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Thursday, December 5, 2013

24-hour ticket pre-sale starts today (Dec. 5) at 4 pm for Central City Opera's THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Carrie Underwood stars in tonight's broadcast on NBC.
Tune in tonight at 7 pm MST to see Carrie Underwood star in NBC's (Channel 9 in Denver) The Sound of Music Live. Next summer, you'll have the opportunity to see Central City Opera's production of this renowned family classic in person with a live orchestra in Denver at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House August 2 through 10. And starting tonight at 4 pm, you will have 24 hours to purchase tickets to our 2014 production of The Sound of Music during a special pre-sale.

The Sound of Music in Denver
Get the best seats now before tickets officially go on sale on January 2. Tickets range from $30 to $106. Purchase tickets online for 24 hours starting at 4 pm today. From 10 am to 4 pm Friday, you can also purchase by calling CCO’s Box Office at 303-292-6700 or by visiting the Box Office at 400 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite 525 in Glendale.

Central City Opera will also be live-Tweeting during tonight's broadcast for the Mountain Time Zone. If you're watching it one-hour delayed from the East Coast version, join us in the discussion @ccityopera!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome November with a Free Desktop Calendar

Happy November!

Every month, we upload a new desktop calendar to our website, which you can download for FREE. This month's photo features one of the lovely houses you can visit during the L'Esprit de Noël Home Tour later this month.

Need help with some holiday gift ideas? L'Esprit also features a FREE boutique filled with all sorts of goodies. Proceeds from the tour and the boutique go towards Central City Opera's programs throughout the year.

Download your calendar today! There are two sizes to choose from, depending on the dimensions of your screen.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Sound of Music....Horror Film?

Happy Halloween!

The 1965 Julie Andrews film The Sound of Music has become such an icon of American culture, it can't help but be parodied. Quite often. One popular theme is to reset this sweet movie as a horror film. We've been featuring several of these "trailers" on our Facebook page throughout the week, and here's a culmination of the best ones we've found. Which is your favorite?

"The Sound of Music (Horror Trailer)" by MNMantylaVideo
This trailer is part The Sound of Music, part The Turn of the Screw. "You are the twelfth in a long line of governesses....the last one, she stayed only two hours."

"The Sound of Music Recut Trailer - Horror" by chuck13171
I rather like the pacing of the soundtrack and the editing in this particular trailer. "Mother, would it help if we sang about our favorite things?" "No, darling, this is one time it would NOT help." 

This one focuses on Captain von Trapp. Should it be The Sound of Murder instead?

Just when they thought it was safe...

"Sound Of Music Recut Trailer (HORROR)" by Hannah OneTwoNine
Everyone loves Maria...almost everyone...

"The Sound Of Music RECUT" by BoundlessProductions
And finally, remember how Maria mentions "perhaps I had a wicked childhood"?...

Remember, you can see the not-so-horror-filled stage version of The Sound of Music in August 2014, when Central City Opera performs the show at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Nun Day: Happy Birthday, Mother Teresa!

Looking ahead to next year’s productions of Dead Man Walking and The Sound of Music, we are launching an occasional “Monday Nun Day” series. Today’s date just happens to coincide with the birthday of one of the world’s most famous nuns, Mother Teresa, born August 26, 1910. In 1999, a poll of Americans ranked her first in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Living, Learning, and Loving: How Opera Singers Have it Right

Editor's Note: Today's blog is written by 2013 Festival Office/Music Library Assistant Corbin Rugh.

As a recent graduate in music education, I never imagined that my degree would take me into the world of opera. Though I knew the summer internship would be full of adventure, I did not imagine I would be so deeply moved by my colleagues.
Blog author Corbin Rugh with William Ferguson, David Portillo and Patrick Carfizzi (George in Our Town and Almaviva and Bartolo in The Barber of Seville)
It is no secret that many talented singers bring Central City Opera to life each summer. Beyond the immaculately finessed notes and divine artistry lie some truly amazing people. This particular crowd of opera singers proves that an uncommon career path lends itself to appreciating often overseen dimensions of life. The most profound lessons that I will take with me long after this summer are the following:

Bloom where you're planted.

Opera singers find work in all corners of the world. This means that the conventional concepts of “home” and “work” change as often as the gig. It is up to the individual to establish roots and to blossom in each experience. As a twenty-something getting ready to move overseas, I know I will sport these same tenets as I venture into unfamiliar ground. There is no measure for success but our own accumulation of triumphs.

Be true to yourself.

"Work with what you have" sounds like bad advice from a mother to a temperamental teenage daughter, but it proves true in the most wonderful way in opera. Vertically challenged? Add that to the comedy of your role. Have an amazing high C? Use it to tug at our heartstrings! In Our Town, the Stage Manager says, “Something is eternal in everyone.” We are all one of a kind and that is our contribution to the world. Capitalize on your unique qualities and make the most of everything that is you.
Corbin with one of the 2013 Festival billboards outside the Central City Opera House
We create the culture that in turn creates us.

This is the quintessential phrase of one of my dear professors. My favorite Central City illustration of this was a moment in rehearsal for The Barber of Seville. Early in staging, two principals had the idea of a new move they could do in a scene. It came to fruition because the climate was supportive of creative collaboration and the director’s intentions were clear. This seemingly small exchange gave way to a wonderful moment in the show that leaves the audience in stitches! Once we individually embody aspects of a productive and supportive culture, we become part of something greater than ourselves.

Live in every moment.

On all levels, productions have an amazing power to bring people together for a common goal, but only for a short time. In my student teaching, the high school auditorium seemed to magically transform for the week of the spring musical, just as Central City takes on new life in the summer season. As quickly as it comes together, it ends. Enjoy each moment of the journey with those around you and put energy, intention, and love into every breath.
Corbin "lives in the moment" backstage at The Barber of Seville.
The gifts opera singers give us go beyond the two hours we experience in the theatre. The next time you see an opera in Central City or elsewhere, look beyond the production and consider the people who are bringing the characters to life. If we take even a page from their books, we are sure to live, learn, and love wholeheartedly.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes Photos of SHOW BOAT

Central City Opera Photographer Mark Kiryluk has been back stage at the Buell Theatre capturing the fun and excitement happening with the cast and crew of Show Boat. Enjoy a selection of some of our favorite shots from some memorable behind-the-scenes moments…
Wig/Makeup Designer Dave Bova prepares Julia Burrows (Magnolia) for curtain time. The hair/makeup/costume team has been working overtime hours and even brought in extra help these last few weeks. All hands on deck!
Gene Scheer (Cap'n Andy) looks out at the empty Buell before Opening Night. As a result of the size of the room, artists wear mics on stage for Show Boat.

Stage management team members Dana Stringer and Rachel Ginzberg plan the logistics of the show, along with the help of a CCO stagehand. During live scene changes, the stagehands come out dressed in full Show Boat era attire.

Troy Cook is transformed into Gaylord Ravenel, a riverside gambler on the Mississippi.

Members of the Guest African-American Chorus warm-up backstage.

CCO Director of Production Karen T. Federing oversees it all from the tech table during a dress rehearsal.

Denise Lute and Ellie Kaye pose with Jean Richards, who attends every CCO performance and has for years. She even rides the bus to Denver from Central City with the Young Artists! Assistant Director Kyle Lang looks on in the background.

A close up of the set, designed by James Youmans. The orchestra sits on stage and is a very integral and interactive part of the performance as a result. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Talented Teens of the Performing Arts Intensive

Every summer, Central City Opera, in partnership with the Colorado Springs Conservatory, hosts 18 to 20 talented teens during our Performing Arts Intensive. This is the tenth anniversary of the program; as the Production/Stage Manager for CCO's Education & Community Engagement, I have had the privilege of working with these amazing students for eight of those years.

We are about a week and a half into this two-week intensive. Tuesday night in Colorado Springs we invited an audience to preview the work these students have completed. The first act is a scenes program, entitled Now You Know, combining moments from opera, musical and classic theatre. In one touching scene, the students perform a section of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town (pictured below). Later this week, they'll see the operatic version of this story in the Central City Opera House.
In addition to numerous vocal and movement classes and rehearsal of the scenes program, the last week and half has also been filled with research and composition of their own original opera. Inner Lights: Meditations on the Palmers of Colorado Springs is an original short opera based on the life of an early Colorado Springs couple. The premiere staged reading of this piece was also part of Tuesday's night performance.
One of the reasons that the Palmers were chosen as an inspiration for the opera was because of their many important contributions to Colorado. In addition to founding Colorado Springs, General Palmer was critical to the development of the narrow gauge railroad in Colorado. Wednesday, we took a field trip on the Georgetown Loop Railroad for a first-hand experience.

That evening the students settled into Central City, where they become junior members of the 2013 Festival Company. To greet them, artists from on stage and off gathered for an informal "meet and greet" and sandwich supper.  

Marc Astafan, pictured above, discussed everything from the audition process for our Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program to directing The Barber of Seville.

Several of the prinicipal artists, including Curt Olds (Frank, Show Boat) and Daniel Belcher (Figaro, The Barber of Seville) pictured above, answered questions about living and working in the business. Many of today's stars began their careers in CCO's young artist program.

The teens will continue their residency in Central City for the rest of this week. In addition to continuing to rehearse their scenes program and original opera, they are attending all of the operas performing in Central City, observing some of the Apprentice Artists' classes and having their own private master classes with members of the CCO Festival staff. Vocal and diction master classes will focus on their own material, while in movement and stage combat classes they'll learn some of the same moves and sequences used in the 2013 Festival productions. 

Public performances of the Performing Arts Intensive are held in the intimate Williams Stables Theatre this Friday at 4 pm and Saturday at 7 pm. Tickets are just $5. To purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 303-292-6700 or visit

Monday, July 22, 2013

Short Works: The Show Before the Show

One of the gems of Central City Opera’s Summer Festival is our presentation of Short Works, also known as Opera Scenes. These half-hour performances put young artists in the spotlight and allow them to show off their diverse skills in acting and performing. Just as the name implies, these are not full opera performances but rather selected scenes from a variety of operas by a multitude of composers. So far, Central City Opera has presented scenes from Orfeo Ed Euridice, Ragtime, Cendrillon, The Elixir of Love, Manon, Street Scene, The Rake’s Progress, Eugene Onegin, Alladin, The Sound of Music, Dead Man Walking and The Marriage of Figaro. The latter three will be presented in full by Central City Opera during the 2014 Festival.

CCO Studio Artist Siena Forest gets her time in the spotlight
Not only do these give the young artists an opportunity to hone their skills, but it also allows aspiring directors a chance to perfect their art form as well. The scenes are directed by 2013 Festival Assistant Directors Corinne Hayes (Our Town,) Stephanie Havey (The Barber of Seville,) and Kyle Lang (Show Boat). Lang says that directing Short Works gives him a chance to “try different approaches, being that a scene may not necessarily need to be in the context of the full opera.” He also went on to say that “It’s such a great opportunity to work with young artists and to learn how people may take direction differently. The process that may be needed for one person may not be what is best for another.” So it is the creative team that gets personal and professional growth out of Short Works in addition to just the artists.                                                                 

Patrons enjoy an afternoon Short Works performance inside of Williams Stables
From the young artists’ perspective, Short Works is their opportunity to practice performing in front of an audience and to learn about and engage in a variety of diverse operas and musicals. While most young artists have roles in the feature productions either in the chorus or as a side role, Short Works puts them front and center and raises them to be the stars of that afternoon’s performance.

The next Short Works will be presented at Williams Stables tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. prior to the matinee performance, and at the same time on the additional dates of July 24th, 27th, and 28th. Tickets can be purchased in advance or day-of-show for the price of $12 or $8 for subscribers. These are a great way to whet your appetite before a matinee performance in the Opera House and to see future opera stars in a casual and intimate setting.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Emily Pulley's Favorite Central City Story

Emily Pulley, Soprano
Friday, our blog shared part one of an interview with Emily Pulley, found in our 2013 Opera Insider. Today we continue with our favorite part of the interview. Emily portrays Julie Laverne in our upcoming production of Show Boat.

You have performed many different roles at Central City Opera, but you are also known to company members and supporters for your sharp wityour extended limericks are legendaryand your sparkling personality.  What’s your favorite story from your many summers in Central City?

Well, a lot of the best stories probably aren't fit to print (I encourage your readers to ask me about them when they see me), but one of the most memorable events for me was the infamous bear break-in of 2010. I was staying in a rental property up the hill, and my buddy Curt Olds [who plays Frank this year in Show Boat] was kind enough to drive me home late one night. When I opened the front door, there was light coming from the kitchen, and I didn't remember leaving anything on. Once we saw that it was, in fact, the refrigerator light and that one of the doors had been ripped off the hinges and the other one was open as well, with food and debris strewn everywhere, Curt heroically pushed me behind him and went to investigate. The back door had been forced open and was still ajar, but fortunately, the bear had left. And she had eaten almost EVERYTHING, basically pulling all the refrigerator shelves down and even opening up the cabinets and emptying those out as well (we decided it was a she-bear going through a bad break-up, since it looked like she went straight for the ice cream and sugary snacks). Curt was kind enough to stay and help me clean up, and we were laughing hysterically, imagining what went down in that kitchen and being glad we weren't there when it happened, although I do wish I had set up a nanny-cam or something. Word got to my friend Frederica von Stade about what had happened, and she told me that her cabin in Lake Tahoe had been broken into by ursine marauders as well and then encouraged me to ask my male friends to, um, mark the territory around the house to repel the bears. Many of them were more than willing, so long as I provided them with ample adult beverages to help them create the "bear repellent" (opera singers are very classy). It definitely gave "marking" in rehearsal a whole new connotation!

A bear peeks in a rehearsal hall window during the 2012 Festival. Photo by Erin Joy Swank.
The above questions are just part of an interview with Emily Pulley in the 2013 Opera InsiderDownload the pdf for the full article and much more on the history of the 2013 Festival productions, their composers and librettists, interviews with the artists and more.

Show Boat plays at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex from August 6-11, 2013.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Spotlight on Julie Laverne in Show Boat with Soprano Emily Pulley

Emily Pulley, Soprano
Show Boat sits on the cusp between the early 20th century style of Operetta and Musical Theater as we know it today.  You will be playing Julie LaVerne, the lead actress on the Cotton Blossom, a show boat that brings entertainment to towns along the Mississippi River.  This is a departure from your usual operatic soprano roles.  How will you approach this role?

I actually wanted to be a Broadway belter before I ever even considered a career in opera, so I'm really excited to get to sing some classic musical theater and explore the lower part of my range (I sang second alto and tenor in high school and became a soprano against my will...). I have always been more interested in being a singing actress and a good storyteller than in producing perfect "pear-shaped tones," and while Julie does get to sing a couple terrific tunes, I think my main job is to use those songs to reveal her character and advance the plot. The words are very simple, yet highly evocative, and there are plenty of opportunities to paint some images that will really draw the audience into the story.  

Julie is the pivotal character in Show Boat, straddling the worlds of the white actors and the black dock and boat workers.  She is African American (or mixed race), but “passes” for white and is married to a white man.  This is significant because the show is set in the 1880s, a time when, in many states, mixed race marriages were illegal and an African American actress would not have been employed with an otherwise white cast.  What is your feeling about the significance of this role historically and how will you personalize it?

I certainly can't complain about being discriminated against personally, and while I am from the South (or at least the Southwest), the issue of miscegenation was never given any thought when I was growing up, at least in my home. It's true that we are often doomed to repeat the history that we might prefer to forget, especially regarding the acts of discrimination and dehumanization we ourselves have committed, but rather than trying to drive home the guilt that we have inherited from our not-so-distant ancestors, I will simply do my best to make Julie come across as a real person, not merely an archetypal character or even a representative of her race. Making the issue personal (in the literal sense) is far more effective than addressing the larger concept; likewise, discrimination against a group of people is always far easier than discrimination against an individual, especially one you know and sympathize with. And Julie is indeed very sympathetic: kind, talented, generous, and truly brave. If I just tell the story as Julie lived it, I think the historical significance will take care of itself.
Emily Pulley (Beatrice) and Keith Phares (Charlie) in Three Decembers (2001)

On Sunday, we'll continue our question and answer session with Emily, as we learn her favorite Central City story. Stay tuned!

The above questions are just part of an interview with Emily Pulley in the 2013 Opera InsiderDownload the pdf for the full article and much more on the history of the 2013 Festival productions, their composers and librettists, interviews with the artists and more.

Show Boat plays at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex from August 6-11, 2013.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Central City Days Gives a View of "Our Town"

In the spirit of Central City Opera’s (CCO) production of Our Town, the Ned Rorem opera which celebrates life in small town America, CCO hosted Central City Days this past Saturday, a progressive party at the Gilpin History Museum, the Teller House and around town . With the stunning backdrop of Central City, Black Hawk, and the mountains, folks of all ages gathered at the Gilpin History Museum as their first stop. They were greeted by picnic tables, country fair food and drinks, complete with a keg of special brew for the event supplied by Dostal Alley. A three-piece string band, Psychodillo with Brad Martin, entertained the crowd with their mellow playing that included a cover of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time.” This part of the day had a very “picnic-like” feeling and allowed people the opportunity to mingle with one another and enjoy the Colorado summer in a very laidback fashion.

After some time soaking in the sun and enjoying their food, the crowd was split into two groups for a walking tour of Central City. The tours stopped in front of some of the many historic buildings and properties in Central City, before meeting at the Teller House. Inside, a bride, a groom, and a very delicious wedding cake awaited the crowd. For those unfamiliar with Our Town, much of the story is based on the marriage of a young couple, so the wedding theme was very fitting.
Brian of Cook with Cook shows off the delicious wedding cake.
 The icing on the cake, however, was when the curtain rose on opening night of Our Town. This Sunday, July 14th, will see the second and final Central City Days of the year, and one not to miss with an after-party at Dostal Alley. Just like Our Town, Central City Days takes you back to a simpler time where being neighborly is a way of life and the presence of good people and good surroundings mixed with good music make for an excellent and entertaining afternoon. To purchase tickets or for more information visit

SPECIAL BOGO OFFER for our Blog readers: Buy one ticket to Central City Days on July 14 and get another one free when you use the code CCDBOGO online or by calling 303-292-6700.
Photos by Heather Brecl and Heather Quiroga.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Adapting the Classic Play Our Town into an Opera

Our Town, the opera, premiered at Indiana University in 2006 with critical acclaim.  
“Ned Rorem has written an intimate chamber opera to match the play’s spareness…. Deftly matching the character of the play, Mr. Rorem's music  is accessible, singable and full of integrity” (New York Times)
Ned Rorem and J. D. McClatchy stayed as true as possible to Thornton Wilder’s master work, with two notable differences.  
  1. The opera opens with the chorus singing a hymn during a funeral.  McClatchy felt that this would bookend the story nicely, and as music is one of the mediums that unlocks our memories, it works well in the opera and “hooks” the audience immediately.  
  2. The other main difference is how Rorem and McClatchy handled the character of the Stage Manager.  Using one of opera’s innovationsthe supertitle screenthey split the Stage Manager’s lines between music and screen.  This device helps distinguish the Stage Manager even more as a separate entity from the rest of the characters. 
Vale Rideout, center, portrays the Stage Manager in Central City Opera's production.
Photo by Mark Kiryluk.

Since the opera’s premiere in 2006, it has been produced 23 times, including Central City Opera’s production in July 2013 and a scheduled production in New Hampshire in August 2013.  Our Town the opera is well on its way to becoming as successful and popular as Our Town the play.

This blog post is just a small section of the article "The Lasting Impression of Our Town" written by Education & Community Engagement Coordinator Emily Murdock for our 2013 Opera Insider festival resource guideDownload the pdf for the full article and much more on the history of the 2013 Festival productions, their composers and librettists, interviews with the artists and more.

Our Town plays at the Central City Opera House from July 6 to 28, 2013.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Lasting Impact of Our Town

Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer prize-winning play Our Town was recently voted one of the top ten plays of the last 100 years by Entertainment Weekly. Ned Rorem and J. D. McClatchy's opera Our Town, part of Central City Opera's 2013 Festival, is closely based on this classic play.

Our Town has no explosions, no alien invasions, no giant robots…why is it so gripping?

Mo Rocca asked this question during a feature on CBS Sunday Morning a few years ago. The video below gives some insight on why this has become America's most produced play.

Perhaps Donald Margulies summed it up best in his foreward to the 2003 printing of Our Town:
Indeed the play's success across cultural borders around the world attests to its being something much greater than an American play: it is a play that captures the universal experience of being alive.
Central City Opera's production of Our Town the opera runs July 6 through 28, 2013. Tickets start at just $20.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Thornton Wilder as the Stage Manager in Our Town

For Throwback Thursday, here's a great photo of Thornton Wilder from a 1950 performance of Our Town in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In addition to writing the historic play, Wilder would often portray the role of the Stage Manager, as pictured below.
Image from Yale's Beinecke Library
You can also listen to Wilder reading from Act Three of his own play.

Central City Opera's production of Our Town runs July 6 to 28, 2013. Tickets start at just $20.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What to Listen for in The Barber of Seville

The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini is one of the world’s best known and most loved operas – but because we have so many popular cultural references to the music, it may be helpful to know what to listen for when you’re actually experiencing it in the Opera House. 

Let’s start with the overture.  

Overtures exist to give the orchestra a chance to perform all by itself – and many times, the overture features tunes that the audience will hear in the rest of the opera.  However, because Rossini wrote this opera in three weeks and ran out of time before composing the overture, he recycled his own music. This overture was actually used for two other Rossini operas. Fortunately, it is forever linked in our collective memories as the overture to The Barber of Seville, even though none of the melodies in the overture are in the rest of the opera. We know these melodies well because we’ve heard them in popular culture.  Case in point:  Bugs Bunny.  Bugs’ song is not a song from the opera – he sings to the melody in the overture. 

First, listen to the overture:

Then, listen to what Bugs Bunny does with the overture in The Rabbit of Seville.

I bet you are all nodding your head and saying, “Oh, yeah, I remember that!”  When you’re listening to this overture in the Opera House, though, try to forget Bugs Bunny and imagine some other situations that this music could be foreshadowing.  Although this overture was not originally written for this opera, it sets the scene extraordinarily well. 

This blog post is just the beginning of the article "What to Listen for in The Barber of Seville," written by Education & Community Engagement Coordinator Emily Murdock for our 2013 Opera Insider festival resource guide. Download the pdf for the full article and much more on the history of the 2013 Festival productions, their composers and librettists, interviews with the artists and more.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Barber of Seville and Saturday Morning Cartoons

When you see The Barber of Seville in Central City this summer, you may find yourself tapping your toes to music that is incredibly familiar to you. What, you haven’t seen a production of the opera before? That’s okay, you’ve heard the music many, many times – in fact, so often that it’s like an old familiar friend at this point. Composer Gioachino Rossini’s upbeat music perfectly matches the comic capers of its characters onstage. In modern times, visual artists of all kinds have incorporated The Barber of Seville into their soundtracks, for the instant feeling it brings to mind of plotting and scheming in a humorous way.

Many of us grew up with Saturday morning cartoons that were bursting to the seam with musical references from The Barber of Seville. Here are some of my favorites.

The classic Bugs Bunny sketch, The Rabbit of Seville:

Woody Woodpecker's version:
Tom & Jerry's:
Want to find more? Download our 2013 Opera Insider, a resource guide for the 2013 Festival. The article "Where Have I Heard That Before?" includes many, many more examples of Rossini's music used in popular culture. Seinfeld? Yep. Return of the Living Dead? Truly. Doritos commercial? Definitely! Which ones are YOUR favorites?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Looking Back on Opening Night 1932

With opening night of Central City Opera’s 2013 Festival now just a few days away, let’s look back on July 16, 1932, the opening night that started it all…
Crowds filled the street before the sold-out first performance of Camille in 1932. 
Although the Opera House was built in 1878, the Central City Opera House Association was not founded until 1932. It was then, after years of the building falling into disrepair, that Central City Opera as we know it began its storied history. All of the stars seemed to be aligned that summer, granting our company a near-perfect opening night and inaugural season, which at the time was called the “Central City Play Festival.”

Robert Edmond Jones
What made that night so special? Well, to start, the Association was able to gather an all-star cast and production team, including Broadway legend Robert Edmund Jones as Director/Producer/Designer and film star Lillian Gish as the lead role in Camille. Opera historian Charles A. Johnson commented on Jones’ involvement by saying, “To have him appear in a crumbling mining town was akin to having a head of a major studio direct a play at a local high school.” Exaggerated or not,  having these big names involved in the opening season certainly did wonders for the reputation and attendance in that first year, especially given the widespread skepticism of outsiders. The hope was to lure many of Denver’s elite to Central City. However many of those individuals thought it was preposterous to travel to Central City, up the “Oh My God” Road, only to see a performance that could easily be put on in one of Denver’s existing, established theaters. But when it came down to it, they showed up in droves and the entire first week of performances sold out! In fact, an estimated 5,000 people showed up to Central City just to be a part of the historic event, knowing full well that the Opera House could only seat a fraction of that.

Camille was a very interesting choice as the first production for the new Association. Based on an adaptation of the 1848 Alexandre Dumas novel The Lady of Camelliasthis piece had been performed in a less formal manner in Central City throughout the late 19th century. Though the 1932 performances of Camille were a rousing success, the production was never staged again in Central City. Additionally, Jones took the production to Broadway the following season where it had little success, especially when compared to the reception it received in Central City. As Charles A. Johnson explained, “Part of the problem with the Broadway production had been its inability to evoke a Victorian era in a thoroughly modern city like New York. In Central City, a town that lived in the past, this had been no problem.”
Lillian Gish in Camille at the Central City Opera House
In 1932, Camille patrons were encouraged to emulate the fashion of the 1870s, for which many and most obliged. Many patrons also showed up on horse-drawn carriages, further adding to the nostalgia that Robert Edmund Jones and the Association were striving for. Honoring in the past is something that Central City Opera thrives on, even to this day. Although a conscious effort is made to stay trendy and innovative on both the artistic and business fronts, many past traditions remain intact as a part of the Central City Opera experience. Today, while you won't likely see horse carriages or 1870s attire scattered across Eureka Street, nostalgia and tradition come in the form of the Flower Girls, the Usher Song and the famed dynamite blast to ring in the beginning of the Festival.
Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazines covered the fashions worn for 1932's Opening NIght.
There is no doubt that the success experienced on the opening night of Camille was a catalyst to the prosperity that Central City Opera has experienced in the 81 years since then. With favorable media attention from outlets such as The Denver Post, Vanity Fair, Time Magazine and the New York Times, the Central City Opera House Association seemed poised for success from the very beginning. 

If you can't join us this Saturday, June 29, for the 2013 Festival Opening Night in Central City, tune in to our live broadcast on Colorado Public Radio, over the air or online.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Barber of Seville Photo Shoot: From the Perspective of the Wardrobe Team

Tuesday inside the Opera House, cast and crew for this summer’s production of The Barber of Seville were able to run a test of sorts during the publicity photo shoot. The subjects of the shoot included cast members Daniel Belcher, Patrick Carfizzi, David Portillo and Jennifer Rivera. These individuals were hard at work, looking their best and striking poses for the camera. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the wardrobe team was also hard at work making sure the costumes, wigs, and makeup looked just right.
Don Bartolo and Figaro (also known as Patrick Carfizzi and Daniel Belcher.)

After the shoot, I was able to catch up with Dave Bova, the Wig and Makeup Designer/Supervisor for this summer’s Festival. I observed as he did little tweaks and fine tunings of wigs in between shots. For these professionals, nothing short of perfection will be accepted. This photo shoot granted Dave and his team the opportunity to see their work in action and adjust accordingly as they move forward with less than two weeks until opening night.

As Dave explained to me, lighting can completely change the appearance of wigs and makeup. The photo shoot allowed the crew to see their wardrobe materials “in a new light,” literally - although it is important to note that photo shoot lighting is usually very different than stage lighting! Today was also an opportunity to see the wigs and makeup on the cast members for the first time in most cases. In many instances, the makeup designs are initially tested out on someone who is not the person filling that character’s role. The photo shoot today offered the wardrobe team the opportunity to see how their makeup design looked when on the face of the actual artist who is playing that character. And I must say, the makeup, wigs and the rest of the costumes on all four artists today looked amazing!

Dave Bova working his magic on Rosina, played by Jennifer Rivera

The team hard at work during the shoot

The true test will be during dress rehearsals, when the wardrobe crew will be able to see their work in action and make even more necessary adjustments. The designers have an idea in their mind for how they plan to make the character look. Before today, that idea was just that: an idea. Seeing the idea implemented and in person opens up a whole new realm of thinking and analyzing within the department.

Be sure to take a look at the official photos in our media gallery!