Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – The Prequel…

Readers… Guess what? It’s blog time! Yes, that’s right – the blogs from Opera Colorado’s Greater Colorado Tour 2015 are about to begin. I know. You’ve been waiting all year, right? Well… you’re wait is over… almost. This blog is a bit of a teaser. A prequel if you will. We’re taking a short jaunt to Gunnison for a couple of days; prepping for the more extensive experience. The longer tour happens in May. We had a small window of time before rehearsals begin for this little opera we’re doing. You may have heard of it… The Magic Flute? Anyone?  Madama Butterfly was a huge hit this past fall and we’ve been performing non-stop with our touring productions Hansel and Gretel and Romeo & Juliet, Arias & Ensembles, not to mention the premiere of the abridged concert reading of The Scarlet Letter. We are busy! So busy in fact, that our mini-tour has outgrown its time frame. We’re not just headed to Gunnison, but to Alamosa, Estes Park and Ft. Collins too. So many locations are asking for us that the 2-weeks in May booked before we knew it and we had to find additional dates to take opera to Colorado!

Let me introduce you to our group this year; the Opera Colorado Young Artists. You’ll be getting to know them as the blogs from tour progress. The incredibly talented line up is as follows: Leah Bobbey (soprano), Katherine Sanford (mezzo soprano), Brett Sprague (tenor), Andrew Paulson (baritone), Daniel DeVicente (bass baritone) and Allan Armstrong, our accompanist. Oh, and there’s me – your blogger and cruise director, Cherity Koepke.

There are two words to sum up how mini-tour day 1 begins. Epic. Fail. Is there some sort of national convention in town that I am unaware of? Or are the masses descending on Denver for St. Patrick’s Day? What? There must be something happening because the amount of traffic I encounter on my way to pick up the group is mind-numbing. Knowing I had to travel roughly 18 miles and knowing I would encounter Monday morning traffic, I left my house at 6:40AM. No accidents, no traffic arrests… no breaking for geese crossing the highway… I arrive at the pick-up location at 8:00AM – 30-minutes behind schedule.

I roll to a stop and am greeted by 6 smiling faces. Well… not really. There are 6 faces and they do greet me cordially, but they’re not actually smiling. This is not a morning group. We quickly jump into action and Leah, packer extraordinaire, gets everything loaded into the vehicles. In 5-minutes flat, we’re on the road and back on schedule. We’re making good time... for about 2-minutes. Then we encounter more traffic. Next year, I might look into renting a small hovercraft. Frustration continues to mount. By the time we get out of town and into the mountains, we’re behind schedule and we’ve lost 2 members of the traveling party. Nothing underhanded; nothing done out of frustration. They’re fine. Daniel and Allan are in his car as he has to leave tonight to get to a wedding and then rejoin us tomorrow. They took a wrong turn. They’ll meet us in Gunnison.

Finally, we’re actually moving down the road. Brett and Leah are with me in the rental tank (biggest Suburban I’ve ever seen) and Andrew is driving the Yukon with Katherine as his co-pilot. The Yukon… yes, readers, it’s still with us. It’s still running… I’ve decided not to talk about it in hopes that the vehicle will play nice on this trip. The candy cane cage is strapped to the top. We think that it might lend some additional aerodynamics. We get questions about it every time we stop. People think it’s a sled, or a highly decorative cattle guard. We climb higher in elevation and the scenery gets more beautiful with every turn. The Rocky Mountains are covered in snow and the sky is blue. We’re all feeling a bit better. That lasts for about 5 miles until we pass the first of 3 consecutive, unfortunate animals off to the side of the road… formerly known as skunks. Blah. My eyes actually start to water. Leah announces that the smell doesn’t bother her. Brett responds that his body hurts. Conversation in my vehicle… quite stimulating.

Arrival in Gunnison
Continuing on our way, we see deer and more amazing scenery and voilĂ , we’re in Gunnison. On time too. We make a quick stop for lunch where we are reunited with Allan and Daniel and then it’s time to head over to the school to get ready for our afternoon performance of Hansel and Gretel.  Brett and I go into the school to check us in and we meet the principal whose enthusiasm for our visit is contagious. We’ve even made the school bulletin. It’s so great to see the community’s support for what we’re doing. We begin the task of loading in, setting up and getting into costume and makeup. There’s always little hiccups during this process – today the backdrop is about 4 inches shorter than normal (how it shrinks in the bag is mystifying) the cage won’t go together without a fight and there are stairs just inches away from where we’ll be performing, so we’ll have to be extra aware. The Young Artists are subdued; their early morning clearly catching up with them. It’s either that or the lack of oxygen to their brains… I catch Brett in a very pensive moment. It’s a great shot. Art really. I call it “Witch in repose.” Everyone is ready just as the students begin coming in to take their seats. The energy is still really low so I go backstage to give a little pep talk. It seems to work because out of the corner of my eye, I see Daniel doing a dance that I can only be described as part Chicken Dance and part Samba. He’s dressed in a floor length sea-green tunic with matching turban too, so the effect is quite remarkable. The fluttery sleeve-action is my favorite part.

"Witch in Repose"
I’m able to quit giggling in time to get ready to do the introduction. As Allan and I wait behind the curtain, we hear the students begin to sing. I peep through the curtain and I see they are singing Do-Re-Mi and doing the sign language that accompanies it. I whisper this to the cast and BAM – that’s it, we have instant motivation. Leah can’t deal with all the cuteness and uses all of her emotion to get ready to sing Gretel. Introduction, curtain open – we we’re off.

Katherine and Leah do a fabulous job with the opening and manage to avoid tumbling down the stairs during their choreographed dance. Andrew does a great job with his scene as the Father, we move on to the forest and Sandman scene, which go well and then, we’re there – it’s time for the Witch to appear. I love to watch the kid’s faces as they see this character for the first time.  It’s not every day you get to see a witch with purple pigtails and a beard! They love it and the energy on stage between Leah, Katherine and Brett is fabulous. The students are laughing and clapping and by the end of the show we hear 200 little voices all shouting “bravo!”

Hansel and Gretel in Gunnison
I go out to start the Q&A and make sure that Allan gets another round of applause. He has to leave now but he’ll rejoin us tomorrow. With one more huge BRAVO, the cast comes out and we take questions from the audience. We never know what we’re going to get – today’s questions are great. How long have you been singing opera? How do you get those costumes? Was there a boy playing a girl? Is the candy real? There are more questions than we have time for, so we thank everyone for coming and we say goodbye. I’ve been doing this for more than 7 years now and it never gets old. As we get out of costume and begin to load out, we can hear the kids talking about the show and singing.

Load out goes pretty smoothly thanks in large part to our exceptional Road Manager Brett and master strategist Andrew. He’s got this packing thing down to a science! We’re loaded up and its time to head to our hotel. We get checked in, unload the cars and everyone decides what they want to do with their free time this evening. Andrew is going to read and go to the gym. Leah and Katherine are going to rest and then hit the pool. Daniel… not sure, he may already be napping. Brett and I decide to drive in to Crested Butte. It’s one of our favorite places in Colorado and neither of us has been there in a several years.

The drive doesn’t take long and the scenery… not sure there are words. Snow covered mountains and a little alpine village. We look around town for a bit and I suddenly remember – it’s Spring Break. This epiphany is brought on by watching hordes of teenagers roam around. One particular party that Brett and I watch with interest is enacting a battle with light-up, neon green plastic swords. There was much carnage on the battle field my lords and ladies. And much laughter and eye rolling from us. We grab dinner at the local gem, Secret Stash pizza and then head back to the hotel in Gunnison. The drive in uneventful, which is good because it gets really dark out here! At the hotel we see the ladies who have enjoyed the pool and we meet up with Daniel who also enjoyed the aquatic amenities. Andrew must still be reading. Brett and I work for a bit in the business center before everyone turns in. We’ve got a full day tomorrow. Time to hit the hay!
Katherine teaches a masterclass at Western State 
Day two in Gunnison is a busy one as expected. We teach a masterclass at Western State University in the afternoon where the Young Artists work directly with their vocal undergrads. I chime in as needed; the Young Artists do a great job. They’re supportive and encouraging, but honest, which is something I firmly believe in. After the masterclass, we spend time rehearsing for tonight’s performance. Rehearsals done, on our way back to the car, I comment that I can hear sand hill cranes. They make a distinctive cooing noise. Katherine’s description… they sound like big pigeons. After rehearsals we have a short break, and then head off to grab dinner. Tonight’s restaurant destination… a steakhouse. No, we did not suddenly decide to throw caution (and our paychecks) to the wind. This is one of the few restaurants that was actually open tonight. It’s a good choice, if only for the fact that I got to watch the group try Rocky Mountain Oysters. Now… I get their trepidation. It’s not easy to think of dining on a bull’s nether regions. But, I’m all for being adventurous. Brett has had them before, so he’s easy to convince. Leah is generally pretty brave, so she goes for it. Katherine is harder to convince, but she gives them a try. Daniel is persuaded. Andrew… well, after he and Allan trade comments that makes the buffalo on the wall blush, he gives them a try too. We move on from the dining adventure to Allan playing the role of server and offer freshly cracked black pepper to the table – our waitress gets in on the joke by remarking that this is not Olive Garden. Dinner done, we head back to the hotel to change and then it’s a dash to the performance location.

We park and walk to the recital hall. In the distance, we hear the faint strains of music… is it… yes, it is! It’s steel drum band. We’re hoping we can persuade them to accompany us on our finale from Weekend in the Country. We get set and the audience begins to arrive. It’s a great crowd and every age group is represented from kids to seniors. I start off the program and Andrew takes the stage with Largo – a crowd pleaser for sure. The program goes really well. Brett has learned two Irish tenor pieces in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and they’re a hit. We even manage to use a bottle of Irish whiskey as a prop and it gets a big laugh. After the finale is over and the applause dies down, we begin the Q&A. At first, all of the questions come from the kids in the audience. It seems they saw a performance at their school yesterday… something called Hansel and Gretel. How cool! They came tonight because they were so excited about what we’re doing AND they brought their parents. One young lady asks Katherine why she had short red hair during the performance yesterday and today her hair long and black. I personally get a huge kick out of the fact that Brett doesn’t get a question as to why his hair was in purple pony tails. Apparently that transformation wasn’t quite as noticeable… Once we get the audience warmed up, the questions start to fire. This may seems like a small thing, but being able to connect with your audience like this is such a fabulous opportunity. They’ve just had an experience that they truly enjoyed and now we get to share more about what we do and about Opera Colorado.
Questions rang from “what is it like to do this for a living,” to “how much time do we spend rehearsing” and more. One question was, “Do you remember your very first role?” I do. Kindergarten. Fairy Princess. Complete with tutu and point shoes. Brett jumps in with his response next… “Same.” Now THAT I would have loved to see. We also get asked if any of us are married to which I respond, “Not to each other.” Our Andrew is newly married to the lovely Abby who is also an opera singer. It’s not easy, but they’re making it work.  It’s time to call it a day. We say our goodbyes and offer a sincere thank you for having us and then head back to the hotel.

Readers… I could continue on with more stories of what happened back at the hotel or tales of our trip to Alamosa, Estes Park or Ft. Collins, but that’s it for now. As I said, this is just a little teaser of what’s to come when we hit the road for real in May. I hope you’ll join us on the journey. It’s certain to be an interesting ride!

As you follow us on tour, I’m going to ask something of you too. Readers… “Like” us, “Share” us, “Tweet” or “Comment” – whatever it is that you do in cyber-world. We want people to know what we’re up to and how we’re sharing the wonderful world of opera with everyone we can.  

‘Till May,


Thursday, May 29, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – day 11

Good morning readers! This is it… the last day of tour. Today’s blog will be a teeny bit shorter due to the itinerary… and blogger fatigue. I guess you could call today a day off; we won’t be performing, but spending the day driving back to Denver. Yes, for us, at this stage of the game, that qualifies as a day off.

Everyone gets up and has breakfast on their own schedule today. We set a time to meet up last night before we all turned in. It was greeted with groans, but they’re all here and basically on time. We load the passenger beastie one final time and hit the road. We found out last night that Independence Pass is open (as of today) so we’re taking that route. It saves us whopping 20-minutes on our drive. I snap a few final pics of the view and the beautiful Columbines that are outside our hotel and we bid goodbye to Carbondale. What a fantastic place to end our tour!

We pass through Basalt and make our way to Aspen. The car is quiet; everyone is tired including the driver. Brett is my co-pilot this morning and does his best to program tunes to keep me awake. He settles on the soundtrack from Frozen (yes readers, even I can’t resist Let It Go). We’ll soon find out that this soundtrack proves to be oddly accurate. The valley here is unbelievably green and it’s definitely warmer than the higher elevations we’ve been visiting lately. As we make our way into Aspen, the mountains have just a touch of snow.

We make the turn that will take us to the start of Independence Pass; Ben is in the lead. We pass beautiful cabins and meadows with ponds full of frogs and begin to climb. The road is a bit narrow here and there, but not unlike others we’ve been on this trip. We come to a spot to pull off and we get out to stretch our legs and take a few photos.
Jared resumes his duties of co-pilot (I think I wore Brett out) and on we go. We go just a few hundred feet and things begin to change rapidly and dramatically. A sign says “road narrows.” No joke – is this a two lane road?! We come to a curve and another car is coming from the other direction. I have to drive on the edge of a cliff in order to make enough room for them to pass. Jared has quite the vantage point; by the end of the turn, he’s almost in my lap. Up and up we go. You know the term “white-knuckle?” Turns out, that’s a real thing. As the road gets even steeper and the turns sharper, I am demonstrating that phrase perfectly. When that no longer helps me, I begin to express feelings about the drive facially. Brett has the best seat in the house as he watches my display in the rearview mirror.

The drive is truly nail biting, but the view… indescribable.
We make it to the summit and it seems that the road was steeper than any of us realized. We’ve crossed over to Antarctica. At least that’s what it looks like. There is so much snow that you feel like you’re in a standing at the top of the world. We spend some time looking around and I watch as the 6 monkeys that I’ve brought with me tromp around in thigh-deep snow. Taylor is wearing flip flops, Colleen has very fashionable boots on while Louise is sporting ballet flats and Brett is wearing shorts and a wind breaker. Clearly we came prepared. Taylor and I have the Young Artists pose by the sign to take one final group shot. “Yeah Tour!”
They flash their best smiles. Then I say “Last day of tour,” expecting another pose. Well… I got one.
Seems we’re all ready to go home and have a little private time.

We manage to get everyone down the snow covered peak safely (opera men; strong like ox) and I take the chance to get a picture with me and the gents.
It’s rare and my opportunity to prove I was actually on this tour and not blogging from the comfort of my lounge chair. Louise, our resident artist, uses the time to leave her mark, literally. She carves “Opera Colorado” into the snow bank; creative lass!
Louise begins to hop which is a sign that the cold has set in and it’s time to go. There are other signs as well; Brett’s legs are blue, Colleen’s boots are frozen, Ben has a touch of snow blindness and Taylor has lost feeling in his feet. Jared…? He’s in heaven. This is a Florida boy who loves the snow. He also loves sharing snow with others. After I have removed Jared’s wintery gift from my shirt, we get back into the cars and continue onward.

The snow on each side of the road is higher than the beastie. While the others are admiring the view and Taylor is alternating between clapping for avalanches and thawing his toes, I notice that we aren’t climbing any more. No – we’re going down. And quickly. This is an adventure that I hadn’t planned on today; Alpine driving. The road literally skirts the side of the mountain. We continue to descend; there’s been so much snow that there’s some pretty substantial road damage that we have to navigate. Did you know that baritones can pass as sopranos when frightened by sheer drop-offs? News to me too. By the time we get to the bottom and make a pit stop, Jared actually has to pry my hand off of the steering wheel. The drive is much less stressful at this point, but I have something else on my mind. I have a promise to fulfill.

This particular promise is a year and a half in the making. For those of you who read last year’s tour blog, you may remember the now infamous hot dog incident of 2013. I promised Jared a visit to the Coney Island hot dog stand in Bailey Colorado. I was unable to deliver this promise as the establishment was closed. It was a dark, dark, day. Jared sulked in the back seat and grudgingly ate Twlizzer Bites, but I knew he wouldn’t forget. I’d have to make good eventually.  We make our way to Bailey and I bite my nails – what if they’re closed…? I have Twizzler Bites on standby, just in case. To my delight, and immense relief (because hungry Jared + cranky Jared = no fun), they’re open and we make our final stop of tour.

We order and sit outside to enjoy our last few moments in the mountains.
It’s a lovely setting with a river, a water wheel and hail the size of marbles. Yes, there’s nothing like it. Eating hot dogs in a hail storm. Colleen documents the weather and the fulfilled promise on video while the rest of us dodge the nasty little ice rockets. Taylor plays bus boy and we all pile back into our seats, ready to make the final approach into Denver. Jared, now sated and happy, will take this final stretch so I can sit back and reflect.

We’ve been gone for 11 days. We’ve traveled more than 1400 miles. We’ve seen some of the most beautiful scenery in all of America. That’s great – but it’s not why we came. We’ve brought opera to students and adults in 8 different communities; some for the very first time; all who have no regular access to it. We’ve worked with students who could be the next generation of performers. We’ve shared Opera Colorado’s mission. We’ve made lasting connections with people through an art form that tells a story through song.

It’s been quite a journey. It always is. Sure, we’re tired; but we’re also feeling pretty great about what we’ve done. This is a privilege and we all know it. I think that’s why we want people to experience it – opera changes you.

Now though, it’s time to put tour aside and focus on the Young Artists’ last week on contract with Opera Colorado. Our work isn’t done yet. I, for one, hope it never will be.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Until next year readers,


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – day 10

Disclaimer – busy day, LOTS to blog about.

The human brain is a funny thing. Sometimes the mere suggestion of something makes the brain construct a reality based on that suggestion. You know like when someone like Taylor Baldwin tells you that the hotel you’re staying in is haunted? Your brain will then spend the night in ghost hunter mode, waiting for something to happen. It’s a psychological fact. At least it is if you have my brain. After spending most of last night listening with my eyes (not a typo), I did manage to get a few hours of sleep. I say good morning to Colleen and Louise and then begin to get ready. By the time Jared and Brett knock on my door to go downstairs for breakfast, I’m almost fully-functioning. I ask the gents if they had anything strange happen in the night and it turns out, we did have some odd occurrences. Nothing scary – just laughter in the hallway, knocking on their walls, their bathroom door got locked from the other side and my shoe (that was under the other one) fell off the dresser onto the floor. Paranormal? Not sure. Possibly Baldwin related.

At breakfast, Ben and Taylor pop up looking oddly tired. Seems that they were up later than they anticipated last night. Hmmm… After further investigation, their lack of energy is due to a late night at a local hang out, not trickery or hauntings. Ben, Taylor and Louise went out after the rest of us turned in and played pool, chatted and made a new friend who was born in South America but considers himself Ukrainian. He apparently liked Louise a lot – he thought she looked well fed. This comment caused Taylor to self-appointed himself as her brother. Their new friend wasn’t such a big fan of Ben’s attire however and thought his western shirt made him look constipated. Now, mind you, I am getting all of this information second hand, at breakfast. Part of me believes it’s all an elaborate ruse to get me off the scent of their part in my sleepless night; the other part of me is too busy laughing.

After breakfast, we walk around the main floor of the hotel and stop to look in the gift shop. They have some neat items. Brett is particularly fond of an artisan soap; the scent is called “Grumpy Old Man.” Not quite sure how one goes about capturing that aroma, but apparently this company has figured it out. Brett decides to head up to his room to get ready and Jared and I decide to walk into town and look around. It’s another beautiful day and the red mountain against the blue sky is stunning.
It’s more humid today, so I’m betting we get rain later. We walk across the bridge towards downtown, avoiding cross walk lights that don’t work, hoards of bees and a walkway over the street that seems to be made of Jell-O. Seriously – it wobbled when you stepped on it and you could see straight through it to the street below. Having safely navigated the perils, we look around mainstreet Glenwood Springs.  In a store window, Jared sees a poster. Cool, he says – someone is doing the Barber of Seville. Oh, wait he says… that’s us! It’s a poster for our performance in Carbondale later tonight. They’ve put them all over town and in surrounding burgs as well. I am very impressed with Jared’s powers of observation.

We make our way into a store to look around and I lock on to something that I know Jared has been wanting for some time. A very stylish fedora. I make him try it on and it’s a perfect fit.
Jared reciprocates my fashion find by making one of his own. Readers, many of you may not be aware of this, but my name is a little tricky to pronounce; first and last. This frequently leads to some pretty funny takes on how to say it. One in particular has caught on with this group and become a nickname of sorts – Cherry Cupcake. In this store, Jared somehow finds cupcake earrings. They are a must have and soon we’re both sporting our lucky finds. We walk around town for a bit longer and then begin the perilous journey across the Jell-O bridge again to get back to the hotel.  We meet up with Brett, who is very engrossed in his book (he’s reading Game of Thrones) and show him our purchases. Colleen and Louise are the next to arrive in the lobby; they’ve been shopping too. Soon, we’re reunited with Ben and Taylor and we get to the business of loading the cars so we can get back on the road. We’re headed to Carbondale today. We’ve got a workshop in the afternoon with students and then a performance for the community in the evening.

It’s a pretty quick drive and other than a conversation about sandwich spreads, it is fairly uneventful. Taylor, Brett and Jared were discussing food and their various likes and dislikes. The subject of sandwich spreads came up. Taylor said something about liking hamas on his. Brett questioned this, asked for clarification as to whether he meant hummus (a spread concocted from chickpeas) or Hamas (a Sunni Muslim Palestinian extremist group). It’s an important educational moment for Taylor. It’s also a really good thing that Jared is driving this morning. After post-haunting fatigue and now this, I’m not sure I could have kept us on the road. We arrive in Carbondale and make our way to the hotel so we can check-in.

We get into our rooms and get settled. It’s lunch time, so Brett and Jared want to head to the mainstreet area and check it out, while the other’s want to rest for a bit and get something to eat later. Since this is the first time Opera Colorado has ever been to Carbondale, I’m eager to look around and learn more about the community; I decide to join Brett and Jared. We hop in the beasty and head into town. It’s not far and we know immediately that we’re in our kind of place. The mainstreet area is small, but full of restaurants, shops and… art. There are signs of an artistic community everywhere. Sculptures, chalk art, public art installations; really interesting and eclectic. We grab something to eat and then take a little time to look around. Brett and Jared force me to go into a lovely antique store. Brett and Jared are not allowed to make me go into stores any more. I pack my purchases into the car and just as we leave to get back to the hotel, it starts to rain.

We collect the other members of our group and then head over the performing arts center where we’ll be performing and holding the workshop. We meet up with our contacts (who are all amazing and welcome us with open arms) and we’re led to the performance space. While Taylor figures out the piano situation (they weren’t aware we needed one…), the Young Artists begin load-in. I go to meet the youth theater director and get set up in the workshop space. I’ll be leading a workshop for students ages 8-18 on performance skills. This group of students had to sign up to be able to attend so they’re all kids that love theater and music. I find out as I’m talking to their director that the workshop is completely full – hooray! I go back to get the rest of our group. They’ve completed set up and we’re ready for the workshop.

We’ve got every age in the spectrum represented, even one that is younger than the 8 year-old cut off; she’s 6. I talk with her mom and tell her they’re welcome to stay and play a few of the games, but that as class goes on, it may get too intense for her. I begin the workshop with introductions and then we play an ice-breaker to help the students get to know each other and us. I want them to take risks today, so it’s important to make time for this kind of activity at the beginning of the class. We go around the room and each person says their name and does a movement that represents something that they like. We have students who like to sing, dance, read and play sports. I encourage each of them and cheer them on. The Young Artists and Taylor are participating too and the students are already laughing at their antics. It’s going well... until we get to a young man named Tyler. Tyler is very bright. He’s a theater kid and, for anyone who has been in theater, you know what that means. Tyler says his name, then stops. I ask him what he likes to do and he says, “sleep.” In encourage him to do a movement to show us that. Tyler proceeds to fall to the floor and “sleep.” Readers… I consider myself to be an articulate, moderately intelligent, fairly expressive person. What follows next will not back any of this up… There he is, Tyler, lying on the floor and I open my mouth and say, very enthusiastically… “OK – let’s all sleep with Tyler!” I didn’t mean it that way. I certainly didn’t hear it that way. It’s a very good thing I was focused on the students and didn’t look back at the Young Artists. Jared, Taylor and Brett almost needed medical attention from holding back their laughter.

Blissfully oblivious, I continue on with the workshop. We do warm up exercises and move to playing improv games. I ask for three of the Young Artists to do a game with me so that the students understand what I’m asking for. The game is called “Sculptor/Sculpture,” Taylor and Brett are statues and Ben is the sculptor. They act out a scene but can only move when Ben puts them into different positions. I’d admit, I was a little nervous about where this might go, but what they did was spectacular. They morphed seamlessly from ballet dancers to monkey impersonators to people who like warm hugs. The students are now completely open to what I ask them to do and having a blast. Before I know it, we’re more than halfway through our time. I move on to Shakespeare. Some of the students are involved in an upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I believe that you can learn things from studying Shakespeare that you can’t learn in other forms of theater. I have cards with Shakespearian insults printed on them and each person has a turn to read one and then someone responds with their card when it fits, acting out each one through vocal expression and physical characterization.

It’s amazing how kids “get” Shakespeare when given the chance. The activity is more successful that I had even hoped and the students are loving it. One young man in the class has severe dyslexia and also a pronounced stutter. I partner with him and he gets up to read his card – flawlessly and not a bauble to be heard! I’m beaming. Next we have little Ruby, who at 6, gets up and reads her Shakespeare card without any help. Now I’m walking on air. Then, we have Emmett, who does not read his card. No… Emmett has memorized his insult and even choreographed movements. We’re all cheering for him and the other students by the time the game is done. Louise helps with another activity on expression and sings Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man from Showboat. I stand back and watch their faces as they listen to her – it’s one of my favorite things to do because their expressions are unguarded and completely priceless.
Unbelievably, we’re out of time and I use the last 8-minutes of class for a question and answer session. What a fabulous afternoon – we are so glad we could work with the students and share a bit of what we know. Keep up the amazing work young ladies and gentlemen!

With the workshop completed, we make a quick dash back to the hotel to grab a few things for tonight and then we make out way back to the mainstreet area for dinner. On the way, Taylor sees a dog in a backyard and calls out, “Puppy!” Unbeknownst to Taylor, the dog’s owner is also in the yard and as the dog begins to bark uncontrollably, he gives Taylor a look that expresses displeasure. Taylor responds, “Sorry, I like dogs.” Everyone decides on their own cuisine tonight. I decide to go for Thai food as do Brett and Jared. Taylor, Colleen, Louise and Ben opt for pizza.  As they walk around town, they see signs of the Barber of Seville everywhere; and not just posters. This town has really gotten into this. They have some chalkboard art and there are even gold combs hung on sculptures.
We find out later that the performing arts center hid a pair of tickets on one of the combs and whoever found it got the tickets. Colleen, Louise and Ben frolic around the area and bond while posing with statues. They cement said bond in the aptly named Friendship Park.

Back at the car, Colleen is good luck – or should I say, Colleen has good luck shared with her.
Yep, a feathered friend deposited its contents upon her. That’s supposed to be good luck… right? She’s get cleaned up and we head back to the theater. We have just enough time for the artists to warm up with Taylor before the audience begins to arrive, almost an hour before curtain. We’re sequestered in the green room and everyone gets into costume and makeup. Grandpa Baldwin gives Master Sprague a lesson on how to tie a bow tie while I sew buttons and hooks onto costumes in need of repair. You have to know how to do it all in this business.

It’s while I’m sewing that I realize something profound. After two years of this production, this will be our final show for a public audience. We have one more next week, but it’s at Children’s Hospital and a very different experience. This is it. Barber of Seville has been the most successful and well-received touring production we’ve ever done. It’s been the production that has come the closest to the vision that lived in my head as I was designing it too. I’m feeling a bit misty. I think Jared is nostalgic too – he’s spent the past two year performing in the show and it’s strange to think that it’s coming to a close. It’s time… everyone takes their places and we wait. One of the sponsors makes an introduction and I go out and welcome our audience and tell them a bit about the production. I go out to take my seat as Taylor plays the first chord.

I haven’t watched the show in its entirety for a while. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but I’m usually trying to multi-task so I inevitably miss potions of it. Not tonight. The Young Artists asked me to sit and watch tonight; to enjoy the show. I do. Even after two years, this production still makes me laugh, due in large part to the talent, chemistry and antics of the Young Artists.  The audience is enjoying every moment. At the end of the performance, the finale, there’s a surprise. Now I know why they wanted me to watch. Jared has procured some of the unused confetti from Carmen and the artists throw it into the air on the final note. The audience cheers enthusiastically and I join in. What a perfect way to end this productions’ run. Bows taken, I go out to begin the Q&A.

The Q&A is different from others. Typically most of the questions are for the Young Artists; tonight they are about Opera Colorado, the production and the Young Artist residency. I have to field a lot of the questions, but I am thrilled by the community’s interest. After the last question, I say a sincere thank you to the audience and let them know why tonight was such a special evening. To our surprise, that triggers a standing ovation. Our evening isn’t over yet – the sponsors of tonight’s performance have also set up a reception and we’re led down to a lounge area where we rejoin the audience. We’re treated to an assortment of food and beverages and we all divide ourselves among the crowd, talking to as many people as we can. The response is overwhelming. Everyone tells us how much they enjoyed the show and makes us promise to come back next year. One of the sponsors tells me that we have fulfilled a dream of hers to have real opera in Carbondale. Another woman tells me that this was her first opera; she didn’t expect to like it, but now she thinks she’s hooked! Talking with our main contact, she’s over the moon and tells me we have to start planning next year – they want us back. For a first time visit to a community, this is exactly what I want to hear and I am thrilled that we’ve made a new connection.

I have to break up the ongoing conversations and get the Young Artists out of costume and makeup. It’s already late and we still have to break down the set and load out. Taylor is a champ and he begins to load out while we take the set down. The confetti was a fabulous touch, but it now proves to be a huge pain. Sweeping it up is almost impossible, but Jared, Brett and Taylor are relentless and get the job done. We’re told several times by staff just to leave it and they will get to it tomorrow, but that’s not how we roll. We don’t leave a mess for other people to clean up. We’re told again, for probably the fifth time today, that we’re “easy.” We really to try to be low maintenance; people that are easy to work with.

Just as load out reaches its peak, the rain begins to fall. By the time we get everything and ourselves into the beasties, it’s really coming down. We’re all tired, but it’s been a wonderful day and a great way to end the performing part of tour. We have one more day tomorrow, but it’s all driving. There’s not much time to catch our breath though. This weekend, Ben is headed to Santa Fe for some initial chorus rehearsals (he’s in their program for a second season). Colleen, Louise, Brett, Jared and Taylor will be performing at the Downtown Denver Arts Festival.  Follow that with a fully-booked week and we’ve got a lot still to do. We make it back to the hotel and everyone turns in. As I turn off my light and settle in for the night, I smile. What a crazy, wonderful business this is.

Nighty-night readers (one more blog to go),


Thursday, May 22, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – day 9

I awake with the birdies this morning. The sky is blue with puffy white clouds. I greet the day with a stretch and [Groan]… No one told me that facials and a mini-massage have aftershocks, or side effects, or expiration dates – or whatever this is. My skin looks great, but I have sore places on my body that I didn’t know my body had places. I have to get up and moving though because we don’t have another leisurely morning. We’ve got a drive ahead of us to get to Frisco for an early afternoon performance of Barber.
Taylor has already been up for a while. I offer to make him breakfast. He says thank you, but he simply won’t allow it. He’s the independent kind and has his own schedule.

Jared’s the next one up followed shortly thereafter by Brett.  I make coffee while they stagger around. Once everyone is a bit more bright-eyed, I decide to go ahead and make breakfast. I love cooking for people, so it’s really not a chore. It’s eggs and bacon again and some Irish oatmeal. After eating, I have to work on yesterday’s blog and get it finished – I was so wiped out last night, I fell asleep before it was done. The guys switch between relaxing, reading and getting packed up. Colleen, Ben and Louise arrive and take their turn in the kitchen for breakfast. The entire cabin now smells like bacon, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I head outside for a bit to breathe in some fresh mountain air.

The river is even higher today and clouds are building over the mountains. It looks like we may get some rain later. Still, it’s a beautiful view. I don’t stay outside long as I have to get packed up myself. Louise volunteers to do the breakfast dishes and Taylor helps her while Brett and Jared get the car packed. Ben and Colleen head down to the lodge to get their things and check out. The rest of us follow and we say goodbye to our cabin, the lodge and the hot springs/spa  – it’s really been a wonderful haven for us the past few days. At the lodge, I go in to check us out of the cabin while everyone else finishes loading the cars. The young woman who helps me sees my email address and asks about Opera Colorado. Do I work for them? Am I a singer? Etc. Etc. I answer her questions and I can sense there’s more that she wants to say. I ask her if she’s a fan of opera and she gives me a huge smile. Turns out, she’s not only a fan, she’s about to start college in the fall, studying to be an opera singer. She’s been saving for it for almost 2 years. I spend the next few minutes talking to her and answering some of her questions about this career. I give her my card and tell her to contact me if there’s anything I can do to help as she takes her first steps. What a great way to start the day!

I rejoin the others and we head out – Jared is driving this morning and Ben is following us in the other beasty.
We make the correct turn after two tries (thanks lady on the GPS who has apparently been talking to Taylor’s Siri) and head up a really steep incline. There’s a sheer drop off on my side of the car. Thankfully, this doesn’t last too long and we come onto a high plain that overlooks the entire valley. There’s a ranch that raises miniature horses and I comment that they must grow well up here. The road that we’re on takes us into Buena Vista and from there we head towards Leadville before we join up with I-70. The drive is beautiful.
We get some rain on the way but nothing major.

We’ve made it to Frisco and we head straight to the school. It’s now that I notice “it” has happened. Tour lag.  This happens every year around this same time; about 7 to 8 days in. You reach a point of mental decline and physical fatigue. I can see it on everyone. There’s not a lot of talking and people are moving slower than usual. We’ve got a performance to do though, so I go in to the school to check in and find out where we unload. We get to the right spot and we have 3 young ladies waiting for us to show us the way. I greet them and they immediately offer to help us carry things into the theater. I’m caught off guard – this usually doesn’t happen and I tend to be picky with who touches our stuff. But the eager looks on their faces are really sincere so I ask if they would like to help carry in the costumes. They get so excited they actually jump.

Load in – here we go again. The space is fantastic today. We’ve got more than enough room. Our contact from the Breckenridge Music Festival is here again today. What a wonderful source of support she’s been over the past 3 days. Thank you Mary Jane Wurster! Set up goes smoothly, but there’s still practically no talking and this is a fairly chatty group. Tour lag. I meet the teacher and the final preparations for the show are finished. We’ve got some costume casualties; Brett is missing a button on his pants and Louise’s skirt has no hook. I pin it as best I can (Louise’s skirt not Brett’s pants) and we wait for all the students to arrive. Looking at all of the Young Artists standing around me, I’m suddenly aware of something. Today is our very last performance in a school. Sure, we have shows left to do, but they’ll all be in community theaters or one at Children’s Hospital next week. This is it – after today, there will be no more school shows with this amazing group of artists all together. I decide to tell them hoping it will help them shake the tour lag. I tell them to enjoy it – they’ve all worked so hard to get here.

We have to hold for about 10-minutes as we wait for the last couple of classes to arrive. As we wait, we’re treated to an impromptu performance by the high school choir. They didn’t know they were going to sing and they’re down about 7 members, but they give it their all. They have a new choir teacher who sang in the Opera Colorado chorus last season so we’re delighted that we get to hear them. We cheer them on with our applause and as they take their seats, we begin the show. I’m introduced by the teacher and I go out to talk to the audience. We’ve got middle school, high school and even some community members here today. It’s a really good size audience. I tell them a bit about what they’re going to see in this production and encourage them to laugh if something is funny or clap when a piece has ended. We begin the show with a big “Bravo!”

I sit backstage. As much as I’d like to watch their final school show, I have to write the blog for day 8 and catch up on some work. I wait for that moment at the beginning of the show, the one that will tell me if we’ve got a responsive audience or not. Wait for it… wait…. Yes! We do! In fact, as the show progresses, they are one of the most responsive audiences we’ve ever had. This is exactly what we needed today. The artists start to feed off of their energy. They’re playing off each other and really having fun. There are a couple of times when the audience laughs so hard; I can’t even hear Taylor playing the piano. As they take their bows, I sneak to the side and watch. These kids didn’t simply enjoy this show – they loved it. There are “bravos” and hoots and cheers. As a director, moments like this are important for me too. As silly as it sounds, it reminds me that I do indeed know what I’m doing. 

As bows end, I go out to begin the Q&A.
Not surprisingly, we get wonderful questions. There’s a young lady in the audience who is a senior and is going to be a music major. She tells us how much she enjoyed the show and what an inspiration we all are for her. Then she asks a question we’ve never gotten before. What was the very first classical piece we ever sang? It’s not hard for any of us to remember what it was and we each answer, most of us started with an Italian piece. When we get to Jared, he says his was actually a German piece. This gives Brett the perfect opportunity to do his accent again and the two of them have the audience in stiches when it’s all said and done. Other questions are about how long we’ve worked together or how long it took us to rehearse this show. It seems like ages ago now… but it was only January when this group met for the first time and we put this show on its feet.  We run out of time for questions so I encourage any of the students who can stay to come up and talk to us individually.

Quite a few do and the Young Artists and Taylor spend time answering questions. I’m not involved in this – why you ask? Because I have to transition from Director to Nurse. Jared has a boo-boo. He tripped on the wet steps yesterday at the spa and scraped up his leg. During today’s performance it got banged up even more. First felled by a hummingbird, now impaired by steps… it never ends. I fetch the first aid kit from the car and come back in time to see two very sweet, well one sweet and one a mix of sweet and odd, interactions. Colleen has been talking to the young lady who will be a music major in the fall. I watch as Colleen gives her some good advice and, more importantly, encouragement and even a hug. I think that young lady’s feeling pretty uplifted right about now and by the look on Colleen’s face, she is too. The other observation comes courtesy of Brett. He has a young lady as him if he could sing her to sleep tonight. Oh my. Brett’s response? He can’t because we’ll be in Glenwood Springs tonight.

I have to stop things so we can get to load out and I can tend to Jared’s leg. He’s a little worse for wear but he’ll be fine. One more injury though and he’s next in line for the bubble wrap. The Young Artists are chatting like crazy now – hopefully tour lag has passed. While they get out of costume I chat with some of our community guests, among them is a couple who saw our recent production of Carmen and loved it. They’ve been subscribers for quite some time and said they really enjoyed the fact that we took a risk and they felt the singing was “of the finest quality.” They are also very complimentary about Barber. She also taught music for years and she is really impressed with what we do with our school programs. I bid them goodbye thank Mary Jane one more time then help with load out. When we all work as a team it goes really quickly which is good because we’re starving. Ben knows a couple places in Frisco’s mainstreet area so we load in the cars to head there.

Readers – a bit of information for you should it ever come up. If you are ever presented with a hungry Taylor Baldwin, feed him. Quickly. Odd things happen when you don’t. Taylor has moved on from avalanche clapping to school bus clapping. As we leave the school, he waves, and claps at the students on the buses (and those walking home) and calls out “Bye. Have a beautiful time!” He then tells us he needs lotion because he has acquired a skin disease on his hands and needs to moisturize before his finger falls off, leaving him with nine. To this, Louise responds from the back of the car… “Oh, my nana had nine fingers!” To which Brett and Taylor think Louise has said her “nana” meaning “banana” has nine fingers which is just weird. This entire conversation could have been avoided if we had stuck to the Baldwin’s feeding schedule.

Happily, we have arrived at mainstreet. Ben guides me into a parking spot with all the flair of an aircraft marshal and I jump out before anything else… interesting happens. We start off by sitting outside, but the weather changes – there’s a storm a brewin’ according to Taylor, so we move inside. We’re all feeling better after the success of today’s performance and now that we’ve eaten, things are more like I’m used to with this group. Ben and Colleen take this opportunity to tell a few stories about me. They paint me in somewhat of an “airhead” light so I choose to invoke bloggers prerogative and not repeat them. As we’re leaving, I see a sign posted by the handicap accessible restroom which reads “Handicapped accessible entrance located downstairs.” Hmmm… somehow that doesn’t seem right.

Dodging raindrops, we load back into the cars and head to Glenwood Springs where we’re spending the night. In the co-pilot seat, Brett literally falls asleep on the job of wildlife and rock watcher. It’s OK, he tired and Jared is watching over things from the backseat. Colleen naps and Taylor, now fed, has gone quiet. Louise and Ben are in the other car, which I can’t see, so I assume they’re fine.  Jared plays a techno song and commands Brett to wake and do an improvised dance, which he does and, as he was seated, it was quite impressive. Jared laughs so hard he sounds like a Wagnerian soprano.

We make it to our lodging, Hotel Colorado.
It’s on the National Historic Register and I’m really excited to check it out. I love history and the period this was built is one of my favorite eras. To make it even better, I was able to get us a discount on the rooms once they found out that we were on tour, performing for local communities. We unload our bags and while Ben and I park the beasties, the others get everything into our rooms. The hotel is gorgeous. After getting settled, I go down the hall to the gent’s room to let them know I am going to walk around and check things out. Taylor, who has livened up considerably, informs me that the hotel is haunted.
I am no longer excited to stay here. His room is right on the other side of mine, so I tell him if I scream, he’d better come running.

I go down to the lobby to look around. It really is beautiful. I find a wonderful outdoor courtyard and decide to sit there and work for a bit. Everyone will meet up at 9:00PM to talk over the next day’s schedule. As I work, my laptop goes dead so I have to move inside. I am so glad I did. As I sit working, an elderly gentleman comes to the piano in the lobby and begins to play.
I know the tune and just instinctively begin to hum. He looks over at me and smiles and motions me to him. I put down my work and walk over and he asks me if I’d like to sing with him. I say no, not wanting to intrude but he begins to play a piece that my grandpa used to sing and I can’t resist. We spend the next few minutes together, connected by a piece of music that is connected to memories. While there wasn’t a single other person in the lobby and no one applauded, this was a moment I will never forget. I thank him for playing and he asks why I’m staying at the hotel. I tell him about tour and he is thrilled. He tells me that music can never be too important in someone’s life because it feeds the soul. He takes his leave by saying “Keep up the good work young woman.”

The group meets up and we go over tomorrow’s schedule. We also go over some other upcoming gigs to get a jump on planning. We say our goodnights and turn in. In my room, I begin to work on the day’s blog. I hear a very strange noise coming from the left of my bed… I can’t place the sound, but it’s definitely something in the room with me. I turn slowly and discover… the radiator.
Those things make quite a racket. Sleeping tonight is going to be… interesting.

Rest well readers,


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – day 8

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood readers! Another song that I have stuck in my head as I wake up this morning. I grew up on Mr. Rodgers and he’s stayed with me over the years. It is a beautiful day and we’ve got the morning to get ready without having to rush.
We’ll drive to Fairplay after breakfast for a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the high school. My cabin mates are looking well-rested. Taylor is up, eats breakfast and is out the door to the hot springs as soon as they open. He’s got a massage appointment and is really looking forward to it. Brett, Jared and I decide to enjoy the cabin and not make the trek down.
It’s actually the best thing we could have done. None of us are feeling great today. Jared’s massage wrecked him and his shoulder is a little more aggravated. Brett is exhausted and we both have headaches. It’s funny – we’ve been so busy lately that I think once our bodies had even a tiny opportunity to rest, they revolted.

The gents tell me audition stories and I have more than my share to throw into the ring. I make us breakfast and teach Brett the wonder of cooking eggs in bacon grease. He’ll never be the same. Taylor returns as we finish breakfast and then Ben, Louise and Colleen arrive from their stay at the lodge. Seems everyone slept pretty well which is good and not always the case when you’re constantly moving around from place to place on tour. Ben makes the second round of breakfast for the ladies and some of us read a folder full of notes from students we’ve performed for. This is one of my favorite things to do – reading what the kids actually thought when they saw an opera. Most of them are positive, many are glowing and some are just downright funny. One says “Thank you. You were epic. So Boss!!!” That’s good, right? There’s one that really catches my attention though (and Louise and Colleen). It reads, “I enjoyed the Barber of Seville. I never saw an opera and this will not be my last. I never had that experience ever in my life. Thank you for that.” I think it’s safe to say we reached that one.

Breakfast dishes done, we load into the cars and begin the drive to Fairplay. Brett plays a few of the tracks from the new Jason Robert Brown musical based on The Bridges of Madison County. I’m intrigued and will have to check it out. We go from that to some other favorites before landing on Disney music again. It will always be a favorite. Other than one wrong turn, we make it to the school without incident. Ben makes the hike into the office and then we drive around to where we can enter to set up. This is a bit confusing as both the middle school and the high school share a campus – plus, as we discover, there is also a preschool. Taylor asks if we’re performing Romeo and Juliet for preschoolers. Now THAT would be something. But no, I don’t think tragic Shakespeare is right for tiny tots. Still unable to find the right door, Louise gets out of the car and proceeds to run, with the grace of a gazelle prancing across the Serengeti, to each door. She is unsuccessful, but very pretty to watch. Taylor now takes on the task and finds his way in through a door around the corner.

Vehicles now parked in the right spot, we load in… again. As we’re loading in, we’re told that we each have to go to the office to sign in, which we do and they take our drivers licenses as some kind of insurance. Load-in is tough and Jared, Brett and I are feeling worse for the wear when it’s over. My headache is turning into a full blown vertigo migraine and Brett is also feeling dizzy.  We’re still at pretty high altitude and I think it’s part of the problem. Colleen, Louise and Ben are right there to take on extra duties and as they say, the show must go on (and that’s not just a saying) so we just keep going. The students begin to arrive and our host from the Breckenridge Music Festival begins her announcements. I know within seconds that we’re in trouble. The students are loud and not from being enthusiastic, they’re just loud. Rambunctious. Rowdy. It’s going to be up to me to get things under control and set behavior expectations. Calling on my arsenal of teacher skills, I go out to talk to the audience. I’ve got things pretty well in hand in about 1-minute. I do some extra talking with this group because I realize that we’ve got some middle school students in the audience and this is not an easy show to watch. It’s very emotional and there’s some tough subject matter. I still think we’re going to have some inappropriate behavior, but that’s part of why we’re here too. Students today aren’t being regularly exposed to the arts; no one is teaching them how they are supposed to behave, so it’s up to us, as an arts organization, to take that on.

The Young Artists are doing their best to make the show engaging and powerful and we are getting responses from the students. The fight scene is tense and I’m on edge watching from the wings as Jared does the move that will stress his shoulder. With Ben’s support, they get though it OK. Brett and Ben’s fight gets some audible gasps from the students, so I know they’re following the story. It’s at this point in the show where the inappropriate really starts to become a problem. During Colleen’s poison aria, the students are talking loudly and calling out comments. As Brett sings his final aria and goes into his dialogue, there’s a moment when I almost go out and stop the show. The comments from the audience have become almost more than I am willing to allow. The teachers are in the room, but not acting on anything they’re hearing as far as I can tell. I decide to just get through it. There’s a portion of the audience who is still listening; is still with us. We owe it to those kids to show them the whole story. I play charades with Ben and Louise backstage and tell them not to wait for the silence after the death scene but just go out as soon as I tell them. The show ends and even the final applause for bows has a level of inappropriateness.

I go out and get things back under control (kids know who they can push and who they can’t). I introduce Taylor and then bring the Young Artists back out for a Q&A. They’ve been through the ringer today. Performers can hear and feel everything their audience does or doesn’t do, so it’s been tough on them. They gave a good performance though and didn’t quit. Surprisingly, we get some thoughtful questions from the students. I take as many as I think we can handle and then end the program. As people begin to get out of costume, when we’re all feeling rather low, a young lady comes backstage. She talks to Louise and apologizes for her classmates’ behavior. Louise handles it with grace and professionalism and tells her that we hope she enjoyed the performance. She says that she loved it; she loves Shakespeare and we made it come alive for her. For the second time today I think – at least we reached one… and one is enough.

Colleen goes to spring us, I mean claim our licenses, while load out happens. The school has had an art show and there is student work up all over the hallways. Some of the pieces are truly outstanding; a couple I’d take home if they were for sale. It’s nice to see that art is represented in some form at the school. Load out done, we take a breather outside and eat some snacks. Everyone is running on empty. Jared’s going to have to drive back because I’m still spinning. We stop at the famous South Park sign and strike some glamour shots and then a few of us grab something to take back to Nathrop for dinner.

Once we reach the lodge/cabin, we all head our own ways. I’ve got an appointment for a facial at the spa and Brett, Louise and Ben will be having a massage later (separately). Jared, Brett and I eat a very quick meal and then head down to the hot springs and spa.
Brett and I check in at the spa and Jared hits the hot tub. Ben, Louise, Colleen and Taylor are eating in the restaurant in the lodge and will join us later. I follow Brett into the locker room, but before I get too far Jared calls out to me. It seems I was about to enter the forbidden zone – the men’s locker room. I give a coy smile and make a quick U-turn and head into the locker room that’s of the more appropriate variety for me. Over the next hour, I am treated to a heavenly experience. I’ve never had a facial like this in my life. I don’t pamper myself very often and this was truly pampering. As I get up to leave, my body has become so relaxed that I’ve lost the ability to fully control my limbs. Now I know what Jared was feeling when he emerged from his massage yesterday.  I make my way, as best I can, out to the sitting area where I see Jared grinning at me. I flop into a chair and mumble incoherent answers to his questions. I have become a marshmallow… and it’s wonderful.

While we wait for the others, Jared and I hit the juice bar where a small miracle occurs. Jared gets me to try tomato juice. Now I have very strong feelings about tomatoes. I believe that, in their raw state, they are larva and not finished forming. This was a huge step for me. Jared and I take our juices outside and sit by the fire.  While we sit there, we reminisce about the last 2 years. Colleen and Taylor join us looking like very relaxed bathing beauties. Colleen tells us am amusing story about a time where she and a friend were digging for bait and her friend got a puncture wound from a garden tool. She tells it better… While we sit and chat, a zombie approaches. Wearing a robe and fresh from his massage, Brett staggers toward us. He looks fabulous. Rumpled, hair all askew and completely relaxed. Ben joins us shortly thereafter, also having enjoyed his massage and then Louise enters, and she’s almost floating. Well done spa – we needed this.

We sit enjoying the pools and outdoor fire until the stars come out. It’s peaceful. It’s bliss. It’s shattered. Someone new enters our party. This someone introduces himself and tells us how much he loves fire. He loves to burn things too – calls himself a bit of a pyro, but not the dangerous kind. By this time, I’m hiding my face in Jared’s shoulder to hide the fact that I’m laughing and he does his best to keep me from saying something inappropriate. Colleen and Taylor are courteous and Brett is still in a daze and looking at the stars. Mr. Pyro tells us he’ll be back soon, so we leave before that happens. Colleen and Louise go for a steam, Taylor heads back to the cabin, Ben takes one last dip in the pool and Jared and Ben say farewell to the sauna. I take a few minutes alone to read and keep a wary eye out for any overly-large flames outside.

Everyone turns in for the evening. Back at ye ole cabin, Taylor reads while Brett, Jared and I spend another evening sitting outside stargazing. The two of them are in rare form tonight and take turns making each other laugh until they are crying. Brett does an impression of an unexpected animated substance who turns into diamonds that has Jared almost falling out of his chair. The subject matter changes to breakfast plans and they make up an impromptu patter song about the morning meal worthy of Gilbert & Sullivan. Yep - Time for bed!

The cabin quiets quickly – it’s been a long day with its share of challenges. I blog about them before turning in. While it would be easy for me to say every performance we do is loved by every audience we perform for, that’s just not the case. Sometimes we have days like today. It’s part of what we do and even though it can be really frustrating, we try and focus on the positive moments and work together to get through the rest. I think again about how important it is that we’re out there, telling people about opera; showing them what it’s all about. We’ll keep at it and reach one person at a time.

Until tomorrow - goodnight readers,