Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 8

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BREAKING NEWS… a group of opera singers, on tour through the western slope of Colorado, have been reported missing. A powerful spring snowstorm blanketed the area last night, dropping over a foot of snow. This morning, unable to drive to their performance location, the singers banded together and set out on foot. Sightings have been reported, but nothing is confirmed. If you see the singers, do not approach them. They are cold, waterlogged and have experienced back-to-back performance cancellations, making them moody and highly unpredictable. Information will be updated as it becomes available. Back to you Cherity…

Good morning readers! Guess what? We’re snowed in! In May… the 19th… In the teeny, tiny, town of Nathrop… Well, this was not on the schedule. We got hit with a massive storm front last night and it dumped over a foot of snow in the area. We were supposed to perform in Fairplay today, but they got close to two feet. Oh, and we also have no power. Seems heavy snow and power lines do not play well together.

There’s an outage that extends from here to Leadville. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Daniel’s face as he held his raw, unscrambled eggs as the power went out just before he put them in the pan. We can’t cook, we have no heat and the snow is still coming down heavily. Not willing to give up, we try to get to the car so we can go to the lodge. It takes Daniel, Andrew and Brett working together to get enough snow off so I can see to drive. I trudge to the car and step in snow and mud that completely swallows my feet. Brett and I head to the lodge with Daniel so he can eat something and I can try and reach the school. Phone lines are down too, but after about 20-minutes, I finally get through and I’m told that schools is on a delay, they’re having power problems too and roughly 75% of the students aren’t there. We wait it out at our lodging for a bit to see if things improve, but they don’t. I go back to the lodge and run into an officer with the Sheriff’s department. He says the roads around here are passable, but the power outage has closed the road into the pass. Red Feather Hill, which is where we need to go, is icy and there’s freezing fog. He asks me why we’re in the area and I tell him that we’re with Opera Colorado. His response, “Opera Colorado… well what the heck are you doing out here?” Taking opera into Colorado’s communities! Or at least trying too… He strongly advises us not to make the trip and says the power may not be on until this evening.  I call the school again and based on conditions, we decide to cancel the show.

This stinks – and there’s nothing we can do about it. Mother Nature gets the victory today. Katherine and Leah go to the gym where at least there’s a backup generator and they can shower, etc. While Leah is drying her hair, the power surges and the hair dryer sparks. It lands on her shoulder where it smolders and then goes out. She’s fine, her fair is fine, but I wouldn’t want to be that hair dryer. Andrew and Daniel hang out in their rooms, I think; I haven’t seen them – maybe they’re out playing in the snow… Taylor has a massage appointment set up which he is able to keep. Brett and I head out to the front porch and do some writing. There are still plenty of things I can work on. I have articles to write, guidebooks for the 15-16 season to create and the blog must go on. We make the best of it, but we’d rather be performing for those kids. As our rooms get colder, Leah, Katherine, Brett and I decide to try and head into nearby Buena Vista so we can at least grab something to eat. Andrew and Daniel decide to stay here and Taylor… he’s so relaxed after his massage that we just pour him into the car and take him with us.

There’s no denying that it’s beautiful outside but it looks more like December than May. It’s alternating between raining and snowing which is creating a huge mess. There are stretches of road that are icy, some places are mud bogs with huge potholes and there are tree limbs down all over the place. The mountains leading to the pass are completely socked in. You can’t even see most of the range. We find a restaurant in Buena Vista and stop to eat. Hardly anyone is out, but the food is very good and we’re able to warm up. A couple people decide to order food to take back with us in case we don’t have power tonight. Brett and I decide to take our chances – we can always eat tomorrow.

We head back to Nathrop. On the car ride back, the stress from being snowed in and back-to-back cancellations finally breaks through. Leah begins to sing mash ups of Mozart operas. Katherine is doing ornamentations for Non piu mesta that sound like a cross between jazz scat and southern gospel. Taylor is mixing up the words from the Lion King and Carmen; Hakuna Navaha. Brett is making up new text for Hansel and Gretel in an effort to be as culturally diverse as possible. I may have blacked out for a time… when I come to; we’re back in Nathrop I start a game of “Hey Cow” just to keep from cracking. “Hey Cow” is a game where you yell “Hey Cow” out of the window. There are rules of course. 1. There must be cows. 2. If the cows look at you when you call out, you get points. 3. Points are taken away if you scare a baby cow. My lesson in this game is not heeded and things quickly go awry. Katherine plays “hey snow,” Taylor is screaming at the horses, Brett is holding his head in his hands, possibly weeping and Leah is still singing. In the name of all that is good and right in the world… please let tomorrow’s performances happen.

Back at our lodging, the power is still out. Our lodging is pretty cold now, but, again, there’s nothing we can do about it. Some people take a nap. I work on an article for our upcoming issue for Ovation. Definitely not how this day way supposed to go. Deciding to take advantage of the time we have in this lovely location, Brett gets a massage and I get a facial. It’s a rare treat (and by rare I mean maybe a once-a -year event) and I’m feeling like a marshmallow by time I exit the spa. Brett is upright, has a very goofy smile on his face and is moving rather slowly. By the time the power comes back on, the day is pretty much over. We crank the heat to get things warmed up and Leah, Katherine, Brett and I watch an episode of Chopped on TV – because we can - then head to bed. We are up very early tomorrow to head to our first of two performance locations – and by sunder – we’re going!  We’re in Frisco for a morning Hansel and Gretel, then we tear everything down, head to Silverthorne and do it all again. Two performances at two separate schools – now you’re talking my language! Plus we’ll be at over 9,000 feet.

Time to take a deep breath.

Till tomorrow readers,


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 7

Monday, May 18, 2015

Its Monday readers. Boy… is it Monday. I’m up early to tackle a “To Do” list before I head to pick everyone up. I’ve got some music to copy, some emails to send and have to get gas in the pseudo-Yukon. While some tasks are completed with efficiency, I cannot say the same for the things that take place in the world outside of my control. It’s raining like mad, the road to get where I need to go is flooded and once I do get on the highway, traffic is an absolute mess. Not exactly the ideal way to start out tour week #2. I’m more than 30-minutes late to pick up Taylor, which means I’m late to get the rest of the group too. Oh well; I always pad the departure schedule with about ½ hour of wiggle room just in case things like this happen.

By the time I get to the house to pick everyone up, they are ready to load the cars and go. Since we no longer need the Romeo & Juliet set, props and costumes, some of the Young Artists took them out of the van and put them in the guy’s house. While it’s nice to have the additional space, Road Manager Brett and I are pondering why the items are spending the week in the house and not in the Yukon (you know, the one that isn’t allowed to come on tour; where those items will live the last week in May as we complete the season). Perhaps they are house sitting… Whatever. At least they were productive while waiting for me to show up.

By this point, we’ve become experts at packing. We even have about 5-inches of space in the back that does not contain an item. Look at us, being minimalists. We begin the drive out of town and into the mountains again and this time I manage to make the correct turn! It’s a good thing because the weather does not look promising. The clouds are really low and before long, I’m driving in questionable visibility, trying to keep Andrew in my sights as he follows in the van. Though it’s tricky driving, the scenery is amazing. As we get higher into the pass, it starts to snow, looking like a fairytale; we’re surrounded by snow covered trees. The conversation in my car has been all over the place this morning, but currently it involves dogs. It seems like a favorite topic that we keep coming back to. Brett has assigned a voice to one of Taylor’s Golden Retrievers whose name is Beau. It’s what we imagine Beau would sound like if he could talk. I wish these blogs had sound clips, because Beau is quite entertaining. Leah offers to tell us another one of her stories, but we decline, still not quite over the last tale which involved a car ghost.

We’re on our way to Nathrop, Colorado where we have an Arias & Ensembles performance this evening at the Mt. Princeton Resort. However, before that, we have an important stop to make. We’re going to meet up with Joyce and Dirk deRoos. Dirk is on Opera Colorado’s board and Joyce is our volunteer coordinator. They invited us to stop and have lunch with them. They have a cabin in Jefferson, Colorado and it’s literally on the way, so I jumped at the chance to spend some time with these fabulous people who are incredibly supportive of what we do. The weather does not go easy on us, but we manage to make it to the turn off. Once we get off the paved road, things get very interesting. I’ve got 4 wheel-drive in the tank, but the van doesn’t. The dirt roads are basically frozen mud and incredibly slick. We take it slow and, somehow, reach the cabin right on time. We are greeted by Joyce, waiving us in. My hands are shaking from gripping the wheel so tightly and Andrew’s jaw has frozen in a clenched-tooth smile, but otherwise we’re fine.

Though the clouds are covering the mountains, the view is stunning. There are elk in the valley just below the cabin and Aspen trees on all sides. Inside, everything is warm and incredibly cozy. This is a place that just begs you to relax. Joyce has been busy cooking and as we get ready for lunch, Dirk arrives, having driven in from Denver. We also have a furry friend joining us who enjoys ear scratches, which dog whisperer Taylor seems especially good at.

Lunch is delicious. The company and conversation is even more wonderful. To add to the ambience, Brett has built a fire in the living room (in the fireplace folks, not the actual room – he’s handy, not destructive). After lunch, I step outside to enjoy the view and the doggy comes with me. I’m immersed in watching the clouds roll in and I hear a loud warble to my left. Bigfoot? Dirk says they’re up here but if you give them cookies they leave you alone. Alas, I am sans cookies. But there’s no bigfoot in sight. It seems our furry friend is in need of rescuing, he’s gotten stuck on the steps and can’t get up or down. I grab him and go back inside. Some of the group are relaxing while others choose to get adventurous. Dirk and Joyce have traveled extensively and he’s picked up some interesting things along the way. One of these things is called an At-latyl. It’s a spear throwing device used in many different cultures. Dirk offers to teach us how to use it and Brett and Daniel jump at the chance. The rain has now turned to snow, but opera singers are brave; the elements do not stop them. Unless you take into account our recent production of The Magic Flute and then The Elements stop everything… But, I digress. No, the elements do not stop these opera singers. Especially not when your lovely hostess provides fuzzy hats and warm jackets.

The goal is to throw the spear about 30-feet and hit a hay bale that Joyce has set up for this as well as archery. What ensues over the next 30-minutes is a combination of fun, fear and awe. Fun, because it’s delightful to watch Dirk teach the guys how the contraption works and because they are truly enjoying themselves. Fear, because they are holding and throwing something with a pointy tip and I am in the vicinity. Awe, because they actually do it; and do it well. Brett has great form and after just a few tries, gets the spear into the hay bale. Daniel’s form is reminiscent of the Olympic Games of old. He lofts one of the spears so far that we have to join forces to find it. As Joyce, Daniel and Brett search the forest; I find it covered in snow just inches away from the hay bale. This is a “finders keepers” moment that I will let pass…

The snow is really coming down now and we decide to move inside. Andrew looks like a mountain man on hiatus and Leah and Katherine have curled up in a chair by the fireplace and are very cozy. So cozy that Leah has fallen asleep. The rest of our party spends the time talking and listening to Dirk tell stories about the history of the area. Let me tell you, our Mr. deRoos can weave a mighty fine yarn (it’s a way of saying he’s good a telling stories, not actually turning fibrous materials into yarn). It’s absolutely fascinating and draws forth even our sleeping beauty Leah. Joyce has one last treat in store. She’s pulling out all the stops. We’ve got ice cream and all the toppings. While we are enjoying our treat and the hospitality, the weather begins to clear. *Sigh* It’s time for us to leave and head to Nathrop. I snap a group photo to commemorate the afternoon and then we say our goodbyes. How do you thank people for sharing their home with you? Their hospitality? When you live the nomadic life of an artist, it’s times like this that provide that sense of home that you miss. They are rare, which makes them all the more precious. We are deeply grateful Joyce and Dirk. Thank you for a wonderful afternoon.

We hit the road and, though it’s still raining, the weather has lifted a bit. We make a pit stop in Buena Vista for groceries for the next several days. We’ll be making Nathrop our home base and driving to locations all around for performances. It just so happens that we’re staying at a place that has natural hot springs. As part of the arrangement I made for lodging, we’re performing an A&E for the guests tonight – well, maybe. I got a call earlier today telling me they can’t locate a keyboard. I got that call after we had already left town, so we can’t even offer to bring ours. It’s kind of an essential item for opera. They called again at the grocery store and it’s not looking good. I haven’t said anything to the group yet; I’m still hoping it works out. Groceries purchased, we drive to Nathrop and get checked in. As we get settled, I connect with my contact here and they haven’t been able to find a keyboard, so tonight’s performance is off. We can’t reschedule either as the location is already booked for other events on the nights that we’ll be here. Boo! They’re disappointed and honestly, so are we. It would have been fun to perform in a new location for new people – that’s part of the reason we’re staying here. The manager promises that we’ll try again next year. They have plans to buy a piano or a keyboard for the new reception hall. She also says that our agreement for a lodging discount still stands. Well, that makes things a bit better. The gesture is appreciated. We try very hard to make thoughtful decisions about our budgets. Lodging expenses are a necessary part of tour and they can add up quickly. I try to find opportunities to lessen the cost of lodging so that the funding we have can go as far as possible.

With an unexpected free evening, everyone does their own thing. There is no cell service here and limited internet, so even I have to take some time off and unplug. Leah, Katherine and Brett decide to go to the hot springs, Taylor grabs dinner at the restaurant on-site and then also partakes of the aquatic amenities. Andrew and Daniel decide to drive to nearby Poncha Springs and visit the Elevation Brewing Company. I… decide to finish the blog for the day and then read. A luxury, I assure you. As I sit in the lounge area and blog about the day, the quiet little space I had set up for myself suddenly becomes a din of chaos. We’re being invaded… by teenagers. Busloads of them. They’re on their senior trip. I decide to head to my room and tuck in – quietly laughing at the hormonal energy of teens on a co-ed trip to the hot springs. Readers, there is an entire blog in what I witnessed.

Tomorrow we head to Fairplay to perform at the elementary school. Our performances the next 3-days are being sponsored by the Breckenridge Music in the Schools program. The weather is supposed to be pretty dicey overnight, so we’re hoping we don’t get all of the snow they’re predicting. We’re got kids waiting to see opera!

Today has been a day of wonderful memories with special people and an evening of unexpected downtime. The downtime is ending; the memories…? We’ll continue making those. We’ve got a full week of performances and workshops ahead of us and on Thursday, lunch with Young Artist Liaison, Steve Dilts. The rain has picked up again and the temp is dropping. I bid the others goodnight and turn in. Like the proverbial At-latyl, it’s time for me to hit the hay.

Have a good night readers,


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Days 5 and 6

Friday, May 15, 2015 – Saturday, May 16, 2015

Good morning readers. In an effort to keep you abreast of all of the tour happenings, I’ll be blogging about days 5 and 6 in this installment.

Friday, May 15th

Winter is coming. Either that or Colorado is experiencing its first typhoon. Skies are dark and look really threatening and it’s raining; pouring actually. This, of course, on the day that we have the longest drive of tour. We have to get from Carbondale to Pueblo. We had hoped to take Independence Pace to save some time (and secretly Brett likes to watch me white-knuckle the drive; not so secretly Taylor wanted to clap for avalanches), but it’s still closed for the season, so we have to take the longer route. Everyone meets up in the lobby to load the car and I am greeted by Leah, Katherine and a furry friend. No, it’s not Brett. Seems we have a hotel mascot. Her name is Tiger and she’s a sucker for a belly rub. But, who isn’t really?

After playing with the puppy for a bit, I sprint to the car to bring it around and manage to get soaked in the process. As I try and drip dry, Leah, packing champion, loads the luggage. We make a quick detour to get gas and then we hit the road – let the drive begin. It’s ladies day behind the wheel at the moment; I am driving the pseudo-Yukon and Katherine is driving the van with Leah and her copilot. That means that I’ve got a car full of guys all to myself – this should be fun!

This is not fun. The weather goes from bad to worse and back to bad again. People are driving like they’ve left their fine motor skills at home. When traveling is like this, I need to talk or sing or something; to find some way to make the drive the least bit enjoyable. Copilot Brett does a great job at this. He’s pulling everything out of his bag of tricks to entertain me. The other guys… they’re sleeping, listening to their own tunes or learning new music. The scenery is still beautiful. It’s incredibly green here too, in the valley as around Glenwood Springs. The clouds are so low; you can’t even see most of the mountains. As we approach Avon, the traffic gets worse, the weather is still bad and I need a break. As copilot Brett navigates us to a local Starbucks, I narrowly miss getting into two accidents because apparently turn signals are factory options. Finally parked, I take a deep breath, and Brett takes the keys. He’ll be the pilot for the rest of this particular trip. I’ve had enough.

We grab a quick cup of coffee and I check on the girls to make sure they’re OK in the van. They’re doing great. We get back on the road. Within minutes Brett has to navigate around people who are hydroplaning (their cars, not the people themselves), a bridge construction project that brings traffic to a halt and, when we get moving again, debris in the road. The back of a truck fell off and was in the road. How exactly does that happen? I assumed when they marked vehicles as ready for consumer use, that all the large parts were firmly attached… The driver of said truck decided it would be a good idea to walk out into the road, in front of us, to pick it up. Today’s drive will be brought to you by the makers of Advil. We trudge on. We turn off of I-70 and make our way up to Leadville. While traffic is better, the weather gets worse and pretty soon, it’s snowing so hard Brett can’t see more than a few feet in front of him. This is also because we’ve gotten behind a semi the size of a blue whale. Brett apparently knows the driver because he keeps referring to him by his given name; Bubba. The roads are still just wet, so it’s slow, but not icy. By the time we get to the summit, we are actually in the clouds. Off in the distance we can see the bridge that spans a ravine we’re about to cross and hear Daniel exclaim, “Oh god.” Not sure if that was out of joy or fear, I ask. It was both. These are some pretty intense conditions for our Florida boy. Bubba pulls off before the bridge so visibility is a bit better.
We make it through the pass and come to the turn to go into Leadville. The weather clears for a bit and we get to see some of the fourteeners that run the length of the valley. It’s gorgeous. For about 5-minutes. Then we get hit with the worst weather yet; white-out conditions with really heavy wind.  Thank you Mother Nature but I will save my blizzards for when I go to Dairy Queen. It’s May! In Colorado…

Brett doesn’t miss a beat. He makes sure he has Kathrine (who is also handling things beautifully) right behind him and he gets us safely into Leadville. Time to stop and eat lunch. We park downtown and walk around for a bit. We’re not really wearing appropriate artic attire, but thankfully our Opera Colorado jackets are warm! Six of us choose a local spot called Doc’s, but Daniel takes a diversion and chooses the saloon next door. There’s a sign that calls it the “best western saloon in America,” he couldn’t pass it up. Food and a break from the cars make a huge difference in not only our mood, but the weather. By the time we leave Leadville, the weather has cleared and there’s some blue sky. Andrew takes over driving the van and Leah moves to the tank. Brett, having proven his mettle behind the wheel, drives the rest of the way. We’re now on the way to Buena Vista, then to Salida, then Canon City and finally Pueblo. There’s more weather and more debris (including cans of black beans), but we make it to Pueblo safely. We check into the hotel and after a break, we decide to walk to a local Irish Pub for dinner. It’s a good call. There are pipers! Pipers in kilts! I’m in my element now. The food’s great and after the drive today, it’s nice to be able to just sit and relax. (If you caught that I have now equated listening to bagpipes as relaxing, you will fully grasp what today’s drive was like) Andrew, Leah and Katherine are chair dancing to the piper’s tunes, which is truly something to watch. Andrew’s got moves. Taylor is especially happy, ranking the quality of the food we’ve had on tour this week. This rates right up there.

We head back to the hotel so everyone can have the rest of the night to themselves. I’m really glad that I planned for today to be all about driving and we don’t have a performance. Tomorrow’s a doozy. We’ve got a double bill of Hansel and Gretel at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and I always look forward to playing in new venues. I’ll actually get to do a lighting plot for the shows which will be fun.

Tour blog day 5 – it may not have been the most entertaining day, but it’s an honest glimpse of what life on the road can be like. Days aren’t easy and not always fun. The thing that keeps us going is the belief in what we do. Opera matters, so we’ll keep driving.

Saturday, May 16th

Busy day today! We’re up and out the door by 9:00. We have a double bill of Hansel and Gretel and then a drive back to Denver. Luckily our hotel was just across the street from the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, so we get to the location quickly. Brett and I go into the theater and meet our crew for the day and figure out the set up details. Andrew gets the van to the loading dock and the process begins.

We actually have stage hands today and they’re a wonderful perk. What is not wonderful is the fact that we’ve somehow left our road bag, with all of our spike tape and other necessities, in Carbondale. This makes for an unhappy Director. At least we’re in a theater where they have some items in stock that we can use. They’re able to help us with the basics and we have the set up in no time. It’s a bit tricky to figure out the piano location and Taylor ends up partially behind the set once the wings are opened. It’s the best we can do though, so we’ll just have to make it work.

While everyone gets themselves settled and into costume and makeup, I work out a lighting plot with our production manager. It’s such a treat to have lighting to work with. We lay out a plot where the colors will change to represent day to night and then use pink to represent the world of the Witch. Lighting set, I go and meet with the house manager to get front of house details organized and then head backstage. Everyone is in costume, but they’re quiet. Morning shows take a bit of getting used to. Once they hear the audience’s response, they’ll have much more energy. As we wait for show time, I head downstairs to use the dressing room area. On the way, I see that there’s a ballet studio and it’s filled with bumble bees. Little girls, probably about 3 or 4 years old in yellow tutus with striped tops. Antenna and everything. They are absolutely precious. Taylor comes up with the idea to have them run across the stage as we change the set to the forest scene. For the cuteness factor alone – I actually considered it.

Time for show #1. I go out to do the pre-curtain speech. There are lots of little ones in the theater. I always tell them about a special word they can say if they like the opera. As I wrap up the comments, counting down 3, 2, 1, I hear a tiny little voice shout “bravo.” It sounded more like “bwavoh.” The cuteness factor just got raised. The first performance is underway. There are some fumbles, but it’s a good show. The energy is a little low but it picks up about halfway through. After bows, I go out and facilitate the Q&A session. We get good questions – little inquiring minds want to know if the candy is real, how they can sing like that and why the Witch is a boy. Seems like the fact that Hansel is sung by Katherine isn’t as noticeable. We wave to the audience, reset for the top of the show and take a break for lunch. We’re being pampered today; lunch is being delivered to us.

During lunch, Andrew does impressions, my favorite being the Queen of the Night, and Katherine strokes Leah’s hair as she ponders what her spirit animal is. She decides on a cat. She says that Katherine is a dog because she is loyal. Now, this is interesting. You see, the group has given Katherine the nickname of Kitty. More specifically, Kitty-cat, which is followed by a meow. It only seems fitting then that Katherine does not wish to be a dog. She has an affinity for horses, which are also loyal, so that works. Brett then teaches Leah how to spray water out of her mouth – you know, the classic spit take. She makes a valiant effort which is displayed on Daniel’s shoes and finally creates the effect she was going for. Hey… it could come in handy. You never know when you’ll need a good spit take in opera.

Enough goofing around, it’s time for show #2. We have a 5-minute hold and then I’m on stage for the pre-curtain speech. We’ve got a bigger crowd for this show, the kids are a bit older and there are quite a few adults too. As things get started, I know right away that this show will have more energy. The audience is responding with more laughter and applause. I watch for a bit from the upper level and, I have to say, this show, under lighting, looks fabulous. Brett gets big laughs for his antics as the Witch and as we reach bows, the audience is cheering. There are some memorable moments during the Q&A; one little guy, who was 3, asked about dinosaurs. He would like to know why there are no dinosaurs in our show. Well my man… gingerbread raptors are an interesting concept and I will keep it in mind. We get asked why we chose this show, which I answer, and then a young lady asks us if we’ve ever “tried frozen.” Now, I have a fairly well-developed ability to decipher the language of children, but this one stumped me. Was she asking me if I wanted frozen yogurt? Maybe she though the show needed to be set in winter. Nope. She wanted to know if we have considered the Disney movie Frozen as an opera.

Double bill completed, it’s time for load out. Many hands make light work and we’re done in about 30-minutes. It’s time to hit the road and make the drive back to Denver. Brett is acting as pilot again today, looking lovely in his leftover eyeliner (he’s failed to get all of the Witch off) and Andrew is driving the van with Leah and his copilot. The weather isn’t bad, but we hit rain around Colorado Springs. We also hit traffic. Our 2-hour drive turns into a 3-hour drive but the others manage to sleep through it. I entertain Brett as best I can, but he’s better at it that I am. Still, we make it back, safe and sound. Everyone grabs their stuff and we bid each other goodbye for all of 24-hours. We’re heading out for week 2 on Monday.

It’s been a good week. A week of taking opera to people who rarely have the opportunity to experience it. Tour is hard work with long hours. Opera is intensely physically and mentally demanding . We’re tired. But… you know what readers? We ready for more. Here’s to week #2!



Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 4

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Happy Thursday readers! Its day 4 of tour already.  You know what that means... time is flying. We’re up at a fairly leisurely pace for us this morning. That basically means that we’re not up with the sun, showering while warming up or packing the car while eating breakfast. That’s a luxury. We have a long day today, so we’re getting a little (and by little I mean about 1-hour) later start than usual so the group could get some extra rest. We’ve started to get into a rhythm and we all chip in with completing the check out “to do” list, getting the luggage into the car and doing one final sweep of the cabin to make sure we don’t leave anything behind.

On the road we go and begin the drive to our next stop on tour, Carbondale. It’s cloudy and cool today; there’s a chance for rain or snow. It’s just Colorado in the spring. Weather notwithstanding, I think it’s going to be a great day. We have a long but beautiful drive ahead of us, a workshop with students and then a performance of Romeo & Juliet. As the drive gets underway, it appears that this is going to be wildlife spotting day. Just minutes outside of Lake City we see deer and a large herd of elk. Katherine spots yet another animal and calls it out so that we also can partake of the enjoyment of seeing the wildlife; “horsies.” Yes, each time we pass horses in a field, or even a corral, Katherine informs us in this manner. There’s an additional element which you readers sadly can’t appreciate because each “horsey” is accompanied by a giggle. Katherine has another skill related to animals. She can tell happy cows from sad cows. Leah, ever the eager student, asks Katherine to impart her knowledge. Soon, each pasture we drive by is a lesson in how to determine the emotional state of the bovine occupants.

Brett is acting as copilot while I drive this first leg of the trip and he’s located a county road that will save us some time. The turn comes up quicker than expected (our GPS lady is polite but her reaction time is questionable), but we make it. Andrew and Daniel are following in the van. Thankfully Andrew’s reaction time is better than the GPS lady. It’s a dirt road, but it’s in decent shape. There are “horsies” and happy cows and the road parallels the river. It’s quite a lovely setting. I again think, this is going to be a great day. The road begins to narrow a bit and we get to a junction. We see a sign that reads “landslide area” but it’s the direction that we need to go and the GPS shows that the road in indeed open, so we proceed.  The road grows narrower still but we keep going. Finally, the GPS lady tells us to take the next turn on the right so that we can meet up with the road that will take us to the main highway. So, copilot Brett and I look for the turn off to our right. Nothing to the right and the river is to the left. Maybe it’s a bit further down the road than the GPS lady thinks. Copilot Brett agrees. I keep driving. The road narrows again; now you could touch the rocks on either side of the car by leaning out of the windows. Taylor offers the sage advice that if it starts to rain, we should head to higher ground. Its then that I realize we’re in a very narrow, steep canyon with a swiftly flowing river. Now, I’m getting a bit nervous and it doesn’t help that copilot Brett is whistling the theme from Deliverance. Thankfully, the GPS lady’s voice comes on and says… “At the next available spot, please make a U-turn.” There’s a group outcry at this, but we agree to turn around and look for that turn again. We missed it somehow. Andrew, Daniel and copilot Brett get the van turned around. I over hear Andrew say something about a sign he saw, but when I ask copilot Brett about it, he smiles and says “it’s all good.”  He and Taylor help me turn the tank around and we head back. We arrive at the exact spot that the GPS lady says to turn. Only… there’s no turn. Turn…? There’s no ROAD. Nothing even resembling a road. Perplexed, all we can do is head back out the way we came in and take the longer route. (It’s not until later that I find out that Andrew saw a sign that said the road had been closed due to a landslide. Based on the state of the “road” I can only assume that happened sometime in the Jurassic period.) Copilot Brett feels terrible; this was his call after all. But really, it was no big deal and we learned a valuable lesson; Copilot Brett is not psychic. He cannot see into the future to determine if GPS lady’s roads exist or not. So, we extended our drive by about 20-minutes. We got to see some beautiful scenery and now we have a story to tell about tour. It’s still going to be a good day.

Leah is very intuitive and she can sense that there’s a bit of stress in the car. She does her best to alleviate this by telling us a story. The story is based on us, though, to protect our identities, Leah has changed our names. The characters in the story are Sunshine, Rhett, Cobbler, Doggy and Poops. (I’ll let you readers see if you can figure out who is who) The story is about 5 people on a car trip; only one of them is a ghost. Good. Thank you Leah, we all feel much better now.

We stop for a much needed break and then begin the drive through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This is one of my favorite drives in Colorado. Pictures don’t do it justice. We see more wildlife here; a wild turkey and a marmot. The aspens are just beginning to leaf. Brett and I sound like kids watching fireworks as we “ooh” and “aah” at each new vista. We’re even selecting the appropriate background music to enhance the experience. (What do you think we listened to readers?) We reach the scenic overlook and we stop so everyone can snap a few pictures and stretch their legs. Back in the car, we munch on snacks and head over the canyon into the valley near Hotchkiss and into Paonia. The views in the valley are stunning too. Everything is so green – that rain and snow did a good job. The lakes are full and the rivers are running high. Appetites are also running high, so we stop in Paonia for lunch. Some of us head to a local diner and others hit a farm to table café. We head back to the cars and Brett moves from copilot to pilot so I can take a break from driving. He communicates with the GPS lady to get directions to our final destination and there’s a problem. Having made this drive before, I know we’re about 1 hr. 10 min. from Carbondale. That leaves us with enough time to get there, check into our hotel and then get to the performance location before I have to start leading the workshop. Well… according to the GPS lady, the drive will take 1 hr. 40 min., putting us behind schedule. What happened. Time again? Wormhole? Copilot Brett’s ill-fated drive to the road that did not exist? Nope. Rock scaling work on the highway and it’s not something we can get around. Oh well. There’s nothing we can do about it.

We head down the highway and, sure enough, we arrive at the roadwork and traffic comes to a complete stop. I spend the time snapping pictures of beautiful Colorado and of a partially amused Brett. We have to wait for a while and when we finally start moving, we’re way more than 40-minutes behind schedule. We still have to get over McClure Pass and the valley beyond. Again, there’s nothing we can do about it, so we just keep on truckin’. The scenery just gets more and more amazing – it’s still going to be an OK day.

On the way over the pass, Brett and I see a field full of white stones. Odd. Never seen so many white stones… oh, wait. They’re moving. Those aren’t stones at all. The entire field is full of sheep. Hundreds of them. Baby ones too. Brett questions what we are seeing, “What the flock?” Yes, our Brett; lover of puns. The valley just beyond McClure Pass is greener that I have ever seen it. There are waterfalls, little streams and flowers blooming everywhere. There are also lots of ‘horsies’ and very happy cows. As we pull into the final stretch of our drive, we see another animal off to the side of the road. This is epic readers. By this sighting, we may have just missed answering a question that has perplexed man for ages. Why did the chicken cross the road? We couldn’t stop and ask him. We have places to be.

Brett has done a great job as pilot; he’s made up considerable time (no, he hasn’t been speeding; at least not the whole time). We pull into Carbondale in time for him to drop me off at the workshop/performance location so I can get ready while the others go check into the hotel. Then they’ll make their way back so they can set up and eventually take part in the workshop. As I enter the location, there’s a sign about tonight’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. I meet up with my contacts Amy and Jennifer, who are both fabulous and work tremendously hard to make sure the arts are a big part of people’s lives here in Carbondale. Thank you for all you do ladies and for your support in getting us here!

I get myself set for the workshop. Today, I’ll be working with students who are part of the SOL Theater Company. They range in age from elementary school – high school and teaching a workshop to multiple ages will be a challenge. The Young Artists and Taylor get back just as the students begin arriving. We hold the workshop for a few minutes to wait for some latecomers, so I let them watch how the Young Artists put the set together. With a cue from Jennifer that all the students have arrived, I start the workshop. Taylor joins me and we start with the Name Game for an ice breaker. I know right away that we’re going to have a good class. The kids are incredibly creative and invested in learning everything they can about performance skills. The Young Artists join us as they finish setting up for Romeo & Juliet. I begin a game called “environment” where the students have to react physically and emotionally to whatever settings I call out. I give them things like “on the moon,” “across broken glass,” or “in a bowl of chewed up bubble gum.” It’s during this last one that something hilarious happens. One of the girls in the class comes up with perhaps the most creative way to address this environment that I have ever seen. She gets Brett to give her a piggyback ride. He plays his part well  and the duo makes it safely to less squishy ground.

As the workshop ends, we spend time on expressing emotions in a way that’s big enough for the stage. Then we take questions from the students. Their questions are just like them, thoughtful and focused. These kids are serious about the performing arts. They ask a question about how to handle rejection when you don’t get the part you want. It’s here that the Young Artists and Taylor shine. They are encouraging and supportive, but they’re honest too. They talk about putting the focus on being as prepared as you can and always doing your best. The rest, you take as it comes. It’s not easy but it is something you have to be prepared to deal with if you want a career in the performing arts. Instead of being put off by this answer, it’s clear the students appreciate hearing the truth. Questions keep coming in and we answer as many as we can. We have to end the class, but we stay behind and talk to the students one on one so that no one leaves without getting their questions answered. 
It’s time for a break for dinner before tonight’s show. I drop everyone off downtown and then Brett helps me get checked into the hotel. I grab what I need for tonight but we don’t have a lot of time, so I scramble around as quickly as I can and… I lock my keys in the room. Yes indeed this is going to be… has been… a day. I’ll deal with it later. We head back downtown and grab something to eat (fabulous Thai food). As we’re dining, I’m unable to engage in conversation. No – I am not still wishing that we had stayed to watch that darn chicken – there is a man in the restaurant who is wearing a duck bill on his head and a hotdog costume. He is holding up the cut out of an elephant’s head, people take his picture and then, he leaves. Moments after that a couple comes in. She’s wearing something that looks like Raggedy Anne met Brünnhilde and he’s wearing a Superman onesie. What is happening and do I need to fear for my safety? No. The town is holding a scavenger hunt.

Dinner break over, we head back to the performance location. I have the Young Artists do a dialogue drill in the car and Taylor helps move things along by making piano sounds. As soon as we arrive, we do a fight call and then run over any sections in the score that we need to so everyone is comfortable. As the audience arrives, we sequester ourselves in the green hallway (for it is not an actual room). I talk with the Young Artists before they go on. This is the last Romeo & Juliet that we have this season and the production will be retired for a while after this. I’ve pushed them incredibly hard on this show; challenged them dramatically. I tell them to just go out there and tell the story; to enjoy the moment. We hold for 15-minutes because people are still arriving and more chairs have to be set up. Finally, Amy begins the opening remarks and then I go out and do the opening narration. Daniel takes over with the Shakespeare prologue and the show begins. I know in the first 10-minutes that this is not only going to be a good show, but the audience is enthralled. They are laughing at every funny moment, reacting with audible sighs in the love duets and shock in the fight scene. The Young Artists take that energy and deliver one of the finest performances they’ve given all year. We reach the death scene and I can hear people crying. They’re not the only ones. This time, they got me too and that doesn’t happen often. Brett’s death scene as Romeo is stunning and wrenching; Leah is a heartbreaking Juliet. You can hear a pin drop as Taylor lets the final notes ring. This is what I wanted; for this final Romeo & Juliet to showcase the Young Artists’ talent and Opera Colorado as an organization in a way that says – THIS is what opera is. This is how it can move you, inspire you, take you on a journey. That is what they did. I think they’re all aware that the energy on stage tonight was special. It’s especially poignant for Brett – this was his final Romeo with us as a Young Artist. It’s been wonderful to watch him work in this role for the past two seasons.

After bows, we do the Q&A session and get not only questions, but people simply wanting to tell us how much they loved the performance and to thank us for coming. Our hosts have arranged a reception for us so we take a minute to catch our breath and then we spend time mingling with the audience. This includes members of the Carbondale Council for the Arts who helped fund our stop here and provided our lodging for tonight. We are so grateful for their support! Over the next hour, we meet people who love opera, who have been regular opera goers for years and who have never gone to an opera before. Every single person we talk to has nothing but positive things to say about what they just experienced. Notice I didn’t say, “what they saw.” Opera is not about going to watch something on a stage. It’s something you experience.

I love talking to people about Opera Colorado and what we do. I also love to watch the Young Artists in this setting. Leah and Katherine are being hugged by some ladies who are still crying. Andrew is engaged in a very lively conversation with a woman who saw her first opera last year when we came with our production of The Barber of Seville. She tells him that ever since she had that experience, she sings opera at home because she can’t get enough. Daniel is talking with a couple who actually met each other at Opera Colorado’s production of the Tales of Hoffmann in the 1980’s. She says that when she saw him at the opera, she knew he was the one and 30 years later they’re still together. Brett is talking to a woman who admits she has a massive crush on him; his portrayal of Romeo stole her heart . She then pays me one of the best compliments I have ever gotten as a Director. She tells me that I’ve converted her. Turns out, she was one of those people who swore that she would never go to the opera. She hated it. She came tonight because her neighbor organized the reception and needed her help. She said this production and how it was handled literally changed her mind about opera. That’s something that you hope for when you’re putting a production together but you rarely hear. It’s humbling and wonderful. She can’t wait to learn more about it. Brett gives her some suggestions of operas she might like and we invite her to come see something at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House so she can get the full experience. On her way out the door, she has Opera Colorado’s website on her phone. We are asked back over and over and I’m not allowed to make my exit until I promise to come back next year. They want our touring production of Carmen, more workshops and this time, they want to bring us into the schools with Hansel and Gretel. I think we can make that happen.

We say our goodbyes and thank everyone for coming; for the amazing reception, and then we begin the process of loading out. It’s really late and it’s been a very long day, but the Young Artists are laughing and talking to each other as they pack the van; still smiling in reaction to what they did tonight. We get back to the hotel, I get a new key, set the plan for tomorrow then we head to bed. Andrew decides to go to the gym, so I fully expect to find him passed out on the elliptical machine tomorrow morning. Tomorrow will be another long day but it will be all driving. We have to get to Pueblo for back-to-back performances of Hansel and Gretel at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center on Saturday. Time for me to turn in as well.

Seems I was right… it was a great day.

Sleep well readers,


Thursday, May 14, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 3

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Good morning readers. Well, we did not have any bear visits, but we apparently have a Sasquatch in the house. At least that’s what it sounded like at 1:00AM. I looked to my bed guardians for protection as I heard footsteps loudly tromping around and doors slamming. After some investigation, it turns out it was only a nocturnal potty break. After grabbing what additional sleep I can, I decide to get up and start the day. As I walk into the living room, I see Leah curled up on the couch. Brett and Taylor are also up and Katherine appears shortly thereafter.  Next up is Andrew and then Daniel. This would not be a group I would refer to as a morning bunch. Coffee is prepared and slowly, eyes begin to open and, gradually, speech becomes part of the equation.

We get things into gear and head down to the theater to get ready for the first of two workshops with the students of the Lake City Community School. I have my plan in place and will tailor each session to how the students respond to the first activity. While we wait for the first group to arrive, we begin to load out some of the set pieces. Our first group is here; 4th and 5th graders with a couple of middle school students as well. I make introductions and go over what we’ll be doing as well as cover the rules for today’s class. Interactive workshops are something that I tried out on tour last year and it was a big success. We’ll be doing 4 workshops on tour this year, so it seems to be something that’s in demand.

I start off with a game called the “Name Game.” This is an icebreaker so we can get to know each other a little better and I can get them outside of their comfort zones in a fun way. It works liked I was hoping it would and we can move on as I had planned. We play another game called “Machine” that’s designed to help students collaborate and be creative; another game where they have to guess each other’s emotions using facial expressions; we even do a game where we talk about eye contact and how to introduce yourself. These are all performance skills that we, as artists, apply on a daily basis. They are skills that anyone can utilize in their lives. That’s one of the things I love about the performing arts. They naturally teach you skills you need to know.

We move into the theater and the students participate in a vocal session. We do warm ups, talk about breathing, do some diction exercises and tongue twisters. We get them signing with some fun scales and they’re doing really well. Katherine does an exercise with them that is always a favorite with kids. It’s called a siren. You start in the lowest register of your voice and you slide up to the highest and then back down. It sounds… well… like a siren. Their faces light up when Katherine does the example for them and then they get more excited when they themselves get to do a siren a few times. Next, Daniel and Katherine perform for the students. In contrast to what we do with adult audiences where I explain the piece before they sing it, I don’t tell the kids anything about what they will hear. I tell them I want them to watch and listen and then tell me what they think the piece is about. I love doing this. It’s amazing how much they grab by just watching. This is a great game to use the next time you hear someone say that you can’t understand opera. They are pretty surprised when the Young Artists tell them what they were actually singing about and they see just how close they got. The kids were great to work with. I was especially proud of a young man we had who is on the autism spectrum. He participated in every game; even came up and shook our hands at the end and said thank you. His teacher said it’s the first class he’s ever sat through without having to leave. Way to go young man! It’s not something that surprises me though. Music, specifically opera, connects with people in ways you may not expect. I’ve seen it time and time again.

The first workshop ends and we move on to our next item, lunch with our host John Smith. We’re able to spend time talking about the community and its history and getting to know a little more about John himself. Leah and John quickly bond when they discover they’ve both spent a lot of time in Houston. They talk about their favorite restaurants, best places to relax; you know the important things. The food is good, the company is friendly and best of all, the atmosphere is relaxed. You’ll never know how much we appreciate times like this. Often, when we’re at receptions or dinners, we’re so busy talking about what we do, we don’t always get a chance to relax and enjoy the time we have with the people we’re meeting.  John snaps a group photo before we head off to our second workshop and he tells us just how much our visits mean to this community. He says that we add value to their lives. We were the very first opera company to perform here six years ago and that relationship has continued.

Time again jumps forward and, just like that, we’re greeting our second group of students; this time we have high school. I am running on empty. Few people realize just how much energy you have to invest when you’re leading a workshop; and I haven’t recovered from my Sasquatch interrupted sleep… Brett takes the lead on a lot of this workshop so that I can focus my energy on helping the students refine their skills through the games we play. High school can be tricky. Sometimes they don’t want to participate in much of anything. This group is not like that. After the icebreaker game, they are all in and everyone, including us, is having a ball. Brett leads them though “Machine.” In this game, students build a machine using themselves as the parts. Each person chooses one sound and one accompanying movement that they can repeat and, bit by bit, other people join in and a machine is built. It’s a game that teaches collaboration, non-verbal communication, rhythm, focus and working together towards a common goal; all skills we use every day in opera. During one round, the students build a machine in space; in another they create a machine that works in lava. It was hilarious to watch, but for me, as a director, there are few things better than seeing creativity come to life. The more the students get into it, the more excited Brett gets and that helps them to take risks and try things outside of their comfort zone. The other Young Artists start participating in the games too and pretty soon, we’ve got a room full of creative artists.

After a few more games, we move back into the theater space and go through the vocal portion of the workshop. We’ve got them singing in no time and we’re giving them bigger challenges than our first group. One tongue twister proves particularly difficult: “red leather, yellow leather, lavender leather.” Oh, and you don’t just say it, you sing it on a scale. Taylor then really gets them working vocally by singing the Do-Re-Mi scale but using numbers and clapping. It was fabulous. We move on to the Young Artists singing for the students and this time we talk about the role opera has played in challenging people’s stereotypes. Katherine sings a pants role aria from Romeo & Juliet and Brett does the Witch’s aria from Hansel and Gretel. Without any help from us, the students grab the stories and characters right away. We end the workshop with a Q&A session and they have more questions than I thought they would after having just spent an hour with us. “How do we train our voices like that? “ “Why did we get into opera?” Each answer brings another question and we run out of time. As the students leave, a lot of them come up and shake our hands and thank us for coming. We not only had fun, I think we were able to teach them a few things they can use. I’m even able to give my business card to a young man who wants to go into vocal performance and said he just needs someone to talk with about it. That’s another part of what we do. We’re a resource for people.

After the students leave, we finish loading out and I relinquish my key to the theater. We head back to the cabin for a break before dinner. Everyone enjoys their down time while I use the break to get some work done. Break over, we all load up in the pseudo-Yukon and make the drive to our dinner location. We’re being hosted by Harvey Duchene. Kathy, Harvey’s wife had to leave town, so Jasha, another member of the community, jumped in to help.

As we arrive at the house, we are treated to one amazing view after another. The house sits at the top of the ridge and overlooks the valley, the river, a mountain pond and all of the snow covered peaks. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We’re immediately greeted by our host and the conversations begin. Harvey tells us about the house, his career as a geologist and his love of green chili. My interest is peaked. As a native of New Mexico, any time green chili is mentioned, the heart strings begin to flutter. Harvey picks up on that and says he has something to show me. He brings out something I haven’t seen since relocating to Colorado – a New Mexico lobos coffee mug. Turns out, Harvey and I share an alma mater! Leah and Katherine and I talk about traveling and all of the places we’ve seen or want to see. Brett and Taylor are talking and laughing, so they’re surely up to something. Andrew and Daniel are talking to Jasha. It’s a very comfortable, relaxed setting and we feel quite welcomed.

Pre-dinner conversation comes to a close as Harney tells us about the meal he has prepared. We’ll be dining on food from the Yucatan region tonight. Harvey then proceeds to guide us all through a lesson on why this culture’s food is so different and unique from the surrounding areas. It’s fascinating and I feel like we’re not only getting dinner tonight, but a fabulous show as well. We give him a well-deserved round of applause and dinner begins. Now, unless you are a fan of green chili, I can’t quite put into words what happens next – at least for me. One of tonight’s dishes is New Mexico Green Chili Stew. It tastes like home. When you work as an artist and move around a lot, moments like this become pretty poignant. The food is amazing; Taylor informs me that it’s the best thing he’s ever put in his face. Brett… he’s happy and announces that he wants the pickled onions in place of salt and pepper for all future meals.

Once the yummy noises die down, dinner conversation picks up and stories are shared. I learn some things about the Young Artists that I never knew. For example, Daniel has experienced a new year’s tradition in Naples. Apparently they throw old appliances out of windows; and not just toasters or microwaves. We’re talking refrigerators folks. This “out with the old” celebration isn’t for the faint of heart but, nothing really says New Year’s better than lofting heavy objects out of a window onto unsuspecting passersby . I also find out that Leah has a clear grasp on the obvious. Harvey’s dining room table is made from the old support beams from the house. They were 8 feet thick and 19 feet long. Leah stands and attempts to lift the table. She says that it’s heavy. Yes… yes it is Leah. There’s another story about Leah getting out of a speeding ticket when she started to cry. OK, a lot of females try that to get out of a ticket. For our Leah, this was no ploy. She had just been to the dentist and found out that she had a cavity. When she got pulled over, it all just became too much and she lamented her fate to the officer. He let her go with a warning. This story leads to Daniel telling us he got a ticket for jaywalking – his feelings towards the ticketing officer, “Thanks a lot Barney Fife.”  In high school, Andrew once decided to race an undercover officer. He reduced his speed from 120 to 100 when he got on the beltway and was then pulled over. The officer asked for his license and registration, which he produced. The officer responded that he was sure the car was stolen. He then asked Andrew where he was going in such a hurry. Andrew replied, “A chorus concert.” He got off with a warning.  The stories continue and soon we’re all laughing so hard that we lose track of where one tale ends and another begins.

During dessert, Harvey tells us stories of the encounters he’s had with bears and mountain lions on his property. Once he was visited by a mama bear with her two cubs. The mama bear was teaching her babies how to get into a house. He also tells us that it’s an honor to be able to have us as his guests for dinner and he thanks us for bringing art to their town. The honor, sir, is all ours.  We have been welcomed into this community with open arms and sharing opera with Lake City has been a joy. Before we want to, it’s time to go. We have a long drive to Carbondale tomorrow and have a workshop with students and a performance of Romeo & Juliet. We bid out host goodbye and give him and Jasha our sincere thanks for a very special evening. I snap a group shot before we load into the car.

On the way down the mountain, Katherine announces she wants to see a bear. If no bear is available for viewing, then a mountain “kitty” will do. I’m not sure Katherine has fully grasped the concept of the word “predator…” Brett, feeling inspired, performs an impromptu piece set to the tune of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. He rhymes well. Back at the cabin, everyone gets settled for the night. Leah, Katherine, Brett, Taylor and I hang out in the living room and talk while Andrew and Daniel take one last visit to the hot tub. We get on the topic of state songs and Taylor and Brett come up with a plan for the finale of the Young Artists Farewell on May 31st. They will write a medley of southern spirituals and mash that up with the piece “Did You Ever See An Elephant Fly” from Dumbo. Seeing that I am hesitant, they change tactics, moving to Romeo & Juliet. Brett will sing Romeo with a Scottish accent while Leah performs Juliet while juggling. Katherine, as Stephano, will sing with a southern accent and play the saxophone. Time for bed!

It’s late and it’s been a long day. Before any more creativity flows forth, we all turn in. Andrew and Daniel are still in the hot tub, but I figure if a bear shows up, they can put their speeding and jaywalking experience to good use.

Tomorrow will be a long day with a lot to do, but we’re looking forward to taking opera to another community. Time to rest so we can get to it!

Night readers,


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 2

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Morning readers! Want to hear something neat? I got to bed before midnight last night. Two minutes till, in fact. Want to hear something even neater? All of us were able to get a bit of rest last night. When you’re traveling around from place to place, sleeping in different places, living out of a suitcase, it’s not easy to get a good night’s sleep, so any night when we grab 5-hours or so is a good night. Leah, Katherine, Andrew and Daniel decide to enjoy the hotel breakfast while Brett, Taylor and I head to a local hot spot. Some things are worth walking across the street for. Pancakes with homemade cinnamon syrup are among those things.

Breakfast ingested, we get everything packed into the car. It goes quicker than yesterday since we actually know where things fit now. Vehicles loaded, we begin our drive to Lake City. Today’s weather report – partly cloudy and windy. There’s a storm moving in later today and we may get some snow overnight. Daniel comments that it’s a nice day today. He’s not wrong; at the moment we still have some blue sky, so we’re enjoying the beautiful scenery as we make our way to Monarch Pass. The car is very quiet this morning. Not sure if that means everyone is taking it all in or if we’ve just reached the point that we have nothing left to say to each other…

Brett comments about the road, wondering just how in the heck they built it. I’ve wondered that too. I’ve also wondered what it was like for the pioneers who settled these mountain towns. There they are, traveling though the lovely valleys and bam! Mountain.  I would imagine, as they were looking up at those snow covered peaks, the words “Nope” were uttered by someone. We make it over Monarch pass (there’s still a lot of snow up here) and head into Gunnison where we’re stopping for groceries. We have a cabin for the next two nights that Lake City is housing us in and we want to get supplies. When you’re on the road and you have a chance to not eat in a restaurant, you take it. Groceries in hand, we somehow get them and ourselves back into the cars and hit the road again.

The scenery changes from mountain vistas to really cool rock formations and a river with stunningly blue water. Brett, who is in his second year with the program, slept through this drive last year. This year, awake and observant, his comment is “How are we not in another state by now?” No wormhole here, we are, in fact, still in Colorado. We keep driving and the road ends at our destination, Lake City. We head to the theater and snap a group photo by the marquis. We’re on the marquis! Peggy, one of the many wonderful locals, comes and unlocks the theater for us. I know this is how she spells her name because Leah asks if she is Peggy with a “y” or an “ie.” Leah likes to know about people.

While Assistant Road Manager Andrew leads the charge in unload the set, Road Manager Brett and I walk to our housing so I can get the layout and he can protect me from bears. We’re staying in a cabin that overlooks the town. It’s lovely. We’ll need to be a little creative with sleeping arrangements, but I have a plan. I’ll be assigning the room downstairs that has two single beds and bunk beds to Leah, Katherine, Andrew and Daniel. I will be on the next level up. Here’s where I must digress for a moment… The headboard in the room I’ll be in is an amazing sight. It seems to have been carved from a tree from Mount Olympus. It’s hard to describe. Let’s just say, I won’t exactly be sleeping alone tonight.  The headboard has a likeness of Zeus or something like that on it. He’s flanked by scantily clad figures on each side and the foot board is carved too; with faces that curl up into branches of some kind. Can’t wait to see what I dream about with this inspiration surrounding me… Digression over. I’ll assign the top level to Brett and Taylor. This is a call made based on safety. Occasionally, when sleeping, Brett issues forth noises that are eerily similar to an Ursidae. In layman’s terms, a bear. I fear, leaving him on the ground level, we may have some furry, but toothy visitors. Taylor is the logical choice to room with Brett on the top level. He has ear plugs. We’ll make it work. There are also couch options in the living room. We are tremendously grateful to the community to providing us housing for the next two nights!

We walk back to the theater and join in the set up process. We get a few details ironed out in terms of the space and then we all head to the cabin to unload the luggage, put the groceries away and take a quick break for lunch. Andrew is having steak for lunch. Not kidding. He’s looking quite happy at the stove. In no time (see, time again), we head back to the theater to rehearse for tonight’s performance. Since this is Taylor’s first time playing for the group, it’s important that we take some time to go over music for the Arias and Ensembles and run through Hansel and Gretel – that’s right, the whole show. It’s a good thing we do too, because there are several issues that pop up with the musical timing and others with the staging because the stage is quite compact. I’m able to get things figured out and we take a break before dinner. Brett and I don’t have long though, we have to meet Brenda at the theater who will be setting our lights and running them for the show. There are so many details to a live performance that people may not think about. We get the lights set as the rest of the group walks into the theater and we head to dinner. This community is amazing. They’re providing us dinner tonight and tomorrow at night as well. Tonight’s meal is being served at the school.

Our wonderful chef, Shawn and our hostess Debi are delightful and the food is yummy. Over dinner, the conversation picks up. We discuss many things. This group is quite intellectual. Topics are: medications you can use to combat the high altitude blues, various ways that Brett can interpret Rosina Daintymouth (aka the Witch) for tonight’s performance of Hansel and Gretel (I think Satchmo Daintymouth is a universal favorite), Disney movies (the guys make questionable comments about Bambi and venison), who our favorite James Bond is (Katherine and I are prone to Daniel Craig) and the political beliefs of Daniel’s gondola boss (no, that is not a mafia term, he is in fact employed as a gondolier). We finish up dessert and head back to the theater to get into performance mode.

Everyone warms up and finishes changing for the beginning of the evening, which will be an Arias & Ensembles program. I’ve selected pieces that will give a good representation of opera; some well-known and some not as familiar. Brett has located the costumes and props storehouse and is making some very thoughtful additions to tonight’s Witch attire. He chooses a lovely pair of pearl earrings and a purple hat with red ostrich feathers. It’s become a bit of a tradition to incorporate some of the theater’s props into our performances here and the audience loves it. Daniel gets into the spirit and lets Brett choose some items for him as well for his role of the Sandman. The items are a grey beard and mustache that look like dryer lint and a sombrero. Inspired by his transformation, Daniel launches into his aria as the Sandman with an accent that would pay homage to Speedy Gonzales. In the minutes before we take the stage, we hold an impromptu pageant where Leah and Brett compete for the honor of Guacamole Queen. We have a sash and everything. Yes, we’re being silly, but it’s this type of behavior that can get you energized when you’re feeling tired. Everyone is laughing and the energy in the room is great.

Show time. I’m introduced by John Smith, who spearheads bringing us to Lake City. We’ve built a fabulous collaborative relationship over the years and this community is excited that we’re here. The great thing… even though this is a small town, we’re reaching new people each time we perform. There are people in the audience tonight who have never seen one of our performances before. I take the stage and introduce Taylor and begin the first half of the program. The audience is responsive and they’re cheering as the first half ends. Now there’s a brief intermission as we set for Hansel and Gretel and everyone gets into costumes and makeup. This is not a small task. Not when you have the gorgeous Katherine Sanford who becomes Hansel, the dashing Brett Sprague who morphs into the Witch; our elegant Leah Bobbey has to turn herself into a little girl, complete with doe-eyes. Ah, the magic of live theater.

Costumes and makeup complete, I introduce the second half of the program and talk a bit about we take an opera from a full score to an abridged performance and then, we’re off.  I’ve directed this show over several seasons now; this season is its third run. I’ve got every note, every word memorized. I can honestly say, I never get tired of it. I love being able to put the frame on a production and watch as the talented artists bring it to life. The audience is loving it as well and before we know it, we’re at bows; our audience cheering for each person.

We begin the Q&A portion of the evening, something we do after every performance. Yes, it adds to our workload and the hours we put in, but it’s so important to give our audiences a chance to connect with us and what we do on a personal level. Questions start off slow, but they pick up. There’s one woman in the audience; this is her first performance with us, who has question after question. She’s excited and clearly eating up every bit of information we provide. I believe we have a new opera lover in our midst. One of the questions we get is “How do you think this program helps you as artists?” Leah talks about how it’s a bridge between college and mainstage work. Katherine talks about how it helps emerging artists make connections in the business. Andrew talks about the importance of getting to learn by doing and Brett rounds things out by talking about the fact that they are working at what they love; basically living their dream. Well said all.

We end the evening by talking one on one with a few of our audience members and I grin to myself as I watch people leave. Not a single person leaves the theater without a smile on their face. That means we’re doing something right. We decide not to load out tonight. We’re getting tired, it’s getting late and we’ll be back in the theater tomorrow for workshops with students. Everyone gets out of costume as I mingle with the final few guests. Taylor decides to walk back to the cabin and the rest of us are close behind. Before we leave, I’m given the key, not to the city, but to the theater. How amazing to have this kind of relationship with a community.

At the cabin, we gather at the dining room table and chat about anything that pops up and snack as the post-performance munchies kick in. I suddenly realize that Daniel is not among us. He’s apparently walked back into town to converse with the locals. The rest of us decide to play a game called “Telestrations.” The best way to describe it is a visual version of the game Telephone. You start with a word and then the next person draws a picture that represents that word. Then it is passed and you repeat; guess, draw, guess, draw, until you end up where you started. The goal is to have the word you started with be the same word you end with. This does not happen often. What happens is… well… hilarious. On one round we started with ‘key lime pie.’ By the end of the round, it had turned into ‘packman bomb birthday.’ ‘Small talk’ became ‘neck pain,’ ‘racket ball’ took a turn as ‘cookie machete’ and ‘Mother Nature’ became ‘pregnant forest.’ The most memorable one was ‘termite’ which somehow morphed into something that is banned from this blog. Does this give you a glimpse into the psyche of the people I am traveling with? Brett laughed so hard he actually squeaked.

It’s grown late and we decide to turn in. We quickly figure out a shower schedule and bid each other goodnight. Andrew and Daniel decide to hit the hot tub, which I didn’t even know we had. I’m hoping it’s that and not some sort of bear watering trough. Tomorrow promises to be a day that we have to be on our toes. We have two workshops with students on performance skills and the Young Artists will sing a few pieces for them as well. You never know what you’re going to get when you’re working with kids. I have a game plan ready, but I also know that I will need to be flexible once I see them in action. We’re meeting one of our hosts for lunch and we also have to load out. There’s repertoire to plan for upcoming programs too. Oh, and then there’s dinner with members of the community. It’s never dull, that’s for sure and every new event is another opportunity to talk about opera and Opera Colorado.
It’s time to turn in. Thanks for reading today’s blog. We’d love for you to ‘share’ it with others, ‘comment,’ ‘like,’ ‘tweet,’ whatever it is that you do in the cyber-social-world. We love knowing that others are following us on our journey.

Till tomorrow,