The articles in this blog by Central City Opera are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Opera, Orchestra and the Magic of Figaro:

A Remarkable 10-year-old Girl Takes the Stage
Upcoming Maestra Kaiya

This blog post was written by Maestro Tom Jensen of Inside the Orchestra

We see tens of thousands of kids each year with Inside the Orchestra, but at Iowa Elementary School in Aurora last Monday, one charming fifth grader named Kaiya stood out from all the rest.

Kaiya is not your ordinary 10-year-old. During our concert, she sang along with Chad Reagan, our baritone from Central City Opera. Kaiya knew the Italian lyrics from 'Largo al factotum' the "Figaro" aria we showcase at every program. She knew all the words, and the orchestra members took note!!! Later, when we were doing the guest conductor portion of the show, cellist Wayne Templeman literally jumped out of his seat telling me to call on this little girl who was conducting a three pattern with her body and soul! 

Photos: Tiny Tots at Temple Emanuel, October 18th
Central City Opera singer and Maestro Jensen
Needless to say, Kaiya was a brilliant conductor. I had to find out who this person was and where she found her passion for music at such a young age. As it turns out, Kaiya plays guitar. Her father is her instructor and she refers to him as a "master" guitarist. She loves chords and one of her favorite bands is Metallica (Really? A fifth grader who is in to a heavy metal band??) Kaiya started guitar at age seven, so she has been playing for three years. She practices one to two hours each day, owns three guitars - one of which is a Gibson, which I believe she favors. She discovered the opera aria from a TV show and watched it over and over memorizing the lyrics.

Kaiya loves all kinds of music and wants to learn the piano, clarinet and the tuba. Wow! The best part is that Kaiya wants to be a composer. I believe with the nurturing from her remarkable father and her Iowa Elementary music teacher, Ms. Peacock, she will achieve her goal.

For the third year, Central City Opera is partnering with Inside the Orchestra to introduce opera and orchestra to elementary school children across Colorado. Check out Central City Opera's calendar for Tiny Tots Inside the Orchestra (ages 6 and under) performance dates in January.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Welsh Musical Tradition - Past & Present

 This blog post was written by Irene Rawlings of KBCO FM.

On a recent trip to Wales, I visited the poet Dylan Thomas' hometown of Swansea and stayed in his childhood home at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive (now an authentically restored B&B that also serves great dinners). I expressed an interest in the Welsh choral tradition and was invited to a rehearsal of the Swansea Male Choir, founded in 1946 to “further the art of music and support local charities.”
A member of the Swansea Male Choir
I was moved by the joy that the Swansea male-voice choir members took in their singing but I was not surprised. There is a rich musical tradition in Wales—especially the male-voice choirs—whose songs provide the vibrant soundtrack to everything from chapel to the rugby field to the boisterous late-night sing-alongs in the local pubs. 

Who are these men? They are miners, steelworkers, quarrymen, farmers and shopkeepers. Many of the current members were brought to the choir by their male relatives back in a simpler time when choirs were a big part of village life. Yes, there were a lot of gray heads and even a wheelchair or two, but there were also plenty of young men in leather jackets and slicked back undercuts (think Boardwalk Empire) which makes me think that the Welsh male-voice tradition has a strong future.

As I sat at the Swansea rehearsal and heard everything from hymns to show tunes, I thought of the Central City Opera House back home in Colorado, built by Welsh and Cornish miners in 1878. How they must have missed the camaraderie of the choral tradition in their home country. And what a lovely opera house they built for us to enjoy still today.
Central City Hard-Rock Miners in 1889
I took out my cell phone and recorded one of the songs to share with you. It is not the quality that I would have liked but I'm thinking it will give you a good idea. And they were sitting down. Think of the power they unleash when they stand up and raise their voices in a concert hall. 

[Editor's Note: You may want to jump ahead to 30 seconds in or so.]

--Irene Rawlings from Swansea, Wales

Thursday, August 9, 2012

1930s Paris to the English Countryside in Under 3 Hours!

Last Saturday afternoon, the Central City Opera House stage featured Rodolfo and Marcello's brightly lit Parisian garret for a matinee of La Bohème. By 7:30 that same night, the stage was transformed into the dark Bly House setting for The Turn of the Screw. On days like this, our hardworking stagehands have only a few hours to make this transformation. They remove all of the set pieces, pull up the marley floor, change pieces hanging from the counterweight system, refocus lights, change gel colors, bring on new set pieces, and apply all of the finishing touches in time to reopen the house for the evening performance.

Check out this super-sped-up video of Saturday's changeover to see how it's done.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists in the Spotlight

This Thursday afternoon (August 9 at 2:30pm), you can witness the splendid young artists of Central City Opera's 2012 Festival as they take the stage in the lead roles of La Bohème during our Nina Odescalchi Kelly Family Matinee. These hardworking and extremely talented artists, most of whom are in their college years, are usually seen in the chorus and in minor roles of our main stage operas. They also star in their own smaller productions like Short Works and The Face on the Barroom Floor, but on this date they get the chance to shine in the spotlight front and center.
Kaitlyn Costello starred in the Family Matinee performance of Carmen last year; this summer she made her main stage debut as Ado Annie in Oklahoma!
Earlier this year, the Opera Insider caught up with Marc Astafan, who has recently taken the reins as administrator of the Program.

Marc Astafan,  Administrator
Bonfils-Stanton Foundation
Artists Training Program

CCO:  You’ll be returning to Central City Opera this summer in a new capacity; Administrator of the Bonfils Stanton Artists Training Program.  You’ve been here many times as a Stage Director, and before that as an Assistant Director, working directly with young artists. The Training Program, as established by John Moriarty, is known as a rigorous preparation for young artists pursuing a career in opera, with required classes in diction, audition techniques and stage movement, and opportunities to perform full roles on the main stage as well as scenes and recitals.

As a Central City Opera veteran, what are your observations about the challenges and opportunities for young artists in this program?

MARC:  The challenges and opportunities faced by the young artists who participate in the Central City program are many, but the main one that comes to mind is: stamina. We work six days a week and nine hours a day (sometimes more!) for ten to twelve weeks straight over the summers in Central. Every part of the body, heart and mind will be called upon for these young singers to use. Not to mention the voice. They have classes every morning and rehearsals and/or coachings for the rest of the day, sometimes until ten or eleven at night. But year after year I've witnessed the fact that the more the singers put into the program, the more they gain. They will not only feel great, but perform better than they ever thought possible by the time they leave Central City in mid-August. When one is immersed in creativity for such an intense period all of the senses are at work. They might leave exhausted, but with a tremendous sense of accomplishment, knowing they've been a part of something extraordinary. They'll have personal and artistic growth that they never thought imaginable.

The full interview with Marc Astafan (as well as the Program's Principal Coach Michael Baitzer) is available in the 2012 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide - PDF)

Tickets are still available for the Family Matinee performance this Thursday. You can also see these talented Young Artists during Lunch & A Song, Short Works, and in the chorus and secondary roles of the remaining La Bohème performances. All performances of Oklahoma! are sold out.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Composer Benjamin Britten
This year’s opera The Turn of the Screw doesn’t have the ever-popular songs that Oklahoma! does, or even the familiar musical moments of La Bohème, but composer Benjamin Britten did include very tuneful children’s songs in the opera.  One notable song that could have several meanings is Miles’ song “Malo.” This verse was originally a pneumonic device to help beginning Latin students remember the different meanings and conjugations of the word “malo:” 1) verb “malo” meaning “I wish;” 2) the noun “malus” meaning “apple tree” and “malum” meaning “apple;” and 3) the noun “malum” meaning “evil” – but his song seems to have dark undertones, especially because Britten set it to very melancholy music. 

Here is the text of the song:

    Malo: I would rather be
    Malo: in an apple tree
    Malo: than a naughty boy
    Malo: in adversity       

Click here to hear Thomas Parfitt as Miles sing this song at the 2011 Glyndebourne Festival.  Remember this song, because you’ll hear a variation of it at the end of the opera. 

Britten’s The Turn of the Screw may not be mainstream, but it certainly leaves an impression.  We hope that you will get even more out of your experience having learned a little more about the music.  Enjoy the show!     

The Turn of the Screw plays its final performance on Saturday, August 4 at 8pm. Hurry to see it before it disappears!

Want to know more? This blog post is part of the article What to Listen for in The Turn of the Screw, found in the 2012 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide - PDF). We also excerpted the section on The Turn of the Screw’s twelve-tone row in a previous blogpost.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meet John Healy

John Healy as Miles, with Alicia Suzanne Jordheim, in The Turn of the Screw.
Photo by Mark Kiryluk.
When Central City Opera produces an opera that requires children in the cast, we turn to our friends at Colorado Children's Chorale. This year, you can see the young singers of the Chorale as the children in Act III of La Bohème and one young singer, John Healy, as Miles in The Turn of the Screw.

Watch the video below to meet John and hear his perspective on The Turn of the Screw, which closes this Saturday, August 4.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Video Clips from THE TURN OF THE SCREW and OKLAHOMA! - Central City Opera

Yesterday we gave you a glimpse of this year's production of La Bohème. Today we continue with video clips from the other mainstage operas this summer.

First up is the creepy and cool ghost story The Turn of the Screw.

From Act One, Scene 5, The Window - The Governess & Mrs. Grose :

From Act One, Scene 7, The Lake - Flora & The Governess:

From Act Two, Scene 3, Miss Jessel - Miss Jessel & The Governess:

And the end of the opera [SPOILER ALERT -- if you want to be surprised by the ending, don't watch this!]:

For something completely different, we also leave you with this rousing number from Oklahoma!'s Act Two opening:

Glimpses of Central City Opera's 2012 production of THE TURN OF THE SCREW

Music by Benjamin Britten
Libretto by Myfawny Piper
Based upon a novella by Henry James

Conductor: Steuart Bedford
Director: Alessandro Talevi
Assistant Director:  Stephanie Havey
Scenic and Costume Designer: Madeleine Boyd
Costume Designer: Jessica Jahn
Lighting Designer: David Martin Jacques
Wig/Makeup Designer: Dave Bova
Projection Designers: Madeleine Boyd and Ronan Kilkelly

Peter Quint: Vale Rideout
Governess: Sinéad Mulhern
Miles: John Healy

Glimpses of Central City Opera's 2012 production of OKLAHOMA!

Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based upon the play GREEN GROW THE LILACS by Lynn Riggs
Original Dances by Agnes de Mille

Conductor: Christopher Zemliauskas
Director: Ken Cazan
Choreographer: Daniel Pelzig
Assistant Director: Kyle Lang
Scenic Designer: Alan E. Muraoka
Costume Designer: Marcy Froehlich
Lighting Designer: David Martin Jacques
Wig/Makeup Designer: Dave Bova

Curly: Matthew Worth
Aunt Eller: Joyce Castle
Will Parker: Curt Olds
Ado Annie: Kaitlyn Costello
Andrew Carnes: Thomas Goerz
Ike Skidmore: Nathan LeFevre Milholin
Laurey: Maureen McKay
Dancers appearing courtesy of Ballet Nouveau Colorado: Colby Foss, Ben Delony, Sarah Tallman, Marian L. Faustino
Chorus: Members of Central City Opera's Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program

Both productions performed by the Central City Opera Festival Orchestra

Visit The Turn of the Screw and Oklahoma! webpages for more information.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Video Clips from LA BOHÈME - Central City Opera's 2012 production

Central City Opera's La Bohème continues through August 12th. To whet your appetite, enjoy these snippets from the production.

From Act One, an excerpt of "O soave fanciulla" with Mimi  & Rodolfo:

From Act Two in the Café Momus:

From Act Three with Marcello & Mimi:

Glimpses of Central City Opera's 2012 production of LA BOHÈME

Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giacosa and Illica
Based upon Henri Murder's 1849 novel SCÈNES DE LA VIE BOHÈME

Conductor: John Baril
Director: Kevin Newbury
Assistant Director: R. B. Schlather
Scenic Designer: David Korins
Costume Designer: Jessica Jahn
Lighting Designer: David Martin Jacques
Wig/Makeup Designer: Dave Bova
Associate Conductor: Adam Turner

Musetta: Deborah Selig
Marcello: Troy Cook
Rodolfo: Eric Margiore
Mimi: Elizabeth Caballero
Colline: Ryan Speedo Green
Schaunard: Chris Carr
Alcindoro: Thomas Goerz

Performed by the Central City Opera Festival Orchestra

Visit the La Bohème website for more information.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Talented Teens of the Summer Performing Arts Intensive

This week is one of my favorite times of the entire year. As production/stage manager of Central City Opera's Education & Community Programs, I get to witness some pretty transformative experiences as young students enjoy their first exposure to classical music. But probably the most touching, powerful and uplifting moments for me happen during our Summer Performing Arts Intensive. For two weeks, in a collaboration with Linda Weise and our friends at the Colorado Springs Conservatory, we bring together approximately 20 teenagers for an amazing experience.

The students met just shy of two weeks ago and spent the first week and a half of their Intensive in residency in Colorado Springs. In addition to classes in acting, movement and more, they work with composer Roger Ames (who taught our Build an Opera educators' professional development class the week before) and librettist Jeff Gilden to create an original opera. This year's opera is inspired by a Waldo Canyon Fire survivor, asking the question, "If you had to pick your most prized possessions to fill just one box, what would you pick?"
The preview of their original opera "Re-Collections" was presented Tuesday night in Colorado Springs.
After roughly ten days in the Springs, the students arrive in Central City. They enjoy all three mainstage operas of the 2012 Festival as well as Lunch & A Song and Short Works, and they also become fully-immersed company members of the Central City Opera. While continuing to rehearse their scenes program and original opera, these talented teens not only observe classes of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, but also participate in numerous private masterclasses with CCO staff.
Movement Coach Melinda Sullivan leads them in the "Farmer & The Cowman" dance from Oklahoma!
Andy Moss shows the intricacies of unarmed stage combat to the Intensive students.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program Administrator Marc Astafan coaches a section of the students' original opera.
Principal Coach Michael Baitzer gives some advice on diction and vocal production.
Music Director John Baril works one-on-one with Chloe on her aria.
The two-week program culminates with two public performances of the students' scenes program "Salt of the Earth" and their original opera "Re-collections," this Friday (today) and Saturday at 4pm in the Foundry. Tickets are just $5 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 303-292-6700. Check it out - you'll be amazed!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Turn of the ScrewFest

Last Saturday, the historic and haunted Teller House filled with spirits and entertainment for the first of two creepy-cool Turn of the ScrewFest paranormal parties. The events are part of Central City Opera's Paranormal Project, in celebration of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw and Menotti's The Medium

The all-star cast of Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, including Professor Phelyx, Peggy Tulane, Tovio, Tom Too Tall, Roxy Star, Carmen Maria and Tatianna Tata. (Center - ScrewFest Director Heather Brecl)

After checking in at the Teller House, tasty pub fare and cocktails were served in Lanny's Lounge (normally the Terrace VIP Lounge). Guests were then treated to a performance of Ballet Nouveau Colorado's [The Untitled Book] before heading back into the lounge for more performances by the the all-stars of Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, including a vintage burlesque tease by the Mistress of Polesque, Roxy Star; the magical juggling and xylophone act by Tovio; the cabaret-style musical stylings of Lola Licious; Peggy Tulane's burlesque fan tease; stilt walker Tom Too Tall on the piano; and a dazzling acrobalancing act by Carmen Maria and Tatiana TaTa. For a preview of the Lannie's Lounge performances, check out the video below:

Meanwhile, on the second floor of the Teller House, guests roamed about, participating in a creepy carnival, a Ghost Hunting 101 session with The Other Side Investigations, séances with Mystical Magdalena, and crystal casting, dream interpretations, Tarot card readings, palm readings, and more with the psychics of Isis Books.  

"Holy Toledo! We are going to get married," discovers Central City Opera's Publicist Kelly Nelson while listening to the reading from Isis Books & Gifts's Meghan Taft. 
If you missed last week's Turn of the ScrewFest, don't worry! There's one more opportunity to join the fun, this Sunday, July 29. Tickets are just $30 or $6 with a ticket to the opera, The Turn of the Screw. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. See you at the Teller House!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Scenic Design of THE TURN OF THE SCREW

In the final segment of our interview with Alessandro Talevi, stage director of this summer's The Turn of the Screw, Mr. Talevi gives us some background information on the Madeleine Boyd's rich, dark scenic design. If you've seen a performance already, you may have wondered about the upside-down images that are projected onstage; watch the video below for the inside scoop. If you haven't seen the opera yet, watch it now, then buy your tickets and see the opera in a whole new light!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Britten's Brilliant Twelve-Tone Row in THE TURN OF THE SCREW

Central City Opera opens its third mainstage production tonight with the creepy and cool opera The Turn of the Screw. While not as toe-tapping as the songs from this year's Oklahoma!, the score is very interesting. The opera is organized in a way that would thrill those of the Type-A personality. Benjamin Britten built the entire opera on a twelve-tone row, which is a non-repetitive ordering of a set of pitches. You can listen to the twelve-tone row here.
Twelve-Tone Row on which the opera is based

The opera is divided into two acts, with each act containing eight scenes, and the first act preceded by a Prologue. Before each scene, the chamber orchestra plays a short introduction based on the twelve-tone row you just heard. Each introduction features the instruments that are important in the following scene. You may be thinking: “Wow, this sounds so mathematical and boring. How can this music be interesting, dynamic, and evocative?” Britten was a genius at getting the music to serve the story. His use of instrumentation and speech-like melody brings out all of the colors and emotions of the drama happening on stage.

Listen again to that twelve-tone row, then watch the first scene of the opera below, produced by the Glyndebourne Festival in 2011. You’ll hear the main theme – with the twelve-tone row masterfully played by the entire orchestra – then the Governess’s first aria. Note the use of percussion in the theme and during the first scene. Britten uses the percussion to invoke the feeling of anticipation, excitement, and a bit of apprehension – all feelings that the Governess has as she is traveling to Bly House to begin her new job.

Want to know more? This blog post is part of the article What to Listen for in The Turn of the Screw, found in the 2012 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide - PDF).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alessandro Talevi on THE TURN OF THE SCREW

The Turn of the Screw, the final production of the 2102 Festival, opens this Saturday. In this video, Stage Director Alessandro Talevi, who some might recognize as the director of 2011's Amadigi di Gaula, introduces audiences to the haunting ghost story.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Costumes of LA BOHÈME

In this episode of Behind the Curtain, Costume Designer Jessica Jahn shows off the costumes of La Bohème. This is Ms. Jahn's first production at Central City Opera. Originally a dancer, she's been working in costumes for about ten years, the last eight of those as a designer. Watch the video below to see our conversation about the costumes, and see them live on stage before August 12!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kevin Newbury on LA BOHÈME

Now that Oklahoma! is now running, the company is getting ready to open the second production of the 2012 Central City Opera Festival, La Bohème, this Saturday. I sat down with Stage Director Kevin Newbury, who gave me the inside scoop on this brand new production of the beloved opera.

For more behind-the-scenes information on Bohème and the rest of the 2012 festival, download the  The 2012 Opera Insider (Full Season Resource Guide) (pdf) featuring history on all of the 2012 Festival operas, their composers, interviews with artists, and festival information.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


It is fairly well known that the musical Rent is based on Puccini's La Bohème...with a few varied plot points. Especially the end. The direct correlations between those shows can be left for a future blog post, but did you know there's a comparison to be made with Oklahoma! as well?

The Off-Broadway satirical revue Forbidden Broadway has a great tradition of spoofing whatever is currently playing in the Big Apple. Several years ago, they re-made Rent's "La Vie Bohème" into "This Ain't Bohème." The video below uses footage from the popular film, dubbed over with audio from Forbidden Broadway's take on the song. Note the lyrics about two minutes in: "We need a new show. The opposite of Rent ain't Bohè's Oklahoma!"

To read the lyrics, click the YouTube button above; they're included in the full description of the video.

If you're not familiar with the original song from Rent, you can watch this scene from the movie which takes place in their version of the Café Momus.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June 30, 2012 Officially Declared Central City Opera Day!

Governor John Hickenlooper proclaims June 30, 2012 as "Central City Opera Day."
Central City Opera's Opening Day is always a special occasion. But the 2012 opening day was truly historic. The day was marked by a visit from Governor John Hickenlooper, who officially declared June 30, 2012 as "Central City Opera Day" in the State of Colorado.

Governor Hickenlooper shakes hands with Lanny Martin
The day's festivities began, as always, with the Flower Girl Presentation, a tradition dating back to 1932. This year, 14 young women were presented.

The 2012 Flower Girls stand with their escorts.
Following the presentation, Governor Hickenlooper made his official proclamation, just before the Flower Girls and their fathers took to Eureka Street for the Yellow Rose Waltz.

The day also included several other Central City Opera traditions, including the presentation of the Opera House keys to General/Artistic Director Pat Pearce, the ceremonial ringing of the bell by Board President/Chairman Nancy Parker, and the first performance of "The Usher Song" for the year. Those who have visited Central City Opera in years past may notice something very different about this year's ushers. More about that will be featured in a later blog.

Lanny Martin presents the Opera House Keys to Pat Pearce, CCO's General/Artistic Director.
Board President/Chairman Nancy Parker prepares to ring the bell.

Festival Staffers before singing "The Usher Song"

Friday, June 29, 2012

Denver Public Library's Fresh City Life takes a Road Trip

Last Saturday, participants from Denver Public Library's Fresh City Life took a road trip to Central City. First on the agenda was attending one of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program's classes, which focused on auditioning.  We watched as the young artists, chosen from a pool of over 900 applicants, rehearsed an aria as if they were at an audition. Program Administrator Marc Astafan and Principal Coach Michael Baitzer gave each singer feedback on their mock auditions -- everything from their attire to the organization of the book of music given to their accompanist.

Apprentice Artist Stephen Carrol sings his audition aria as Program Administrator Mark Astafan, right, looks on. 
After watching a few of the talented young artists, we made our way down the hill to Main Street for an old-fashioned shoot out, performed by members of the Gilpin County Historical Society.
An unsuspecting onlooker is roped into an attempted shotgun wedding before being run out of town.

Next on the agenda was a look at the costumes of Oklahoma! with Costume Designer Marcy Froehlich. You can get your own virtual sneak peak of the costumes in our earlier vlog post.

After a lunch in the beautiful Opera Garden, we took a tour of the historic Teller House, once the most opulent hotel between Chicago and San Francisco. Finally, it was time for the Oklahoma! wandelprobe.

An important stage of the opera production process is the sitzprobe-- a German term which literally means "seat test." It's the rehearsal in which the singers sit on the stage while singing with the orchestra for the first time.

A wandelprobe, however, is an entirely made-up word, used for when the singers actually move around the stage while rehearsing with the orchestra for the first time. After enjoying the first hour of the wandleprobe from the Opera House's balcony, we made our way back to Opera Garden for a quick Q-and-A session.
Participants from Fresh City Life watch from the balcony as the cast sings "Kansas City" with the orchestra for the first time.
Gene Scheer (Ali Hakim) sings "It's a Scandal, It's an Outrage," surrounded by a chorus of cowboys.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Richard Rodgers - and the OKLAHOMA! Trailer

Today marks what would have been the 110th birthday of Richard Rodgers, composer of Oklahoma!

And just in time, we've got a trailer ready for you to hear one of his greatest hits!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Character Spotlight: OKLAHOMA!'s Will Parker

Erin Joy Swank, of the Education & Community Programs Department, recently caught up with baritone Curt Olds. Below is an excerpt from that interview.

Welcome back to Central City Opera! We last saw you on stage as John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld (2010). While keeping guard over Eurydice in Hades, you entertained us in song and dance. This summer you’ll once again charm the audience as the dancing rodeo cowboy Will Parker in Oklahoma!

You’ve made a career out of working as a “triple threat,” a performer who acts, sings and dances. Can you explain the similarities and differences working in opera, musical theatre and dance?

Thanks for the compliment of calling me a "triple threat." The skills that might make me a "triple threat" as you say (singing, acting and dancing) come out of my theatre training and years of doing musicals as a child and young adult. In the musical theatre world, a performer definitely has to possess a singing voice, but singing tends to be on equal footing with acting ability and, if the dramatic moment calls for it, the singing might be compromised for dramatic effect. Regarding dance, if a singer also happens to have the ability to dance, then it opens an entire new world of casting possibilities. In the operatic world, singing and attention to the voice is everything. If an opera singer possessing a world-class voice can also act -- and I mean not only just while singing, but also in the moments on stage that are unsung -- then they have the makings of a major career. But the voice and ability to use it come first. And that is a very good thing. For most opera singers, acting skills are developed later because of the heavy requirements of foreign languages and the study of historical performance practices. With me, when I was studying opera, I put all serious acting, dancing and musical theatre study on the back burner for a little over six years. I had to concentrate on vocal studies and languages. My main objective when performing is to affect the audience, to move them, to make them feel. Any extra skill to help do that is a bonus.
Central City Opera’s ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD (2010). Pictured (L to R): Joanna Mongiardo (Eurydice) and Curt Olds (John Styx). Photo by Mark Kiryluk.
You’ve played Curly in a past production of Oklahoma! What is it like to prepare for the role of Will Parker this time?

When I played Curly, all I really wanted to do was play Will Parker. I am definitely a casting possibility for Curly, but personally, I am much more like Will Parker and I understand the comic elements of the role. Curly is cool, steady. He has to be to deal so keenly with Jud Fry. Will is a wild card and easily excitable. The great thing about Oklahoma! is I still get to be handsome and cute outside of the central romantic leading man. I feel very fortunate to have played both roles professionally and Rodgers and Hammerstein shows are always so fulfilling to perform. I did The Sound of Music earlier this season and Oklahoma! is a personal favorite of mine. Win win.
Central City Opera’s OKLAHOMA! (2012). Pictured: Kaitlyn Costello (Ado Annie), Curt Olds (Will Parker). Photo by Kira Horvath.
You were also a past Apprentice and Studio Artist with Central City Opera. What did you learn or practice in the artist training program that helped you in your career development?

The Bonfils-Stanton Training Program was instrumental to any success I have enjoyed over the past twenty years. I was a college kid from Montana with no idea how to approach a singing career on a national level. I came to Denver and sang for John Moriarty and it changed my life. Not only did Central City Opera's training program offer wonderful classes in diction, audition technique, movement, and repertoire, but it also provided me with quality stage time in comprimario [supporting] roles, recital engagements and scenes concerts. That first summer with Central City Opera led to my graduate studies at New England Conservatory and additionally, Central City Opera gave me some of my first principal roles. I will be forever grateful.

The full interview with Curt will be available in the 2012 Opera Insider (festival resource guide) very soon. Stay tuned for more insider interviews!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Costumes of OKLAHOMA!

Marcy Froehlich
For the latest video episode of Behind the Curtain, I spoke with Costume Designer Marcy Froehlich about her design for Oklahoma! This is Marcy's first year at Central City Opera, and as a self-proclaimed history buff, she's enjoying spending the summer in such a historic locale. Watch the video below for a sneak peak at her designs, including her sketches and the research that inspired the costumes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Conversations With Ken Cazan: Part Two

Below are the final two installments of my interview with Ken Cazan, stage director of Oklahoma! Here he explains what makes Central City Opera's production unique and gives audiences a sneak peek at what to expect if they travel up the mountain for this production, including a preview of the scenic design by Alan E. Muraoka.

View Part One

For continued behind-the-scenes updates on Central City Opera's Oklahoma!, follow #CCityOK on Twitter!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Celebrating John Moriarty

Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty is spending his first summer of retirement where he's spent the last thirty-three: in Central City.  Last night, Central City Opera celebrated his years of service during a reception at the Gilpin County Arts Association Gallery across the street from the Opera House.

Mr. Moriarty first arrived in Central City in 1978 and founded the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program. After the company ran into financial trouble and cancelled the 1982 Festival, the Board of Directors asked him to become artistic director. When he transitioned to the role of artistic director emeritus in 1998, he continued to serve as the administrator of the training program through 2011.

At the reception, Mr. Moriarty explained that before he came to Central City, he had never spent more than seven years at any one opera company. Little did he know that he'd be spending the next three decades with Central City Opera.  

One of his accomplishments in his tenure as artistic director was creating the Lanny and Sharon Martin Foundry Rehearsal Center. Until that point, the company rehearsed on the creaky second floor of Williams' Stables and any other large space in town they could rent. John Moriarty had the vision of turning Peter McFarlane's old foundry, a few blocks west of the Opera House on Eureka Street, into a brand new rehearsal center. One of the busiest and most used buildings in Central City, the facility now houses three rehearsal halls, four smaller studios, the props shop and stage management office. At tonight's reception, President/Chairman of the Board Nancy Parker announced that one of the building's rehearsal halls, previously known as "Minor" will now be named "Moriarty Hall." Now, not only will John Moriarty's legacy live on in Central City through the countless contributions he has made to Central City Opera, but also in the rehearsal hall that bears his name. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Conversations with Ken Cazan: Part One

This week, I was fortunate enough to steal Ken Cazan, the stage director for Oklahoma! away from rehearsals to chat about the production. Central City Opera fans might recognize Ken. Oklahoma! marks his eleventh production with Central City Opera. Last year, he directed the triple bill (Gianni Schicchi, Seven Deadly Sins, and The Breasts of Tiresias) and in 2010 he directed Three Decembers. But Oklahoma! isn't his first musical theatre piece. He is an accomplished director for both opera and theatre, having directed A Little Night Music and West Side Story for CCO previously.

Check out our conversation below to see what Ken has to say about the history and the cast of this summer's opening productions. If you have any more questions for Ken Cazan or the rest of the Oklahoma! production team, leave a comment below. Stay tuned for "Part Two" coming soon!

View Part Two

Monday, June 11, 2012

Preparations Begin for the 2012 Festival

By Drew Kowalkowski, 2012 Festival Public Relations/Marketing Assistant

The curtain won't rise on Oklahoma! (Central City Opera's 2012 opening production) for almost three weeks, but Central City has already come alive with the sounds of opera. The lights are hung, set pieces are being loaded into the Opera House, flowers bloom along Eureka Street, and passersby driving up the hill are treated to the sounds of "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'" and other Oklahoma! songs as the company prepares for opening day.

Billboards for this year's productions hang on the front of the Opera House.

Stagehands load set pieces into the Opera House.

Amy Whitaker ,wig/makeup assistant, prepares a wig.

Lindsey Sample, props assistant, spray paints fans to be used as props.

Kelsey Livingston, gift shop assistant, models a hair accessory for sale in the gift shop, which is now open for the summer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Behind the Lens: Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi

If you’re looking in your program for a typical production photo for the operas of the Central City Opera 2012 Festival, you won’t find them this year. No, you won’t see a sketched icon either. What you will see is a window into the soul – a reflection of all that rattles the human spirit and awakens it. Central City Opera is renowned for doing things differently, and this year (ironically) is no different. As you glance at ads for the 2012 Festival or peruse the program when you head up the hill for the summer Festival, you will no doubt be lured into the photos of legendary local photographer Mark Sink.

A self-declared renegade in the photography world, Mark Sink does not tiptoe around social boundaries with his subject matter or models. Having crossed paths with the legendary Andy Warhol and many of the best-known photographers of our time, Sink unabashedly captures the world around him. Behind the lens, Mark brings raw human emotion and reaction to the audience in moments when they don’t expect it and with no apologies. An extremely modest visionary, he decided to co-found the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver over a casual discussion at the local community garden, believing that Denver indeed needed to have a forum for art that creates dialog and encourages debate.

For those of you who attended last year’s SinFest, an event during the 2011 Festival where attendees progressively experienced the seven deadly sins, you saw the exhibit of black and white photos from Mark Sink and other local photographers. Printed in large format (3x4 ft) in black and white, the images surrounded the audience on the walls in Williams’ Stables. It was difficult for onlookers not to confront the subject matter or feel the message as they were enveloped in the human response to sin.

Interestingly, this season Mark’s modern look at the world comes through the lens of both a digital camera and a camera used during the turn of the century, the setting of both Oklahoma! and The Turn of the Screw. Using a technique called collodion wetplates or tintypes, Mark and his partner Kristen Hatgi, a very talented photographer in her own right, photographed his subjects for our shoot with a wooden large format view camera with a lens from the 1860s. The initial shot was set up using a digital camera, followed by the tintype photo with the wooden camera.

Tintype photographs are made by taking a piece of aluminum and coating it with collodion, then placing the the “tin” piece in the wooden camera and creating a direct positive on a sheet of metal. Check out the collodion wetplace process here.

The image itself is actually reflected upside down on the viewer of the camera; because of the developing and the background, the dark underexposed negative appears as a positive.
To create the photos for this summer’s production, Mark was provided with ideas and sketches from our creative team Boska and brought his own vision to the table. Working with models from the art community and some hands at CCO, Mark and Kristen sought to produce images that evoked the feel of the era and an insider’s look at the life of the characters who make the storylines.

Over the period of a few weeks, we held four photo shoots with Mark and Kristen creating the perfect images for the four operas in the 2012 Festival. As a creative team, we managed to capture moments that evoke an emotional response to the productions.
As you leaf through the program this summer, notice the honesty brought to the opera images. Perhaps the element which is most attractive about Mark and Kristen’s work is that it touches upon the human spirit that is brought to life on the stage of our Festival each year. With all of the complexities involved in creating a world-class production, the goal is to connect with the audience in an extraordinary way. Mark Sink’s images provide the first gateway.