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

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!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Music and Martinis: A Night to Remember with the Stars of Tomorrow

Daniel Belcher has come full circle. He was once a student of John Moriarty in Central City Opera’s esteemed Young Artists Training Program, and is now about as accomplished as an opera star can be. So Thursday night when Belcher joined General & Artistic Director Pat Pearce to discuss the Program and its importance to the careers of up and coming singers, he spoke with the most sincerity. He had experienced the merits of the Program first hand, and strongly believes in what it can do for a young opera singer.

Belcher and Pearce were joined by approximately 350 supporters of Central City Opera inside Denver University’s Cable Center for Music and Martinis. The evening began around 6pm as guests filtered in and were treated to an open bar as well as a wide array of items up for silent auction. Some of the auction items included a rather large framed replica painting of “The Face on the Barroom Floor,” a travel package that included tickets to a performance at Santa Fe Opera, and a tour of Anne Evans’ mountainside cabin. There was also a live auction later in the evening led by pro auctioneer Gary Corbett, whose delivery provided another form of entertainment in itself. Guests were able to mingle amongst themselves as well with Central City Opera staff and artists as they sipped their martinis and placed their bids.
At around 8:00, dinner was served. It was very impressive to see the catering company move like the professionals they are, serving every patron an exquisite plate of beef short ribs with black-eyed pea ragu so efficiently. As dinner came to a graceful end, the part of the night that it seemed all were waiting for was set to begin: the music! However before the young artists could serenade the crowd, Daniel Belcher and Pat Pearce provided the aforementioned entertaining welcome and discussion. Their conversation, set on a riser between the two pianos and in front of a state-of-the-art video screen system, touched upon a range of topics. But the overlying motif, as you may guess, was the importance of the internationally recognized Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program and the niche it has filled within the opera community.
The musical performers of the evening included six of Central City Opera’s 2013 Apprentice Artists: Alexander Elliott, Ian O’Brien, Amy Owens, Shea Owens, Aleksandra Romano and Max Wier. They were accompanied on the piano by Principle Coach of the Training Program Michael Baitzer and 2013 Assistant Conductor Thomas Getty. Towards the end of the evening, the crowd was even treated to a rare a cappella performance by Pat Pearce and a not-so-rare, though always special performance by Daniel Belcher. While this summer Belcher will be singing in Italian as Figaro in our production of TheBarber of Seville, this time he switched it up and did a number in English and French. The evening came to a close as the six Young Artists came together as one to sing a rousing rendition of “Can’t Help Lovin Dat Man” from Show Boat, being presented in a brand new production by Central City Opera at Denver’s Buell Theatre this August.
Tom Getty accompanies Apprentice Artists Max Wier and Aleksandra Romano.

And while the evening was a celebration of Central City Opera and the Young Artists Program, it was also a celebration of our strong community and the support we receive to make year after year a reality. Without that generous support, Central City Opera would not be able to operate and function up to the standards that have been built over the past 81 years.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It Takes a Village: Preparations "On the Hill"

As artists and staff members show up in Central, there is little time to “settle in” before they immediately get to work on preparing for the fast approaching Festival. Whether they are stagehands or Apprentice Artists, music staff or props interns, most Company members dive into their roles very quickly upon arrival and hit the ground running.
Chorus Master Levi Hammer conducts a rehearsal with young artists inside of the Foundry Building.

Of course, many artists and staff members begin their preparations well before they even step foot in Central City or a company rehearsal room. Singers are hard at work months before they arrive perfecting their performance pieces so that they are well prepared by the time they officially begin rehearsals and coachings. That commitment makes the work of Music Director John Baril and Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program Director Marc Astafan much easier, I would believe. “The first few weeks have been great!” said Mr. Astafan, who also went on to say that the positive vibe he has been getting from all the young artists has been “infectious."

Props Interns Sarah Alverson and Ryan Miller begin their work almost immediately upon arrival in Central City.

Speaking of our young artists, the highlight of the first few weeks is the Death By Aria event, in which the Apprentice Artists show off their hard work and talent to an audience for the first time in Central City. Death By Aria took place in the Foundry Rehearsal Building last Sunday in front of an audience that included Guild members, festival/administrative staff, and fellow artists. Each young artist had the opportunity to sing a selection of their choice, which included a wide range of pieces. The young artists are also well on their way to being prepared for the start of the Lunch & a Song recitals. Singers have been busy choosing their repertoire and rehearsing with accompanists to prepare for their moment to shine inside of the Teller House on matinee days.

The “O”Man observes as Costume Shop Supervisor Janetta Turner and Stitcher/Dresser Lauren Allmeyer receive wardrobe materials.

The behind-the-scenes staff members are hard at work during these first few weeks as well. The costume and wardrobe team, headed by Janetta Turner, has been receiving packages daily in preparation for the Festival, some weighing upwards of 100 pounds! Production Scheduler Roxanna Tehrani may be the unsung hero of the company, as she works diligently day in and day out composing master schedules of rehearsals, coachings, fittings, and more. Staffer/Gift Shop Intern Laura Pancoast and Denver Office Administrator Wanda Larson have spent many hours over the past few weeks stocking and taking inventory of the Teller House Gift Shop, ensuring its readiness well in advance of Opening Night. The list could go on seemingly forever, with every staff and crew member playing each of their important roles to make every Festival a success. 

And the preparations will continue until opening night on June 29th! So while you are enjoying some opera in Central City this summer, take a minute to think about all of the little things that go into making the Festival possible. From the artists and year-round staff right down to the interns, everyone has their niche within the company and has been hard at work from the very beginning of arrival in Central City, or in some cases, well before then.