by composers from all over the world. Their extensive discography, including more than 40 studio albums, has its own Wikipedia entry that also lists compilation albums, video albums, film soundtracks, and Kronos’ contributions with other artists ranging from Linda Ronstadt to Nine Inch Nails.

Kronos has been nominated for a Grammy 11 times, and won twice. In recognition of the 2014 centennial of World War I, in 2014 they presented the film Beyond Zero in Macky. A reconstruction by Bill Morrison of film from World War I, Beyond Zero featured a score by Aleksandra Vrebalov played live by Kronos. For their performance at Macky in March 19, 2020, they will present a new program, “Music for Change: The 60s,” including a celebration of Pete Seeger’s music and a work inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Houston Grand Opera world premiere production of It’s a Wonderful Life

Heggie and Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, with the San Francisco Opera and the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. The opera is based on the 1946 film of the same name, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers.

The original production premiered in Houston Dec. 2, 2016, with subsequent performances in San Francisco and Bloomington, Ind. Prior to the premiere, the opera received workshop performances in Boulder in June 2016, through the Eklund Opera’s New Opera Workshop (CU NOW).

The Eklund Opera will present an all-new production of the opera Nov. 15–17, 2019, in Macky Auditorium.

Music events from CU Presents’ 2019–20 season are listed below:

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Artist Series at Macky Auditorium

Music events

Chick Corea Trilogy
with Christian McBride and Brian Blade
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019,
Bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade join Chorea for an evening of Corea classics and jazz standards.

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Nobuntu

Nobuntu
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30
“Nobuntu”—an expression meaning feminine familial love, humility and kindness—is the name of a female a cappella quintet from Zimbabwe that performs traditional Zimbabwean songs, Afro jazz and gospel.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19

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Natalie McMaster and Donnell Leahy

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy
“A Celtic Family Christmas”
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17

A Far Cry string orchestra
“Memory”
Music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Arvo Pärt and Elgar
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020

Kronos Quartet
“Music for Change: The 60s, The Years That Changed America”
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020

Holiday Festival

Dec. 6-8, 2019
CU Boulder’s Holiday tradition featuring student choirs, bands and orchestras—along with faculty performers—in a concert of holiday favorites

Takács Quartet at Grusin Music Hall

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Takács Quartet

Chamber Series:
4 p.m. Sundays Sept. 8, Oct. 27, Jan. 12, March 8, May 3
Encore Series:
7:30 p.m. Mondays Sept. 9, Oct. 28, Jan. 13, March 9, May 4

4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11: The Takacs Quartet presents the Tesla Quartet

Eklund Opera Program

It’s a Wonderful Life
Music by Jake Heggie; Libretto by Gene Scheer
Nov. 15-17 at Macky Auditorium

The Marriage of Figaro
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
March 13-15 at Macky Auditorium

Béatrice et Bénédict
Music and libretto by Hector Berlioz, based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
April 23-26 at the Music Theatre

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Season tickets for these and other events presented by CU Presents are now on sale and my be purchased here. The complete listing of the CU Presents 2019–20 season, including dance performances and productions of the CU Department of Theater and Dance, may be found here.

 

 

Eklund Opera will present Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in Russian with English titles

‘Wonderfully Romantic piece’ is musically appealing, educationally valuable

By Peter Alexander March 14 at 1:22 p.m.

The University of Colorado Eklund Opera Program is doing something it has never done before: perform a full opera in Russian, with English surtitles.

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Publicity still for CU Opera production of Eguene Onegin. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The opera is Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, one of the most well known and popular Russian operas, in and outside of Russia. Performances will be March 15–17 in Macky Auditorium. The cast of CU students will be directed by Leigh Holman, director of the Eklund Opera Program, and conducted by Nicholas Carthy, the program’s music director.

Eugene Onegin is about the unrequited love between Onegin, a bored ne’er-do-well aristocrat, and Tatyana, a naive country girl whose sister is engaged to Onegin’s friend, Lensky. Tatyana impulsively writes a letter declaring her love to Onegin, who brushes her aside.

Soon after, Onegin kills Lensky in an impetuous duel that neither man wants, and then wanders the world for several years in despair. Returning to St. Petersburg, he realizes he is in love with Tatyana, now married to an older nobleman. When he declares his love, Onegin finds the shoe is on the other foot, as Tatyana turns him aside out of loyalty to her husband.

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Nicholas Carthy

Carthy has wanted to conduct Eugene Onegin since he coached singers in a production at the Salzburg Festival 30 year ago. “I thought, ‘I really need to do this,’ and I’ve been waiting ever since,” he says.

Because it requires bigger voices, Onegin is not an opera that a university company can always perform. This year the stars aligned and the singers were available for Onegin at CU. Holman called Carthy while he was on sabbatical last year to say she thought this would be the year.

“We’re just excited to have the big voices now that can do [Onegin]”, she says.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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CU Eklund Opera Program
Leigh Holman, director and Nicholas Carthy, conductor
Sets designed by Peter Dean Beck, costumes by Tom Robbins

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

Sung in Russian with English titles

Tickets 

 

 

‘West Side Story’: 61 years old and still as relevant as today’s headlines

CU Eklund Opera presents Bernstein’s masterpiece

By Peter Alexander Oct. 25 at 12:15 p.m.

Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story opened on Broadway just over 61 years ago — Sept. 26, 1957 — but for Leigh Holman, the story does not get old.

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West Side Story cast members Christine Honein as Maria and Patrick Bessenbecher as Tony. Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado.

Holman is the director of the Eklund Opera Program at the CU College of Music, which will be presenting Bernstein’s masterpiece Friday through Sunday, Oct. 26–28. The cast of CU students, freshman though graduate students, will be stage-directed by Holman. Guest conductor Philip Hesketh will lead the singers and student orchestra.

The show is a transplanted version of Romeo and Juliet, with New York street gangs replacing the rival families. The conflict is between immigrants and newer immigrants, the Jets and the Sharks, a white gang and a Puerto Rican gang.

West Side Story has a theme that’s important to talk about right now,” Holman says. “It’s a story about people who are immigrants, and nothing could be more relevant. When someone moves into our area, is in the workplace or in school with us, people who don’t look like us, what sort of fear ignites in us and how do we act upon that?

“To me it sounds like a story from 2018.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Art by Janalee Robison for CU Presents

West Side Story
By Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents; Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Eklund Opera Theater

7:30 pm. Friday Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium

Tickets

CU NOW presents selections from new opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer

If I Were You’ addresses questions of identity, life and death

By Peter Alexander June 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Jake Heggie, composer of the opera Dead Man Walking, and Gene Scheer, who wrote librettos for Heggie’s Moby Dick and It’s a Wonderful Life, are hard at work again.

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CU NOW Rehearsal. L to R: Erin Hodgson, assistant to the composer and librettist; Gene Scheer, librettist; Jake Heggie, composer (photo by Glenn Asakawa)

Their latest project, an opera that addresses existential questions about identity, life and death, has brought them to Boulder and CU Eklund Opera’s New Operatic Workshop (CU NOW). Selected excerpts from the new work, If I Were You, will be presented to the public for free, performed by CU student singers.  The Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CFI), a separate project of CU NOW will present four short operas by CU composition students: three 8-minute works and one 30-minute work.

CU NOW invites a composer and librettist every year to come to Boulder for a couple of weeks in June as they develop a new opera and work with student singers. The composers have the opportunity to hear portions of their own work and make changes as necessary before it’s complete. As part of his association with CU NOW, Heggie has also been working with the students whose works will be presented by the Composer Fellows’ Initiative.

If I Were You, as Heggie describes it, is “a modern-day Faust story” with an overlay of Gothic romance. “It’s about a disillusioned young man who wishes he could be anyone else,” he says. Heggie and Scheer will decide which portions of the opera to perform during the workshop. They will introduce the musical excerpts to the audience and explain the plot as they go along.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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CU New Opera Workshop festival (CU NOW)
Leigh Holman, director
Jeremy Reger, director of music

 

If I Were You (selected excerpts)
Libretto by Gene Scheer
Music by Jake Heggie
Adam Turner, guest conductor

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 17
Music Theater, CU Imig Music Building

Composer Fellows’ Initiative (CU NOW—CFI)
Daniel Kellogg, managing director
Four short operas by student composers
Steven Aguillo, guest music director
Bud Coleman, stage director

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16
ATLAS Blackbox, Roser ATLAS Center

Performances free and open to the public

 

 

CU Presents Update: Eklund Opera will present ‘West Side Story’ Oct. 26–28

By Peter Alexander May 1 at 5:40 p.m.

When first announced as part of the coming 2018–19 CU Presents season, Eklund Opera’s major fall production was listed somewhat mysteriously as Title TBA, music by Leonard Bernstein.

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Art by Janalee Robison for CU Presents

In case you haven’t guessed, the title, which can NBA (now be announced), is West Side Story. As noted previously, contractual arrangements did not allow for the title to be revealed until May 1.

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Leonard Bernstein

The production will be part of the year-long, globe-spanning celebration of of the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth. Boulder has already seen a sold-out concert performance of West Side Story presented by the Boulder Philharmonic and Central City Opera (April 28).

Later this month the Colorado Symphony will present music by Bernstein paired with one of his favorite composers, Gustav Mahler (May 25–27),  and several Bernstein works will be featured as part of this summer’s Colorado Music Festival. It is not difficult to find other Bernstein tributes at summer festivals around the country, including Bravo! Vail and the Aspen Music Festival.

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Scene from the original 1957 production of ‘West Side Story’ with Jerome Robbins’ landmark choreography

When it first appeared in 1957, West Side Story was truly genre-changing for Broadway. A New York-based updating of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the show did not shy away from  serious social issues or a tragic ending. Its book, lyrics, music and dance were conceived not as separate pieces but as a unified work of art, which therefore required a cast equally skilled as actors, dancers and singers. Bernstein’s music was unusually complex and difficult for both players and singers, and Jerome Robbins’ choreography set a new standard for singer-dancers.

With the combined team of Bernstein, Robbins and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is certainly one of the most influential musicals in the history of Broadway. It has also become one of the most loved Broadway shows in history, revived by theaters and opera companies world wide. And be warned: it often sells out.

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West Side Story
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Book by Arthur Laurents; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Based on a concept by Jerome Robbins
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28
Macky Auditorium

Subscription tickets 2018–19 CU Presents performances, including West Side Story and other Eklund Opera performances, are available here.

Tickets to individual performances will be available starting Aug. 20.
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Edited 5/1 to replace generic West Side Story poster image with art created for CU Presents by Janalee Robison.

CU Eklund Opera melds Handel’s Ariodante with Game of Thrones

‘Probably a dozen of the greatest arias of the early 18th century’

By Peter Alexander April 26 at 11:40 p.m.

Handel’s opera Ariodante is as old as 1516 when its story was first recorded, and as new as today.

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Photo by Glenn Asakawa, courtesy of  CU Presents. L to R: Maureen Bailey, Rebecca Myers, Steven Groth

Its theme, the lynchpin of many operas, is timeless: a man being believed before a woman. “Hashtag MeToo, right?” Leigh Homan, the director of CU’s Eklund Opera Program, says. “This is so relevant!”

The next CU opera production, Ariodantewill be presented Thursday through Sunday (April 26–29) in the intimate Music Theatre. Holman is the stage director, and Zachary Carrettin, director of the Boulder Bach Festival, will conduct the orchestra and a cast of CU students.

For a Baroque opera, the plot is fairly simple, a human drama with no divine intervention and no magic. The scheming Polinesso wants to marry princess Ginevra in order to gain the throne of Scotland, but Ginevra and her father, the King, are celebrating her engagement to Ariodante. With the help of Dalinda, a lady-in-waiting, Polinesso frames Ginevra for infidelity. The King cancels the wedding and renounces his daughter.\

“It says a lot that they believe the male who’s not in the royal family over the princess,” Carretin says. But all is not lost: Ariodante, who is thought to have killed himself in despair, returns in time to implicate Polinesso, the latter is killed in a duel, and the opera ends with the villain vanquished and the true lovers wed.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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Ariodante by George Frideric Handel
CU Eklund Opera Program
Zachary Carrettin, conductor
Leigh Holman, stage director

7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 26–28
2 p.m. Sunday, April 29
Music Theatre, Imig Music Building

Tickets