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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!

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