Tuesday, December 18, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Director Beth Greenberg

New York-based stage director Beth Greenberg is in the midst of a fascinating career filled with interesting musical projects, some mainstream, some avant-garde, often staging opera in unique and unexpected locations.  One of the most fascinating things about people in the opera world—whether they are singers, directors, conductors, or members any of the other countless professional disciplines that come together to produce opera—is that the path for each individual is truly unique.  There is no one way, no particular course of study that leads to a career in opera.  Each artist makes his or her own way, often taking full advantage of unexpected opportunities.  Many can point to a seminal experience or “light bulb” moment where their destiny was determined.

Beth Greenberg, who will direct the professional premiere of Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter for Opera Colorado in May 2013, shared a bit with us about her path that has led to this moment.

“I was always involved with music, from early childhood on, and played every instrument that came my way: oboe, piano, cello, guitar and drums.

I remember certain musical events where I really felt my world shifting. And when lyrics were added to the mix, I was a goner. One of these moments was when my 4th grade teacher stood at the blackboard and wrote: ‘the corn is as high as an elephant's eye.’ Hmm...intriguing...Then, she played the tune. That was a time when every NYC public school teacher knew how to play the piano.

The melody struck me like a thunderbolt. My fate was sealed. That outrageous poetic image, supported by such a daring and dangerously high vocal leap for the word ‘eye’ captured my mind and my heart. I didn't understand ‘why’ at the time, but I knew that was ‘it.’ As a result, I've never stopped believing that elephants roam around Oklahoma.

One musical pursuit led to another and I developed a keen interest in knowing how music worked. So in addition to performing, I studied music theory and ended up with a Master's from the University of Michigan. I even took a few composition classes along the way. Bill Bolcom was one of my teachers. (Ed.:  Composer William Bolcom)

I returned to NYC and had various jobs in musical theatre, as well as some unusual experiences including a stint as Diana Vreeland's assistant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That was another education, directly from the high priestess of 20th-century art and fashion. Vreeland had one of the most original and extraordinary visual imaginations, along with an impeccable work ethic.

Then the opera bug bit and I traveled to Berlin on a Fulbright and worked with Goetz Friedrich at the Deutsche Oper.  Berlin was then the divided city, but also an extraordinary place for Americans. Berlin: the city of three great opera houses with two maddeningly contradictory political systems, all playing out their post-war ideals across a gray concrete wall. It was a period of intense musical, and also international, discovery.

Upon returning again to NYC, I landed a job as an assistant director at the New York City Opera. That turned into a 23-year career with the Lincoln Center company where I directed original main stage productions and revivals. It was a great run.

I met Lori Laitman in February, 2009, at a reception after a program I directed for Laurie Rubin's Musique a la Mode. The program included music of three other notable American composers:  Lowell Liebermann, Gordon Beeferman and Paula Kimper. Lori told me she had written an opera and I asked her to send it to me. I listened to about 10 seconds of The Scarlet Letter, stopped the CD, and shot her an e-mail saying: ‘Truly wonderful. Call me immediately.’
And she did.

That was it. We've worked together, almost daily, ever since. And Lori has brought many of her extraordinary poets into my life as well, including David Mason, author of The Scarlet Letter libretto and their latest opera-in-progress, Ludlow.

Opera Colorado has put together an all-star cast of great American singers including Elizabeth Futral, James Valenti, Morgan Smith, Catherine Cook, Joel Sorensen and John Hancock, with Maestro Dean Williamson pacing the score. Lori, Dave, and I, thanks to the vision of Greg Carpenter and Brad Trexell, are grateful and thrilled to bring you The Scarlet Letter.”

Tickets are available now for the professional premiere of The Scarlet Letter, running May 4, 7, 10, and 12, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Order online or call 303.468.2030.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Future CEOs and Opera Singers

In November, Opera Colorado’s Education Department participated in The Adams County Commisioners’ Career Expo. This career fair is modeled throughout the country for its innovation and inclusiveness. The idea behind it is to get 8th graders to start thinking about their future education and career goals, and it’s designed to accommodate the entire Adams County population of 8th graders. That’s 5,500 students! Schools are bussed to the Denver Merchandise Mart throughout the day, and each school stays on site for about an hour. During that hour, the students have time to visit with businesses, non-profits, and higher education institutions to learn about the variety of different career paths that are available to them. Here’s a photo of our booth:

The photo above was taken BEFORE the students arrived. Below is an after photo:

The day was so rewarding because we were able to connect with so many students, even the students who had no initial interest in opera. I can’t count how many times I heard, “Oh, I thought opera was just singing.” Once they heard all the different jobs that go into creating an opera, their ears perked up. Suddenly, I had lots of questions about makeup and costume design, accounting, and marketing. We even had an aspiring glass blower who wanted to talk about the Chihuly piece in the lobby of the Ellie! 

What’s great about the Career Expo is that students are encouraged to follow up with organizations and businesses that they developed an interest in. Take a look at some of the letters we got from students:

Bravo to The Adams County Commisioners’ Career Expo for such a wonderful day…We look forward to participating in years to come! Stay in touch with the Education Department by liking Opera Colorado on Facebook and visiting the Opera Colorado website.

By Meghan Benedetto, Manager of Education & Community Programs

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Opera Colorado Merchandise Makes Great Gifts!

It’s that time of year when panic starts to set in. What will I put in little Susie’s stocking? I need one more thing for Uncle Jim…what will it be?

Have you considered Opera Colorado merchandise?

Opera Colorado offers a number of practical and fun items that can be put in a stocking or under the tree:

Opera Singer Coffee Mugs = $12 each, or $20 for a pair
The singing faces on these mugs are taken from actual images of past Opera Colorado productions!

Tote Bag = $10

Polo Shirt = $20

Opera Colorado Fleeces and Jackets = starting at $40

Baseball Cap = $20

Can’t decide? Let us help!

The Mini Package = $35
This bundle includes an Opera Colorado tote bag, polo shirt, baseball cap, and mints. A $50 value! 
(Please specify shirt size when ordering.)

The Grande Package = $70
This comprehensive gift set includes a pair of Opera Colorado coffee mugs, a polo shirt, a pair of Marriage of Figaro champagne flutes, an Il Trovatore t-shirt, a baseball cap, mints, and three magnets from the 2012 productions (The Marriage of Figaro, Florencia en el Amazonas, Il Trovatore),  all wrapped up snugly in an Opera Colorado tote bag. A $100 value!
(Please specify his or hers coffee mugs, polo shirt size, and t-shirt size when ordering.)

To order Opera Colorado merchandise, call Isis King at 303.468.2029 or email her at iking@operacolorado.org.

Support Opera Colorado and finish your holiday shopping in one phone call!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let's change the world (in one day!)

If you live in Colorado or have ever donated to one of the 1,200+ Colorado non-profits participating in Colorado Gives Day you may already know all about the day and its significance to the Colorado non-profit community.

Colorado Gives Day was created by the Community First Foundation. It is an online giving campaign where donors can donate to multiple Colorado non-profits in one 24-hour period. The benefit in past years was that each non-profit would receive a percentage back based on the amount of donations they received during the day. Community First Foundation had financial sponsors whose money was used to match a portion of the gifts. This year the match will be very little as there are so many non-profits involved.

That being said, Colorado Gives Day is still the biggest day of giving in Colorado. Millions will be raised. That's right, millions!

Regardless of what you like to support, a non-profit that works on that is definitely represented. Ill children the homeless, animals and the arts! There is something for everyone and donors' multiple interests are proven in the large amount of donors who give to more than one organization during the day.

So I say please go ahead and donate to a group that feeds the homeless, that cares for sick children, that supports people living with HIV and that supports abused animals.

Then, make a donation to Opera Colorado. Colorado benefits from a vibrant performing arts community. Opera Colorado isn't just an opera company that performs amazing opera for those who enjoy opera. We are a state-of-the-art agency with an incredibly talented staff and a committed board, all working to not only ensure the best in opera but to bring live opera and an introduction of the performing arts to children throughout Colorado and even into southern Wyoming. In many cases, our education team brings the only example of the performing arts that a child will see.

Colorado Gives Day is our opportunity to change the world. To donate to organizations throughout Colorado that are making the world a better place. In different ways.

No gift on Colorado Gives Day is too small. We would be honored to have earned the privilege of receiving a donation from you on Colorado Gives Day.

You can click here to be taken to our Colorado Gives Day giving site: https://www.givingfirst.org/OperaColorado/overview

If you would like to simply just call us to make a donation, you can reach Dan at 720.470.0247 throughout the day today.

Thank you for reading. And thank you for supporting Colorado Gives Day and Opera Colorado! Lastly, I borrowed the above photo from Manitoba Opera. Your donation certainly does help us to raise the curtain!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Meet Morgan Smith

Some singers spend much of their careers singing traditional operatic "classics" such as Verdi, Mozart and Puccini.  Some specialize in new works, and some effortlessly combine the two.  Having just disembarked the Pequod following another voyage of critically-acclaimed performances as Starbuck in Jake Heggie’s opera based on Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby-Dick, Morgan Smith recently gave us an inside look at how he came to discover opera, and how he came to this point in his career.  Last seen as Marcello in Opera Colorado’s 2010 La bohème, Morgan will appear as Roger Chillingworth, Hester Prynne’s long-missing and revenge-obsessed husband in Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter, which, like Moby-Dick is based on another 19th Century giant of classic American Literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter

“My first exposure to opera came in the form of a 7th birthday gift, when my mother took me to the Met to see Hänsel and Gretel. Apparently I was ‘Tra-la-la-ing’ the father's music on the way home and  for days afterwards. The next truly seminal opera moment for me came in my junior year of high school, when I had an impromptu invitation to the Met's opening production of The Tales of Hoffman with Placido Domingo, Sam Ramey, and Natalie Dessay. The singers seemed to be having a ball onstage, and that comic book-like production left me surprised and enchanted. I thought to myself, "I wanna get paid to do that too!" According to my mother, I've got the best job ever. She and my father also helped me and my three siblings develop a love of music from a young age. My cello teacher put up with me from age 6-18, despite the other interests that pulled me away from true devotion to the instrument (whitewater slalom, soccer, and later, playing double-bass in jazz ensembles). I'd sometimes come to lessons with my left hand in a splint from goalkeeping injuries on the soccer field, and she'd ask, "Are you going to be a professional soccer player? I guess we'll just work on your bow-hand today." I owe her and many others a debt of gratitude for seeing the potential in me for a career in music, and cracking the whip!  Since then, this career has taken me to some exciting places, geographically, as well as musically.  A collaboration with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer on For a Look or a Touch with Music of Remembrance in Seattle turned out to be life-changing in many ways. It led to an invitation to join the premier cast of their new opera, Moby-Dick, which I've had the honor of performing in Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco. Working with these two brilliant artists has helped foster a deep love of new music, and the creative process that goes into presenting a work to the public for the first time. I feel so lucky to be joining such a stellar cast for The Scarlet Letter in Denver this Spring. One of my first thoughts after reading the novel in high school was, "this story would make a great opera!" Lori Laitman and David Mason have created a very special dramatic work of art, and I can't wait to dive in.”

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations