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.“

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

DeadManWalkingExecution4

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.

# # # # #

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

 

Central City Opera Announces 2016 summer season of performances in Central City

Two major operas in the historic opera house, two one-acts in alternative venues

By Peter Alexander

Opening Night at Central City Opera.  (From Central City Opera's 75th anniversary book,

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

The Central City Opera, having impressively opened their 2015 summer season last Saturday (July 11) with a highly satisfying production of Verdi’s La Traviata, has now announced their 2016 summer season of performances in Central City. There will be two major productions in the historic Central City Opera House, and two one-act operas in alternative locations in Central City, during a season that runs from July 9 to Aug. 7.

The season will open July 9 with a 60th-anniversary production of The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore, which had its world premiere at the Central City Opera in 1956. Based on the true story of two of Colorado’s colorful figures from the days of the silver boom, roughly 1879 to 1893, the English-language opera has enjoyed considerable success since its first performances in the Central City Opera House.

Baby Doe Tabor.

Baby Doe Tabor (by Webster, Oshkosh; licensed under public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The opera is the tale of a classic love triangle: Horace Tabor, known as “The Bonanza King” of Leadville, Colo., was a respectably married businessman and politician. In the 1880s, at the height of the silver boom, he met and fell in love with Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt. He divorced his wife, Augusta Tabor, and married Baby Doe in Washington, D.C, in 1883. Their society wedding was considered the scandal of the age. Not long after, the collapse of the silver market wiped out Tabor’s fortune. After he died in 1899, Baby Doe lived on in poverty at the Matchless Mine—now a tourist attraction in Leadville—until her death in 1935.

The Ballad of Baby Doe will run in repertory at the Central City Opera House through Aug. 6, 2016.

Tosca, Puccini’s tragic opera of passion and betrayal, will be Central City Opera’s second offering of the 2016 Festival. This production opens on July 16 and runs through Aug. 7, 2016, also in the Central City Opera House.

One of the most popular operas in the repertoire, Tosca is set in 1800 Rome. It follows the story of a fiery prima donna, Floria Tosca, who struggles to rescue her true love, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, from the clutches of Baron Scarpia, the evil chief of police. Tosca will be performed in Italian with English supertitles.

“It’s a lullaby to New York,” composer John Musto said on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. He was talking about his opera Later the Same Evening, which will be the third offering of Central City Opera’s 2016 Festival. One of the two one-acts to be presented next summer, this contemporary opera with a libretto by Mark Campbell had its professional premiere at Glimmerglass Opera in 2011.

Edward Hopper,

Edward Hopper, “Room in New York,” one of the paintings that inspired composer John Musto.

The opera imagines the lives of the figures in five paintings by American painter Edward Hopper, weaving a narrative that connects them on a single night in New York City in 1932. Later the Same Evening will be performed in English at an alternative venue in Central City.

As its final production for 2016, Central City Opera presents Mozart’s comic one-act opera, The Impresario. The opera tells the whimsical story of an entrepreneur who is required to put together a company of actors and singers while dealing with their whims, rivalries and demands for exorbitant amounts of money. Through a number of twists and turns, the performers and the impresario find a way to reconcile all in the end. The Impresario will be performed in English at an alternative venue in Central City.

This season of four operas follows several years when Central City Opera has sought new audiences around Colorado, first by presenting musicals in Denver, and now this year by taking one-act chamber operas on tour to smaller venues in Colorado Springs and Ft. Collins. The 2016 season follows the general plan of the current season, with two major productions in the Central City Opera House and two smaller productions in other locations; touring performances for the one-act operas have not been announced for 2016.

“We have been experimenting over the past few seasons with the way we deliver our product,” Central City Opera general director Pelham (Pat) Pearce says. “While we met thousands of new friends through our offerings presented in Denver at the Buell and the Ellie, we determined that the most important thing Central City Opera can provide to our patrons—in addition to a great production—is the truly unique experience we provide in Central City.”

Additional performance dates, as well as artistic staff announcements and casting for the 2016 Summer Festival, will be announced at a later date. Subscription packages for the 2016 Festival will go on sale in the fall of 2015. Further information on the 2016 season will be available at the Central City Opera Web page.

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Central City Opera
2016 Summer Season

CCOperaLogoPreferredThe Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore (60th-anniversary production)
July 9–Aug. 6, Central City Opera House

Tosca by Giacomo Puccini
July 16–Aug. 7, Central City Opera House

Later the Same Evening by John Musto
Dates and location in Central City tba

The Impresario by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Dates and location in Central City tba

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There will be a collaborative program with the Boulder Philharmonic during the spring of 2016:

St. Matthew Passion
 by J.S. Bach
Semi-staged production by the Boulder Philharmonic, Central City Opera, Boulder Bach Festival & CU Choruses
Michael Butterman, conductor
7 p.m. April 23, 2016, Macky Auditorium, Boulder

Boulder Philharmonic Announces season of collaborations for 2015–16

“Reflections: The Spirit of Boulder” will offer soloists, dance, visiting composers, photography, and a great choral work

Michael Butterman. Photo by Glenn Ross

Michael Butterman. Photo by Glenn Ross

By Peter Alexander

Next year will be a season of collaborations for the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and music director Michael Butterman.

The 2015–16 season, which has just been announced, will include a broad array of collaborative work, from the usual appearances of renowned visiting soloists to the season finale, a semi-staged performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion presented in conjunction with Central City Opera, the Boulder Bach Festival, and choruses from the CU College of Music.

In between, there will be two visiting composers, a performance enhanced by the photography of John Fielder, two joint performances with Boulder Ballet, and a return of the aerial and stage performers of Cirque de la Symphonie. (Unless otherwise noted, performances mentioned below are at 7:30 p.m. in Macky Auditorium.)

Charles Wetherbee

Charles Wetherbee

Billed as “Reflections: The Spirit of Boulder” (see full schedule below), the season gets underway at 7 p.m. Sept. 13—a Sunday evening performance—with a program featuring two soloists. Charles Wetherbee, the orchestra’s concertmaster will perform The Storyteller, a piece based on Japanese folk tales that was written for him by Korine Fujiwara; and Gabriela Montero will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Gabriela Montero. Photo by Uli Weber.

Gabriela Montero. Photo by Uli Weber.

Montero is sometimes remembered for her participation in President Obama’s first inaugural, when it was notoriously too cold to play live outside and a recorded performance was substituted, but she is also renowned as a virtuoso pianist who performs to acclaim around the globe. But Butterman is looking forward to her visit for another reason.

“The thing that’s so amazing about her, and quite unique, is her ability to improvise—it’s straight out of another era,” he says. “I‘ve heard her do this a number times and it’s just remarkable— everything from what seems like perfectly worked out Bachian counterpoint to ragtime, to impressionistic, Debussy-esque sort of things.

“What’s so amazing about it is that it seems so beautifully worked out, through all these different styles.”

Charles Den;er/ Photo courtesy of Grumpy Monkey Music.

Charles Denler. Photo courtesy of Grumpy Monkey Music.

The November subscription concert (Nov. 14) will offer the world premier of a new work for piano and orchestra by Denver composer/pianist Charles David Denler, who will also play the solo part. Inspired by the nature writing of American author Henry David Thoreau, Denler’s Portraits in Seasons will be presented with projections of images selected by Colorado photographer John Fielder.

“I would describe the music as certainly tuneful, pictorial, a little bit atmospheric,” Butterman says. “I thought this would be really nice with something to look at and to read. It occurred to everybody that Fielder is so well known and is such a fine artist that we approached him with this particular proposition.”

Fielder has said that to illustrate the seasons, he will choose photographs that are more intimate in scale than many of the large-scale mountain landscapes that he is well known for.

Following the traditional Nutcracker performances over Thanksgiving weekend—this year with new scenery—and the return of the popular “Christmas with the Phil” concerts in December, January will see the orchestra sharing the stage with the Boulder Ballet for a subscription concert. Titled “Dance, American Style,” the Jan. 16 performance will feature the full ballet of Rodeo by Aaron Copland.

Filling out the program will be orchestral performances of the New England Triptych by William Schuman, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and three excerpts from Copland’s Billy the Kid.

Anne Akiko Meyers. Photo by Molina Visuals.

Anne Akiko Meyers. Photo by Molina Visuals.

February brings a Friday concert (Feb. 12), with another acclaimed guest soloist, Anne Akiko Meyers playing Mendelssohn’s much loved Violin Concerto in E minor, and the season’s second visiting composer, in the form of an artistic residence by Missy Mazzoli.

Dubbed “the coolest thing to happen to the violin since Stradivari” by the Denver Post, Meyers is one of the leading violin soloists of her generation. Her playing has been featured on practically everything from CBS “Sunday Morning” to “The Good Wife” on television, many CDs, and countless radio broadcasts.

Missy Mazzoli. Photo by Stephen S. Taylor.

Missy Mazzoli. Photo by Stephen S. Taylor.

Missy Mazzoli may not be well known in Colorado, but she is, Butterman says, “a pretty hot composer in the New York scene in particular.” Her week-long residency will include educational activities and chamber performances, as well as the Boulder Phil’s premiere of a new version of her Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres).

The title refers, Butterman explains, not to planets but “the idea of circularity and cycles.” The title takes the 18th-century term “Sinfonia,” in reference to ideas from Baroque music and ornamentation that the composer used.

“It’s not exactly a neo-Baroque piece, but it certainly has some connections to earlier periods,” Butterman says—which led him to the other pieces on the concert program: Shostakovich’s Haydn-esque Symphony No. 9, Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana and the classically inspired Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

Boulder Philharmonic with Cirque de la Symphonie. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Boulder Philharmonic with Cirque de la Symphonie. Photo by Glenn Ross.

Cirque de la Symphonie will make its third appearance with the Boulder Philharmonic with two performances, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 2. Building off the famed Cirque du Soleil and other cirque programs, the troop presents aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen choreographed to classical music.

“What I like about them is their ability to appeal very, very broadly to an audience, but to do so while allowing us to present just great classical music,” Butterman says. Based on their previous appearances in Boulder, he says that the audience will “know the basic concept of what they’re going to see, but their repertoire will be different enough that it will be fresh and people will enjoy it.”

The success of the previous sold-out performances led the Boulder Phil to expand to two performances in 2016, adding the 2 p.m. matinee the same day as the evening concert.

Macky Auditorium

Macky Auditorium

The season-ending semi-staged performance of the St. Matthew Passion will also have two performances, 7 p.m. Saturday, April 23, in Macky Auditorium, and at a time and place to be determined on Sunday, April 24. Although it was written as a sacred oratorio, in modern times the St. Matthew Passion has sometimes been staged. One recent notable production, directed by Peter Sellars with conductor Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, was imported into the U.S. for performances in New York City last year.

“This piece is positively operatic in its sweep and pacing,” Butterman says. “However, I don’t think its been done (in a staged performance) in Colorado.”

The idea originated with a proposal from Central City Opera for some kind of collaboration with Boulder Phil. After various ideas were discussed, the two groups, along with the Boulder Bach Festival and the CU College of Music, settled on the St. Matthew Passion.

“We’re going to do it at Macky, but we’re going to be able to use the space creatively,” Butterman says. “(Central City Opera General/Artistic Director) Pat Pearce said Central City was looking for was some kind of immersive experience, where the audience feels enveloped in the drama.

“The Bach repertoire is delicate for us, because we are not a chamber orchestra, and there is already an entity in town that has laid claim to that. So if we were ever going to tackle something like this, we had to have a reason that was unique enough and compelling enough, and this potential four-way collaboration would be just that.”

In addition to Butterman and players from the Boulder Philharmonic, the performance will feature choruses from the CU College of Music and the Bach Festival Chorus, specialized instrumentalists from the Bach Festival, and stage direction by Central City Opera. The Macky stage will be modified, similar to what the CU does every year for their Holiday Festival.

In addition to the subscription concerts, the Boulder Philharmonic will offer Discovery Concerts for local elementary students, free “Cafe Phil” open rehearsals at the Dairy Center, and “Nature & Music” guided hikes with the cooperation of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks.

Season subscriptions packages are available here. Check the Boulder Philharmonic Web page for more information.

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Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
2015-2016 Season—Reflections: The Spirit of Boulder

logo2September 13, 2015 (Sunday): Opening Night
Maurice Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Korine Fujiwara: The Storyteller, with Charles Wetherbee, violin
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No.2, with Gabriela Montero, piano

CANCELED: October 10, 2015: Gregory Alan Isakov with the Boulder Phil
Gregory Alan Isakov, singer-songwriter, guitar

November 14, 2015: Portraits in Season
Johannes Brahms: Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny), with Boulder Chorale
Charles Denler: Portraits in Season, with Charles Denler, piano; photography by John Fielder
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 2

November 27 through November 29, 2015: The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet

December 20, 2015: Christmas with the Phil, Venue TBD, Boulder
December 21, 2015: Christmas with the Phil, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
December 22, 2015: Christmas with the Phil, Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree, with Boulder Bach Festival Chorus

January 16, 2016: Dance, American Style (with Boulder Ballet)
January 17, 2016: Dance, American Style, St. Luke’s, Highlands Ranch (without dancers)
William Schuman: New England Triptych
Leonard Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Aaron Copland: “Prairie Night,” “Waltz” and “Celebration Dance” from Billy the Kid
Aaron Copland: Rodeo (complete ballet), with Boulder Ballet

February 12, 2016 (Friday): Spheres of Influence
Missy Mazzoli: Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres), a Music Alive Composer Residency
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 9
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Mozartiana
Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, with Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

April 2, 2016: Cirque de la Symphonie (2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.)

April 23 & 24, 2016: Season Finale
Bach: St. Matthew Passion
Semi-staged production with Central City Opera, Boulder Bach Festival & CU Choruses

NOTE: Edited 22 April to reflect an unexpected change in the season schedule.