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Monday, June 30, 2014

Central City Opera Begins 2014 Festival with a (Dynamite) Bang

The mining town of Central City runs reliably like clockwork: ominous clouds followed by only light rain between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, then a bustling Eureka Street at 5:00, and finally a starry sky at midnight above the Rockies. On June 28, however, there was only sunlight, the traffic consisted of waltzing fathers and daughters, and the night was starry per usual, but this time alight with the dazzling cast and crew of Central City Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Opening Night for Central City Opera’s 2014 Festival ran without a hitch. Denverites enjoyed the balmy weather as they arrived in Central City on Saturday afternoon in summer dresses and tuxedos. Children and grandparents, patrons and Guild members sauntered up and down Eureka Street, annually closed off for the opening’s festivities where cameras snap and champagne pops. The historic Johnson House and budding Teller House Garden hosted the opera patrons as they lounged in the sun before the day’s events began.

The Opera House basks in Saturday's sun on its 2014 Festival's Opening Day.

The familiar dinging of the Opera Bell rang for the first time this season at 4:50 PM – Festival Staffer Austin Abernathy announced that the Flower Girl presentation for the Yellow Rose Ball, Colorado’s oldest debutante ceremony, would begin in ten minutes. Powerful as the Opera Bell is, it was the booming dynamite blast at 5:00 PM from the staff of Hidee Gold Mine that truly kicked off the Festival. Chairman Emeritus Lanny Martin then introduced each of the 24 Flower Girls as they gracefully descended from the top floor of the Teller House down into its garden. Donning white gloves, the teenagers looked lovely in lavender as they assembled one by one in front of the Opera House, accompanied by their dapper escorts, for a photo op.

The 24 Flower Girls and their escorts pose in front of
the Opera House for a photo shoot.
Finally, General/Artistic Director Pelham "Pat" Pearce opened the Opera House and welcomed everyone to the 2014 Festival to near-dynamite applause. Pearce then directed everyone’s attention to the steps of St. James Methodist Church where the ushers sang their cheeky preshow tune. “We’re the ushers who show you to your seat, then nonchalantly we step upon your feet,” they sang, marching to the front of the Opera House.

Once the ushers finished their song, Central City Mayor Ron Engels presented the Opera Bell to Nancy Parker, Central City Opera’s current president. Parker rang the bell which signaled the St. James’ chimes to open Eureka Street for the Yellow Rose Waltz. Escorts then presented the Flower Girls to their fathers. Fathers and daughters began waltzing, then mothers joined in, and finally the rest of the guests until Eureka Street was swaying in three/four time, a harmony of lavender dresses, black tuxedos, and glimmering jewelry.

Festival Services Manager Allison Taylor (blue dress)
poses with this year's ushers/interns.
Guests next enjoyed a sumptuous meal (provided by Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group) in the Teller House before The Marriage of Figaro’s 8:00 curtain. At intermission, Flower Girls handed out yellow nosegays to patrons so that they could be tossed onto the stage during curtain call. By the time lead performers Michael Sumuel and Anna Christy (as lovelorn servants Figaro and Susanna) took their bows, the stage and orchestra pit below were flooded with flowers. The cast – joined by conductor Adrian Kelly, director Alessandro Talevi, and his talented team of designers – beamed as some tried to snatch the whizzing nosegays.

“[It’s a joy] watching the principal artists rehearse and perform. As a young artist, I love observing how they interact with the director, maestro, fellow principals, crew, and chorus,” said Kelsey Park, a Studio Artist who plays a maid and other ensemble roles in Figaro. “We also have a blast backstage – getting ready in the dressing rooms is an exciting adventure. We ladies enjoy a lot of laughs.”

Fathers waltz with their daughters, the Flower Girls,
on Eureka Street on Opening Night.
Following the performance, the company congregated on the second floor of Williams' Stables for the after party. Still maintaining Figaro’s 1920s Spain concept, Lifestyles Catering provided a themed meal complete with vegetable paella and panzanella salad with sangria, concocted by Events Assistant Sarah Harrison complete with oranges, lemons, and limes.

Harrison had the laborious task of planning the party and making sure that everyone, from the interns to the principal performers, enjoyed themselves in the stables-turned-dancehall. “I had a lot of various details in my head from logistics to food and decorations, so putting everything together and finalizing everything was definitely the most challenging part. Seeing it all gradually come together has been incredibly rewarding,” Harrison said.

The Marriage of Figaro continues through July 26th. The second Festival production, Dead Man Walking, opens July 5th and runs in repertory through the 25th.

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