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.

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. 

# # # # #

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

Taking a summer festival apart: Central City Opera

“We will all work it out because that’s what we do.” —”Pat” Pearce

By Peter Alexander May 23 at 11:12 a.m.

CCO House stageCentral City Opera (CCO) was in a better position than most summer festivals when the Coronavirus pandemic hit.

“We were in the unique position of being able to pick this year’s season up and drop it into next season,” CCO artistic director Pelham (“Pat”) Pearce says from his home office in Denver. “While we had lots of things on hold [for 2021], we had not issued the first contract.“

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 2.18.21 PM

Pelham (Pat) Pearce in his basement office at home in Denver

So rather than outright cancel the three-work season that they had announced—Verdi’s Rigoletto, Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel and Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas—they simply postponed the entire season for a year. They could do that because of factors unique to an opera festival like Central City: They own their own facilities; they had planned only three works, rotated over the summer; and many of their employees apart from artists engaged for specific roles—the orchestra, stagehands, administrative staff and so on—are the same from year to year.

The singers engaged for the three works were offered the same roles next year. “Nobody out of any of the artists has wanted to pull out,” Pearce says. “Nobody has expressed a desire not to come and do this next year. And some of them did say that they’re excited that we didn’t cancel—especially the Carousel people, because they had invested a great deal of time learning dialog.”

In the past, Pearce noted, singers were often booked many years in advance, but since the economic crash of 2008–09, that has changed. “Because everyone had to deal with (having) so many contracts out when the bottom fell out in ‘09, that time span has shrunk for everybody,” he says. Not having future contracts to maneuver around was clearly an advantage.

As for the physical productions for the three works, the set and costume designs were done but nothing had been built yet. And since CCO owns their own opera house, there was no difficulty about dates or storage of supplies.

Like most summer festivals, Central City provides housing for the artists who come from out of state, but here again they were ahead of the game. “We own most of the housing we use,” Pearce says. “We were in the process of [arranging] for additional housing, which we ended up not having to do because we never signed the contracts.”

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 2.18.03 PMThe main question became the timing of the announcement. “We decided to wait until we could wait no longer, and see where we were at that point,” Pearce says. “We had to roll back probably 30 days from the first day that we would be working in Central City—in the time frame when people would have to make travel arrangements, giving people at least a month’s notice that they were not going to be employed with us this summer.

“We were in a spot where if we went a week or so longer, we would start incurring things that we couldn’t get out of. But the important thing was that we waited as long as we could, and we could not see that the situation was going to change for the better.”

Like literally everyone else in the performing arts, Pearce and Central City Opera don’t know when audiences will be able—or willing—to return. “Until there’s a vaccine, frankly, we don’t know that we will have the ability to gather in large numbers again without any risk,” Pearce says. “Audiences will have a reentry period, probably, where they have to get used to being around other people and not having to be fearful.

“People will be reticent at the beginning, but our desire to engage and to consume art collectively is a very strong impulse, and I think that impulse remains. I believe that for our experience—music and theater—live is the primary experience. That is the true and honest experience of humans exchanging information and telling stories.”

Another way that CCO differs from other festivals is that within their home community, they are only a very small part of a huge economic engine: tourism. “We drive between 15 and 20,000 people up there, over [the summer], but the casinos represent somewhere between 80 and 90%” of Central City’s economy, Pearce says. “That revenue is how the city’s budget is paid for. It’s going to be very difficult for them.”

Pearce acknowledges that much remains unknown about when and how Central City and other opera companies around the country will get back to what looks like “normal.” There are too many uncertainties to make solid predictions.

“There are so many things that normally are fixed that all of a sudden became very fluid,” he says. “We know that something will happen that will allow people to gather again. It always has been that way and it will go that way again. So we fully intend to be in business next summer.

“We will all work it out because that’s what we do. We’re creative people and we are creative problem solvers. We will work it out.”

CCO Night.2.Sewailam

Central City Opera House. Photo by Ahsraf Sewailam.

Central City summer season is “postponed to 2021”

Previously announced schedule for 2020 will be presented next summer

By Peter Alexander May 4 at 10:25 a.m.

In a release sent out this morning, Central City Opera announced that its planned summer 2020 season has been postponed to next year.

unnamedThis year’s schedule was to have featured Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, Verdi’s Rigoletto and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. All  three will be presented in the summer of 2021.

In the message sent out this morning, Central City Opera general/artistic director Pelham “Pat” Pearce is quoted as saying “This news is extremely disappointing, but the decision is in the best interest of our audience, artists, staff and the community. The COVID-19 crisis is drastically impacting the livelihoods of hundreds of performers, musicians and technicians who bring stories to life on our historic Opera House stage.

“We are heartbroken audiences won’t experience their work this summer.”

Current ticket holders have the option to donate the cost of their ticket back to Central City Opera’s newly established COVID-19 Relief Fund, which will support the organization’s commitment to pay all of its 2020 Festival artists and staff a portion of their contracts and assist CCO during this unprecedented time.

Donations will be matched up to $100,000 by Carousel performance sponsors and long-time CCO supporters Pam and Dutch Bansbach. Additional matching support will be provided by the Central City Opera Board of Directors. Full refunds and transfer of tickets to 2021 are also available to patrons.

Ticket holder options are described here.  You can also call the box office for assistance at (303) 292-6700. You may read Pearce’s message to Central City Opera patrons here.

CCO Night.2.Sewailam

Central City Opera House. Photo by Ashraf Sewailam.

 

 

 

Puccini, Britten, and two short sacred works at Central City Opera

‘The roof is going to come off’ says Central City Opera general director

By Peter Alexander July 3 at 2:30 p.m.

Central City Opera (CCO) opens its 2019 festival season Saturday (July 6) with one of opera’s most loved works, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

2019 Central City Opera Festival.Madama Butterly

Madama Butterfly. Courtesy of Central City Opera.

Other works on the schedule are less familiar: Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten, which has an all-male cast; and a double bill of two short works for all women, Debussy’s Blessed Damozel and Francis Poulenc’s Litanies to the Black Virgin. Puccini and Britten will be presented in the Central City Opera House, and the shorter works in St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, at 135 Pine St. in Central City.

The season came together around the choice of Billy Budd for one of the mainstage productions. Pelham Pearce, the general/artistic director of CCO, is a fan of Britten’s music and aims to eventually do all of his operas at CCO. So far they have done six.

Billy Budd, with its large all-male cast and setting on a British man-of-war, is a challenge for any opera company, much less a small house like Central City. “Billy Budd is, at this point, the biggest show we will ever have done inside the theater,” Pearce says. “There are so many people it’s just crazy, but it’s such a glorious work, I swear the roof is going to come off.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Central City Opera
Summer 2019

 

Giacomo Puccini:  Madama Butterfly

Adam Tuner, conductor; Allison Moritz, director
8 p.m. July 6, 18, 26 and 30
2:30 p.m. July 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 24, 28; Aug. 1 and 4
Central City Opera House

Full cast, credits, and tickets  here.

Billy Budd

Billy Budd. Courtesy of Central City Opera.

Benjamin Britten: Billy Budd
Libretto by Eric Crozier and E.M. Forster

John Baril, conductor; Ken Cazan, director
8 p.m. July 13, 19 and 25
2:30 p.m. July 17, 21, 23, 27, 31; Aug. 2
Central City Opera House

Full cast, credits and tickets here.

Double Bill
Debussy: The Blessed Damozel
Libretto by Dante Rosetti
Francis Poulenc: Litanies to the Black Virgin

Peter Walsh, music director; Alessandro Talevi, director
1 p.m. July 23, 24, 31 and Aug. 1
St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 135 Pine St., Central City

Tickets here.

Madama Butterfly, Billy Budd to be presented by Central City Opera in 2019

The schedule also includes smaller works by Debussy and Poulenc

By Peter Alexander July 27 at 5:20 p.m.

While you were busy watching the operas, Central City Opera Company slipped some news into the program book.

CCO House by Ashraf Sewaiilam

Central City Opera House (photo by Ashraf Sewailam)

Page 10 of the deluxe 2018 season book lists the 2019 season, which will offer the opportunity to hear one of the most popular operas ever, as well as three works that are genuine rarities in the opera house. The latter include two smaller works more often classified as oratorios, and one major opera by a truly great opera composer.

The season will follow the pattern of recent years, with two large-scale productions in the Central City Opera House, and two smaller one-act works in more intimate venues in Central City:

* Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini
* Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten
* La Damoiselle élue (The blessed damozel) by Claude Debussy
* Litanies à la Vierge noire (Litanies to the Black Virgin) by Francis Poulenc

CCO Butterfly 2010 Yunah Lee.Chad Shelton

Yunah Lee and Chad Shelton in Madama Butterfly, Central City 2010

According to the Web site Operabase, Butterfly was the seventh most frequently performed opera in 2017–18, with 2,428 performances world wide. It was last performed by CCO in 2010. That production will be returning, but with a different director.

It was long been the ambition of CCO’s general/artistic director Pelham G. Pearce, Jr., to present all of the operas by Benjamin Britten in Central City. “Oh, I love Britten!” he says.

Of the Britten operas yet to be done at Central City, Billy Budd, which calls for a very large cast of all men and takes place on a British man-o’-war, would seem to pose the greatest challenge in the intimate Central City Opera House.

glyndebourne-billy-budd

Billy Budd at the Glyndebourne Festival

Billy Budd is at this point the biggest show we will ever have done inside the theater,” Pearce says. “I’m really excited about it. There are so many people in Billy Budd it’s just crazy, but it’s such a glorious work. I swear the roof is going to come off in that space!”

In contrast, the smaller works next year will feature female voices. “Because Billy Budd is all male, outside of the main stage we will be staging Debussy’s Blessed Damozel, which is all female” Pearce says. “And going along with that will be The Litany of the Black Virgin by Poulenc, also for all female voices.”

Offering two shorter works each year is a plan that Pearce has become attached to. “We do really well with these (shorter) shows,” he says. “And they provide a really great opportunity to show off young artists. So I’m pleased with them.

“It provides me the opportunity to play a little bit in areas of repertory that we normally don’t get into. There’s a whole lot of stuff that’s written that’s not a full evening in the theater, and that often gets neglected. So having the opportunity to play in that pond of work has been really a lot of fun for me.”

Pat.Pearce.2018

Pelham (Pat) Pearce

Pearce is especially happy to offer the two works for all female voices. “I have a thing about just women voices,” he says. “Blessed Damozel is a gorgeous piece that (Debussy) wrote when he was very young. He originally wrote it for just piano, which is how we’re going to do it. It’s glorious music, (and all) you’re going to have to do is walk into the church, sit down, and be immersed in the sound.”

He first heard Blessed Damozel years ago when he bought a recording. He had never heard it before, but, he says, “I put this on and said ‘My god, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve heard in my life!’ So that’s been stuck in the back of my head for years. And now I have an opportunity to do it!”

Although the season has been announced, tickets are not yet available for 2019. Cast members and production details are generally announced in the fall, with subscriptions going on sale in December and single tickets in the spring preceding the summer season. Watch for further announcements on the CCO Web page.

 

A mix of operas large and small drives the season at Central City Opera

The method in artistic director Pelham Pearce’s madness

By Peter Alexander July 5 at 10:50 a.m.

Pelham Pearce, general/artistic director of Central City Opera (CCO), insists, “there is method to my madness!”

Central City Opera Opening Night 2006- Page 2 of Book

Central City Opera House (photo courtesy of Central City Opera)

The madness is expecting audiences to attend opera high in the Colorado mountains. And the method involves a mix of big pieces and small pieces, famed operas and unknown operas, with first-rate casts and imaginative productions. For the 2018 season, Pearce says, “you’ve got Handel, Mozart, Verdi and Mollicone. It represents a broad swath of styles.”

The formula devised through trial and error is to present two major productions in the historic Central City Opera House — this year, Mozart’s Magic Flute and Verdi’s Il Trovatore — and two shorter works in smaller venues — this year, Handel’s Acis and Galatea and The Face on the Barroom Floor by Henry Mollicone, a work that was written for CCO 40 years ago.

The season opens Saturday (July 7) with the Magic Flute; Il Trovatore opens a week later (July 14). These productions run in repertory until Aug. 5, with the shorter works being presented over a span of 10 days, July 25–Aug. 3.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Central City Opera Summer 2018

The Magic Flute by Mozart/Emanuel Schikaneder
André de Ridder, conductor; Alessandro Talevi, stage director

2:30 p.m. July 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 25, 29; Aug. 2, 5
8 p.m. July 7, 19, 27, 31
Central City Opera House
Performed in German with English supertitles.

Il trovatore by Verdi/Salvadore Cammarano
John Baril, conductor; Joachim Schamberger, stage director

2:30 p.m. July 18, 22, 24, 28; Aug. 1, 3
8:00 p.m. July 14, 20, 26
Central City Opera House
Performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Acis and Galatea by Handel/John Gay, Alexander Pope, John Hughes
Christopher Zemliauskas, conductor; Ken Cazan, stage director

8 p.m. July 25, 28; Aug. 1
5 p.m. July 26
Martin Foundry, Central City
Performed in English

The Face on the Barroom Floor by Henry Mollicone/John S. Bowman
40thanniversary production
Michael Ehrman, director

1:15 p.m. July 25, 28, Aug. 1, 2 3
Williams Stables Theater, Central City
Performed in English

Tickets for all productions

 

 

Central City Opera announces Magic Flute and Il trovatore for 2018

The Face on the Barroom Floor returns for 40th anniversary production

By Peter Alexander

Mozart’s Magic Flute and Verdi’s Il trovatore, two staples of the operatic repertoire, will be the mainstage productions for Central City Opera’s 2018 summer season.

Central City Opera Opening Night 2006- Page 2 of Book

The Historic Central City Opera House

Magic Flute and Il trovatore will be performed in repertory in Central City’s historic 550-seat opera house. Filling out the season are two smaller productions, to be presented in more intimate venues in Central City during the summer: the 40th-anniversary production of The Face on the Ballroom Floor by Henry Mollicone, which was commissioned by CCO; and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, in its Central City debut production.

Face on floor

The Face on the Barroom Floor in the Teller House bar

Mollicone’s Face on the Ballroom Floor was premiered in 1978 in the Teller House Bar in Central City, where the painting that inspired the opera still draws tourists. The painting was made in 1936 under disputed circumstances and was inspired by a poem by Hugh Antoine d’Arcy that was published in 1887—and which was itself derived from an even earlier poem by John Henry Titus.

The one-act opera features two love triangles separated by a century, both revolving around the mysterious face on the barroom floor.

Classical Singer LanganThe season will see the return of number of singers in the two mainstage productions. Bass Kevin Langan, last seen in 2013 as Dr. Gibbs in Our Town, returns in his signature role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute. Langan was recently featured on the cover of Classical Singer magazine in recognition of his longevity over 38 years in opera. Katherine Manley returns as Pamina, and Alessandro Talevi returns to Central City as stage director.

Il trovatore will be practically a reunions party for the 2016 production of Tosca, including Jonathan Burton as Manrico, Alexandra Loutsion as Leonora and Michael Mayes as Count di Luna. John Baril, Central City Opera Music Director, will conduct, and Joachim Schamberger will be stage director.

PatPearce-215x300

Pelham (Pat) Pearce

The pattern of presenting two major works in the Opera House and two smaller productions in other venues in Central City is one the CCO has adopted in the past few years. At one time, the shorter works were taken to other cities and towns in Colorado, but Pelham (Pat) Pearce, CCO’s general/artistic director, says “We decided that part of our identity is the actual experience of being (in Central City).”

According to Pearce, keeping the performances in Central City has not affected the company’s success. “The popularity of these one-acts continues to grow,” he says. “They draw opera goers who are looking for something different as well as those who are new to the art form and curious about experiencing something that’s shorter, less expensive, and feels more accessible.”

In addition to the four staged productions, the CCO summer season includes recitals, opera scenes, pre-performance lectures and post-performance opportunities to meet the artists.

# # # # #

CCOperaLogoPreferred

Central City Opera 2018 Season

Mozart: The Magic Flute
André de Ridder, conductor
Alessandro Talevi, stage director

Cast includes Kevin Langan as Sarastro, Katherine Manley as Pamina. Debuting with Central City Opera: Joseph Dennis as Tamino, Will Liverman as Papageno, Jeni Houser as The Queen of the Night and Ashraf Sewailam as The Speaker.

Matinees at 2:30 p.m.: July 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 25, 29; Aug. 2, 5
Evenings at 8 p.m.: July 7, 19, 27, 31
Central City Opera House

Performed in German with English supertitles.

Verdi: Il trovatore
John Baril, conductor
Joachim Schamberger, stage director

Cast includes Jonathan Burton as Manrico, Alexandra Loutsion as Leonora, Michael Mayes as Count di Luna and Maria Zifchak as Azucena.

Matinees at 2:30 p.m.: July 18, 22, 24, 28; Aug. 1, 3
Evenings at 8 p.m.: July 14, 20, 26
Central City Opera House

Performed in Italian with English supertitles.

Handel: Acis and Galatea
Christopher Zemliauskas, conductor
Ken Cazan, director

Cast includes artists of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program

July 25, 28 and Aug. 1 at 8 p.m.
July 26 at 5 p.m.
Venue in Central City TBA

Performed in English.

Henry Mollicone: The Face on the Barroom Floor, 40th-Anniversary Production
Michael Ehrman, head of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, director

Cast includes artists of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program

July 25, 28 and Aug. 1, 2, 3 at 1:15 p.m.
Venue in Central City TBA

Performed in English.

For tickets and more information about the 2018 summer season, visit the Central City Opera Web page, or call (303) 292-6700.

Central City Opera reaches out for new audiences

A conversation with general director Pat Pearce

By Peter Alexander

Central City Opera Opening Night 2006- Page 2 of Book

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.”

Central City Opera opens its 2016 Summer Season tonight (July 9) with their 60th anniversary production of Douglas Moore’s Ballad of Baby Doe, which premiered at the Central City Opera House July 7, 1956. (A review will appear in Boulder Weekly July 14).

Other works on the summer season will be Puccini’s Tosca and two shorter works—The Impresario by Mozart and Later the Same Evening by John Musto—which will be performed both in Central City and on the road in Boulder and Colorado Springs, respectively. Those shorter works take the place in the company’s schedule of a third production in Central City, and they represent an effort to reach out and build new audiences for opera.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Pelham (Pat) Pearce, general/artistic director of Central City Opera, about the motivations for taking those shorter works on the road, and on the condition of opera in American today. Here is part of that conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Alexander: Over the past few seasons, you have been looking for the right menu for Central City Opera—is that fair to say?

PatPearce-215x300

Pelham “Pat” Pearce

Pearce: I think so. These days, everybody is having to adjust and in many cases, shift and change for the environment we’re living in. But ultimately everything we’ve done over these past oh-so-many-years has been about finding and developing new audiences for this art form. That’s really what it’s been about.

Some of it involved taking a show that we were doing up here (in Central City) down to Denver. Other things involved us actually creating down in Denver in the music theater vein. And what we’ve done in the last year, and what we’re doing this is year, is taking one of our slots and devoting it to an effort to find and drive new audiences for this art form.

We’ve come up with a list of things that we felt were barriers for people, and we think we’re right about this. One of them is price, and opera tickets everywhere can run to be fairly expensive, mostly because it’s the most expensive art form in the world—and even with those expensive tickets that’s still only a small percentage of what it actually costs to do it. But for something that you either don’t know or don’t think you’re going to like in the first place, you’re hesitant to spend a lot of money to try something out. So price was a deal.

Length was a deal—perceptions about how long opera is, how long the sit is, so we created things that were around an hour in length.

The fact that it’s in a foreign language is another perception, and so we tried to basically focus on things that were written in English. This year we have one piece, the Mozart Impresario, that we will be doing in translation, from its original German to English.

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Historic Central City Opera House, interior

And the other thing is making people come to you. Doing opera in spaces that were created for doing that is the easiest way to do it. We have everything we need—dressing rooms, lighting, pit—all of those things we need to produce the art form. But we find that crossing that threshold is problematic for some people. So, we have said that we will do these pieces in non-traditional places, so that any pre-conception about what you have to be, who you have to be, what you have dress like—all of those things are shifted to the side and we’ll do these pieces in nontraditional places.

So those four things are sort of the drivers for us, in addressing how we take this third of our offerings in the summer and translate it into something we think will address all of those barriers. So this year that happens to be Mozart’s Impresario and John Musto’s Later the Same Evening. That was a long answer to your question, but I think that’s absolutely the correct answer in the end.

This fascinates me, because there are areas of opera that are thriving right now. For example, I’ve been to some very successful premieres in the past year: Manchurian Candidate by Kevin Puts at the Minnesota opera; Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon at Santa Fe; and The Shining by Paul Moravec, again at the Minnesota Opera. And we had Scarlet Letter by Lori Laitman at Opera Colorado this spring.

 People do seem to respond to new work, at least the first time. There’s always a cachet with a world premiere, especially these days. It becomes an event, a “thing” that everybody feels like they need to be there, which is great, especially for the original commissioner and presenter. The subsequent productions of it, in other places, (are another matter).

In the 1980s and ‘90s Opera America and the National Endowment for the Arts gave out money for people to commission new work. And what they found was that people were willing to commission new work, but the work was not really going anywhere because there weren’t subsequent productions. It didn’t have the opportunity to grow and to evolve, and for more people to see it. And so in the next couple of decades they gave money to encourage people to take the risk of that second production of the work.

In many cases these days, people have co-commissioned new works and they’ve set up, like they did with Moby Dick (by Jake Heggie), and like they did with Cold Mountain, multiple presenters. That cuts down on the risk and the cost of the original commission. As part of doing that, they have first dibs (on subsequent productions in other places). And so Cold Mountain went from Santa Fe last summer to Philadelphia over the course of this past season. The largest one in recent memory was Moby Dick, which started off in Dallas and it took it almost two and a half years to get through all of the co-commissioners.

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Dead Man Walking execution scene. Photo by Mark Kiryluk. Central City Opera, 2014.

Today, some pieces do go on to have real success around the country. Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which you produced in 2014, is a good example.

 Dead Man Walking is a really wonderful piece. It works, and nine times out of ten, new work is not going to work. I mean, that’s the reason most people don’t present new productions of works after the premiere—because having everything come together and have a piece actually work is hard, and it’s rare. Even back in the heyday of opera, there were lots of operas written, but the ones that we still see today are the ones that rose to the top.

There are many operas we’ve never heard of, for good reason.

 There are a lot of different ways to develop a new audience. And in addition to people that are commissioning these new works, in big houses, and doing them in their home theaters, there are also a plethora of new, very small opera companies that are popping up in larger cities, usually, that do work in non-traditional places—in warehouses, that sort of thing. Nobody gets paid much and they don’t charge much for the tickets, but people show up to see it. And so far they’ve managed to do it.

So everybody’s trying a lot of different things, and we’re all trying to learn as quickly as we can, from other people’s risk-taking, about what seems to work, and we try to adapt our offerings to that. Or at least a portion of our offering, so that at the same time we’re producing standard repertoire and interesting repertoire for our current audiences, we’re also working to develop new audiences. We set out a goal last year of having at least 50% of the people that bought tickets to the shows be new audience. We actually did 55%, so we did really well with that last year.

My concern was that our current audiences would want to see everything that we were doing, and would fill up all of the seats—which is a wonderful thing, but ultimately wasn’t the reason specifically we were doing it. Which is why we’ve taken at least a few of these performances off the hill, away from here. Last year we went up to Ft. Collins and down to Colorado Springs. This year, we’re going to go down to Colorado Springs and to Denver with Later the Same Evening, and to Boulder with two performances of The Impresario. So we’re taking it off the hill on purpose, and that’s often where we get the new audience.

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Central City Opera
2016 Summer Season

CCOperaLogoPreferredThe Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore
2:30 p.m. July 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 27, 31; Aug. 2, 4
8 p.m. July 9, 29; Aug. 2, 6
Central City Opera House

Tosca by Giacomo Puccini
2:30 p.m. July 20, 24, 26, 30; August 3, 5, 7
8 p.m. July 16, 22
Central City Opera House

The Impresario by W.A. Mozart
12 noon July 27 and Aug. 3, William’s Stables Theater, Central City (sold out)
6 and 8 p.m. Thursday, July 28, Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder

Later the Same Evening by John Musto
7 p.m. Thursday, July 28, Pikes Peak Center Studio Bee, 190 S. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs
8 p.m. Saturday, July 30, Denver Art Museum, Denver
7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, Gilman Studio, Lanny and Sharon Martin Foundry Rehearsal Center, Eureka St., Central City

Tickets

Edited 7/10/16 to correct typos