Thursday, September 30, 2010

There's No Place Like Opera

Here at the blog, Thursday is usually the day we talk about our Education & Community programs. But this week, I want to educate you!

Do you love to sing? The Opera Colorado Chorus needs new members in all voice types. If you love to sing and can read music, WE WANT YOU! Rehearsals and performances are held evenings and weekends, so this is the perfect activity to go along with your day job. Previous chorus experience is helpful, but not required.

Chorus Auditions

Saturday, December 11
The Newman Center for Theatre Education
1101 13th Street | Denver, CO 80204
2 - 6 pm
Please plan to sing one operatic aria or a showtune.

For more information or to schedule an audition time, please contact George Twombly at or 303.778.0319.

Join us onstage and sing with the stars!

Ciao for now!

Photo credit Matthew Staver / Opera Colorado.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Opera, Take Me Away

This week's Wednesday Whatever I Find Interesting indulges my love of opera, cats, and pictures of cats with cute captions:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blue Suede Opera

It’s Trivia Tuesday and I’m shocked and appalled that I have not yet written about Puccini! Thankfully, Cherity Koepke - Director of Education & Community Programs – came to my rescue with a fantastic bio for the man we have to thank for La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, and other great works.

About the Composer
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (yes, that is his real name!) was born into a musical family in an Italian town called Lucca on December 22nd, 1858. The family had five generations of musical history behind them, including composer Domencio Puccini. Puccini learned the “family business” quickly, and became the organist at the San Martino church after his father died. To supplement his income and help support his mother, Puccini played piano in local taverns. To bring in some extra cash, he had his younger brother and some friends, who operated the bellows of church organ, steal some of the organ pipes so that he could sell them. This may have helped him to decide that he wanted to compose—he had to improvise new melodies and harmonies so that the notes would not be discovered!

Puccini also became the choir master in Lucca, but things were about to change. Puccini’s new dream was to become an opera composer, after he and his brother walked 18.5 miles to see a performance of Verdi’s Aida, that is. After some assistance from a relative and a large grant, Puccini went on to study music at Milan Conservatory of Music.

Puccini’s first attempt at opera, Le Villi, had little success, but nonetheless, the music publisher, Giulio Ricordi, offered him a generous contract after the first performance. (In those days, publishers were like sponsors, and Ricordi continued to encourage Puccini, despite the fact that his next show, Edgar, was also a flop.) Puccini went on to write a string of masterpieces, including La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, Gianni Schicchi and Turandot. He is now considered one of the great composers in the history of opera.

Now you know a bit more about the composer, learn more about the opera at our website.

Ciao for now!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Behold the Power of Opera

It's Music Monday!

I love opera. I love commercials. I love when they use opera in commercials! Check out this ad from Nike featuring Charles Barkley...

Got a commercial where opera was used? E-mail me the link:

Ciao for now!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Opera in Slow Motion

Dear AriaGirl:
Why do opera characters take so long to die? Nobody sings right after they’ve been stabbed, right?
Jack R.

Dear Jack:

I get this question a lot, and the truth is that a lot of operas write beautiful arias for the main character to sing after they’ve been stabbed (or shot, or poisoned, or whatever). This is the singer’s moment to shine – to show off not only their amazing voice, but to show the audience all the emotion the character is feeling. Think of a scene in a movie that’s in slow-motion. It’s kind of like that. So enjoy that final aria – let the emotions wash over you. That’s what opera’s all about.

Plus, there are several operas where this isn’t the case. When the titular leading lady of Carmen dies, for example, there is no final aria. Likewise, when Tosca stabs Scarpia, he collapses and dies with just a scream.

Got a question about opera? Send it in to

Ciao for now!

Photo credit: Matthew Staver / Opera Colorado.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Scoops of Opera

I am an expert. So say the folks over in our Education Department (talk about experts, those smarties!) who have asked me to help out with a really cool project.

It’s called Generation OC (that’s Opera Colorado, not Orange County), and it’s a multi-week course in a local junior high all about opera. (No, you can’t audit the class.) The project teaches a select group of eighth graders the ins and outs of an opera company: marketing, budgets, grantwriting…all the behind-the-scenes stuff that gets the opera onto the stage itself.

So they asked Yours Truly to talk to these kids about marketing and opera, and Monday of this week I set out to enlighten – and talk about fun! These kids were so excited about the project. I even heard one say happily, “That’s right, It’s Gen OC day!"

I broke marketing down as “giving information to get a desired result” and explained that marketers think about four elements when creating any kind of message: Audience, Information, Emotion and Action. I used a lot of real-world examples, and understanding how messages are created and interpreted is something that’ll help these kids far past this class. And that’s the goal of this project: using opera to teach real-world skills.

I really enjoyed working with the kids. As part of their final project, they’re going to come up with a marketing message for La Bohème. Some are doing TV commercials, some are doing magazine ads, and they can’t wait to get started. It was incredibly inspiring to see younger people get excited about opera. Maybe in ten years, I’ll see them again…buying tickets and remembering their first exposure to opera. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Operas Wanted

Wednesday = Whatever I Find Interesting!

What do you get when you cross baseball and opera? Washington National Opera knows. They just offered their third year of free opera simulcast to the Jumbotron at Nationals Stadium. They even came up with a baseball-themed contest to promote it! Read more…

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rebel Without an Opera

It’s Trivia Tuesday! Yesterday I was out teaching marketing to eighth graders for our Generation OC project (more on that Thursday), but today I’m back and ready to bring you delicious opera trivia!

Speaking of delicious, I just learned that scapigliatura is, in fact, NOT a flavor of gelato. It means “the disheveled ones” and it was an avant-garde movement originating in twentieth-century Milan.

Thought of as the Italian version of the French bohemians, they rebelled against what they saw as “traditional” – and in the opera world, they worked to modernize Italian opera – more Wagner, less Verdi. (Verdi was actually personally criticized by the group for being too old-fashioned.) This group was critical in the movement toward verismo opera, which included such works as Pagliacci and Tosca.

And do you know which rebellious composer joined their ranks? Giacomo Puccini, himself! I find this particularly interesting since opera is often seen as pretty traditional, and La Bohème is considered about as traditional as it gets.

But a lot of people don’t know that in their day, opera composers were considered avant-garde and nonconformist. Verdi himself (despite what the scapigliatura had to say) was considered pretty wild; when he wrote Un ballo in maschera, the censors objected to not only his portrayal of the assassination of a monarch, but also forced him to change the setting from Sweden to Boston.

Opera composers: the rebels of their day, pushing against societal boundaries. Bravo!

Ciao for now!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Who Wears the Pants Around Here?

Dear AriaGirl:
I just went to see
The Marriage of Figaro and loved it! But I was confused by the character of Cherubino. It’s a male part played by a woman – why didn’t Mozart cast a man, or make him a her?
John F.

Dear John:

Because opera is supposed to be confusing! (I kid.) Seriously, you see this in quite a few operas. It’s called a trouser role (or pants role, or breeches role) and it’s when a woman plays the part of a man.

Unlike in Shakespeare’s time, when men played female parts because women weren’t allowed on stage, there were plenty of female opera singers. Some of these roles, however, were written for a castrato. As the practice faded, those roles began to be sung by mezzo-sopranos and some sopranos.

Now there are starting to be more male opera singers training their voices to go higher, so we may see some trouser roles actually being filled by men. But until then, the smaller parts of pages, servants, sprites and muses will probably continue to be sung by women.

Got a question about opera? Send it in to

Ciao for now!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Opera is the Best Medicine

I know you remember our 20102-2011 Young Artists. That good-lookin’ bunch of guys and gals with fantastic voices. And I know you’re excited to meet them in person. And I know you can’t wait to welcome them with a champagne and dessert reception and hear them sing for the first time.

Yes, dear readers. For the low price of $10, you get delicious desserts, champagne, AND a concert.

Sunday, September 26 at 2 pm
Sponsored by The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
$10 (adult), $5 (student)
RSVP online |  303.468.2021

Live opera on a Sunday afternoon…does it get any better than that?

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Spy Who Loved Opera

Every now and then, a story comes along that makes you say, "Huh. Truth IS stranger than fiction."

An opera singer who led a double life as a British spy - it certainly sounds like a movie, but it's the true story of Margery Booth, a mezzo-soprano who was invited to sing at the Berlin Opera House during World War II. Unbeknownst to the Nazis - at least for a time - Booth was smuggling information to the British government. Read the full story here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

All Roads Lead to Opera

Feel like a cup of coffee and some stimulating conversation? Get yourself over to Café Momus, the Act II setting for La Bohème. The spot where Marcello and Musetta reignite their love is one of the most well-known settings in all opera. But did you know there was a real Café Momus?

It’s true! You couldn’t walk two feet without running into a café in Paris in the 19th century – the city was filled with artists, writers, singers and all those Bohemian types. Cafés were a place where you could share and explore ideas and also helped form the Bohemian identity. And one of those cafés was the Café Momus, located on the Right Bank of the River Seine in Paris near the church of Saint-Germaine-l'Auxerrois.

The café was frequented by such well-known authors as Voltaire and Victor Hugo and was named after the ancient Greek god of mockery, satire, censure, writers, and poets. Café Momus became known as the café of artists, which gave it a certain cache.

With those artists, of course, came some…interesting personalities. There’s a story of one Bohemian patron who kept trying to order a cup of coffee, despite the fact that he had no more credit at the café. The patron eventually went to the counter and complained, "I have ordered a cup of coffee half-a-dozen times; either serve it at once or lend me five sous, and I'll go and get it elsewhere."

Ah, those wacky Bohemians.

Ciao for now!

Monday, September 13, 2010

From Opera to Eternity

Today’s Music Monday comes from San Diego Opera. In addition to putting on some fantastic operas (our recent production of The Pearl Fishers came from there), they have an amazing education program. They regularly broadcast their “San Diego OperaTalk! with Nick Reveles,” educational videos that give all sorts of interesting factoids about any given opera.

Including Bohème. Watch, enjoy, repeat.

Ciao for now!

Friday, September 10, 2010

There's Something About Opera

Where will YOU be this Saturday and Sunday? Hopefully at the Belmar Italian Festival with me! Opera Colorado will be at the Festival on both days; we’ll have a booth and are providing some of the entertainment!

No, not me. Our Young Artists will be singing at noon and 3 pm on both days on the Torino Stage. So swing by Belmar and check it out! We'll be at the booth near Upham and Alaska.

If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. Wine. Pasta. Gelato. Pizza. Ceramics. Flowers. Pastries. Gelato. Jewelry. Bocce. Flag throwers. Chef demonstrations. Live music. Gelato. Children’s grape stomp.

Did I mention gelato?

It’s always a fun (and free) time, so be sure to come by and say hi!

Saturday and Sunday, 10am - 7pm
Belmar, Alameda Ave and Wadsworth Blvd

Ciao for now!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

101 Operas

Here at Opera Colorado, we’re big on enrichment and educational opportunities. And this season, our cup runneth over with all the ways you can get your learn on.

Meet the Artists
Books and opera singers at lunchtime – it doesn’t get any better than this. Come down to Tattered Cover bookstore in LoDo for a free chat with the principal artists and artistic team of La Bohème. Mark your calendar for Wed, October 27 at noon! More info...

University of Denver
The Three Tenors and Beyond: Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras
Join classical music appreciation instructor and former KVOD radio announcer/producer Betsy Schwarm to survey the careers of The Three Tenors. Class runs November 4, 11 and 18 and includes a ticket to the November 9 performance of La Bohème. Course is $165 (subscribers receive a 10% discount!). More info…

Academy of Lifelong Learning
Opera Colorado Takes the Stage
Get the inside story from the artistic and professional leadership of Opera Colorado about what it takes to get an opera ready for opening night. From planning a season to educational programs to young artist programs, this course will whet your appetite for La Bohème. Class runs 9 Tuesdays beginning September 14 and course fee is $60. More info…

OPERA America
Learn about La Bohème and Cinderella (La Cenerentola) with Online Learning!
OPERA America’s multimedia online courses offer an opportunity to explore the many dimensions of opera while providing context with musical analysis, historical background and information on the composer and librettist. Participants listen to first-hand interviews with singers, composers, directors, designers and other artists. The La Bohème course runs from Wed, September 29 to Wed, November 3. The Cinderella (La Cenerentola) course runs Wed, March 16 to Wed, April 27. Both courses are free. More info…

I’ll keep you posted if we get any more educational opportunities – you guys are really into learning about opera! (Which makes me happy.)

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All the President's Operas

You've seen them - the photos of cats with weirdly-misspelled captions. Here at Opera Colorado, we find them a wonderful way to start the day with a chuckle. So you can imagine our delight when we ran across this one for this week's Wednesday Whatever I Find Interesting:

funny pictures see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Opera Will Go On

Like so many operas, Bohème had a rough opening night. The critics hated it and said the music was too simplistic and there wasn’t enough action. Here are a few choice words…

“Even the Finale of the opera, so intensely dramatic in situation, seems to me deficient in musical form and color…La Bohème, even as it leaves little impression on the minds of the audience, will leave no great trace upon the history of our lyric theater…”
-La Stampa

We wonder what could have started Puccini toward the degradation of this Bohème. The question is a bitter one, and we do not ask it without a pang, we who applauded and shall continue to applaud [his last opera], in which was revealed a composer who could combine masterly orchestration with a conception in keeping with the best spirit of Italy.
-Gazzetta del Popolo

Thanks to the Columbia University/New York City Opera Project for the quotes. Interesting side note: fifty years after the opera premiered, the NBC Symphony Orchestra recorded a performance of it with conductor Arthur Toscanini – who had conducted the opera when it premiered in Turin, Italy.

Ciao for now!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Dear AriaGirl:
I’m about to attend my first opera, but I’m a little nervous about when I’m supposed to applaud. Is it true that applause is considered rude?
Charles G.

Dear Charles:

Congratulations! I hope you have an amazing experience. First, I want you to take a deep breath. You should enjoy your first opera, not worry about what other people are thinking. But there are some general rules of thumb. For example, some people consider it rude to clap until the end of the act. (In fact, Wagner didn’t want the audience to clap at all until the end of his opera Parsifal.) However, most people will clap after the “big numbers” – those show-stopping tunes that made the opera famous. I recommend waiting until the people around you start to clap, and then you can join them.

And if you really enjoyed the performance, you can yell “bravo” or “brava” (for men and women, respectively). Just don’t whistle – in Italian, a whistle is the equivalent of booing!

Got a question about opera? Send it in to

Ciao for now!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Opera abhors a vacuum

Our Education Department has the best stuff. With their swords and crowns and DVDs and lollipops, they are some of my favorite people in this office. And today they showed me their newest prop, a gingerbread house for the upcoming touring opera Hansel & Gretel.

You see, every year the Opera Colorado Young Artists perform two one-act, English-language operas for audiences across Colorado. This season, we'll be remounting last season’s popular Romeo & Juliet and Humperdinck’s classic story.

I'm really excited for how the sets and costumes will look - and not just because of my love for sets and costumes. The Education Department spent a lot of time detailing how the opera should look. Director of Education & Community Programs Cherity Koepke (who also directs the Young Artists), wanted something like the recent film versions of Alice in Wonderland and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: a mix of bright colors and hints of darkness. I'll keep you posted on the opera, especially once the singers get here and start rehearsing.

Programs like this one help show younger audiences and those new to opera that opera is just like movies, books or music. Whether you've ever fallen in love, loved and lost, or traded places with your friend to woo his girlfriend (maybe not that last one), opera is about life. And passion. And family. And friends. And everyone can relate to that. If you're curious what other programs we have, check out our Education section on our website.

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When Harry Met Opera

It's a beautiful Wednesday, and Whatever I Found Interesting was...a lack of opera novelty products. I mean, sure there are composer finger puppets and clothes for toddlers and opera board games...but I find myself yearning for more.

So today I proudly premiere "Opera Products I Wish Existed." Today, I present to you: Magnetic Opera. You've seen them on fridges - the small black and white magnets with words on them. You visit your friends' houses (or even our own offices) and you can't help but rearrange the words.

I took the liberty of creating my own version of these appliance-decorating toys.

I think we could create quite an opera, don't you?

Ciao for now!