Thursday, August 30, 2012

Opera 101 Part III - A plan for the 2013 Season

If I had a $500 donation for every time I heard "well I just don't know enough about opera to go"!

Closet opera lovers and those who want to learn more about opera UNITE!

I have a plan. Well, it's more like an idea.

Season tickets for Opera Colorado's 2013 Season are now on sale. If you feel like you don't want to commit to a full season, three operas, then purchase it anyway and gift one of the performances to a friend. If you start trembling at the thought of purchasing the whole season, then take a deep breath and know that starting September 29th you can purchase single-opera tickets for the season. We (I've totally got your back here) can start with Romeo and Juliet and then see how it goes.

Remember that the actual opera is only part of an evening of live music and culture.

It starts with dinner. If you're coming on opening night Opera Colorado will totally take care of you as you can purchase tickets for our opening night dinner. Dinner, check.

An hour before the performance enter the opera house to listen to Betsy Schwarm, professor at Metro State, discuss the upcoming opera. Imagine knowing a lot about the opera before it even begins so that when the curtain first goes up you already have a good idea of the plot! I have found during my path to learn more about opera that the more I know about an opera I am about to see the more I enjoy it.

After the opera, stay for the post-opera chat with Greg Carpenter our General Director and Brad Trexell, our Artistic Director. Ask a question or just listen.

Finish the night with a post-opera party (we host one on opening nights) or a dessert and drink downtown. Make it even a longer experience by spending the night with one of our several hotel partners!

Let's do it! Opera Colorado's 2013 Season is the perfect mix for those of us just getting our feet wet in the opera world! If you have any questions feel free to email me at

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In the 30th Anniversary Spotlight: Maestro Ari Pelto

Meet Maestro Ari Pelto, who makes his Opera Colorado debut leading Mozart’s masterpiece, Don Giovanni

Like our entire cast for Don Giovanni this season, conductor Ari Pelto will make his Opera Colorado debut leading the soloists, orchestra and chorus through the demands of Mozart’s masterpiece.

Born into an exotic household with a Finnish father and a mother from a Lithuanian Jewish family, Ari, (incidentally both a popular Finnish and Hebrew name), grew up speaking both Finnish and English. From the age of six into his early twenties, he studied violin seriously and never planned to do anything else. His exposure to opera came from actually playing in the orchestra pit. While studying at Oberlin, a physical problem required him to stop playing for awhile, and during this period he began to study conducting. He’s never looked back. Since his 2004 debut with New York City Opera leading Verdi’s La Traviata, he has been in demand in opera houses, concert halls, ballet companies and conservatories all over the country, leading performances that have been called "poetic," "earthy," "vigorous" and "highly individual."

Like many musicians, his musical tastes are not limited solely to the ‘Classical’ variety. He has always enjoyed ‘ethnic’ music, i.e.: Gypsy, Russian, Klezmer, and Latin. He even played quite a bit of Klezmer as a violinist--and even some Mariachi. But he also loves David Byrne, Elvis Costello…and Bob Dylan.

Many artists in the opera world spend most of their year in strange cities, in unfamiliar hotels or apartments and develop ‘survival skills.’ It is a life of living out of a suitcase and this reality can be, at the same time, the most rewarding and the most challenging aspect of ‘Show Business.' "Traveling, working with new people all the time and starting over with each new production is the opera business, and you never know how it will turn out. That’s part of what makes it so exciting. Each performance is special. Anything can happen." And sometimes, it does! Once, while leading a performance of Puccini’s La Bohème, the Maestro was sent into the orchestra pit to begin the performance before the stage was quite ready. Everything was going fine until he looked up as Marcello was to sing his first line, and realized… the curtain had never opened! He had to start the performance again!

Outside the opera house, or concert hall, Ari is an avid cook, and enjoys spending time planning meals. "For me, cooking is a lot like conducting. You have to plan carefully and balance ingredients. Still, no matter how much you plan, something unique and special happens every time!"

Don Giovanni, with its dramatic second-act banquet scene, could not be more appropriate for a maestro who loves to cook. The ingredients will all be in perfect balance when Maestro Pelto comes to Denver. "I never tire of Mozart. No single composer requires more care and artistic honesty to prepare and perform."

Bon appétit!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A relationship with Opera Colorado

As many of you know, Opera Colorado begins the celebration around our 30th Anniversary Season on September 22nd with our 30th Anniversary Gala.

30 years is a long time.

In the New York Times (August 8th) was an article titled "Uncertainty of Operatic Proportions" which included this:

So we may well be looking at many years of walking on eggshells. But the problems of opera in America predated the recession, and there’s never good reason to wait to address them: the stagnant repertory; the necessity of big stars, like Mr. Domingo, to sell almost anything; the focus on escapism over innovation and relevance. There is lots of “Aida,” lots of “Turandot,” even at companies, like the Minnesota Opera, that use their limited resources to advocate for new work and thoughtful theater.

The article focused on certain opera companies and the hardships they are facing. A point was made that some companies that used to bring new and rare operas no longer can afford to take that risk.

Fortunately, the artistic team here at Opera Colorado of Greg carpenter, our general Director, and Brad Trexell, our Director of Artistic Vision, is continually thinking of out-of-the-box seasons. Our 2013 Season is a great example, one that includes the classics as well as a World Premiere of The Scarlet Letter.

None of this is possible without the incredibly generous supporters we have. The board and staff at Opera Colorado are determined that we will not become an opera museum, yet will always do our best to bring new and rarely-performed operas to our supporters.

Your financial support of us means that we can continue to do this. Without generous donors, live opera in Denver becomes more difficult to produce. I believe that Denver is an amazing city partly due to our thriving performing arts scene. Every donation to Opera Colorado is a step closer to keeping this thriving performing arts scene alive and well.

Here's to the start of our 30th Anniversary Season, brought to you by an incredible staff, a totally supportive board, patrons and generous donors!

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me directly at


Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Opera Character Are You?

I’ve heard it said more than once that we have a lot of “characters” on staff at Opera Colorado. It got me thinking. How well do you, our patrons, know us? Somewhat? A little? Not at all?

Well then, I’m going to do what I can do change that. I am, after all, the Director of Education, so it’s time I “educate” you about us. Too corny? For my blog post this week I decided to delve in and see what I could find out about my colleagues and then share it with you. We all like a little dirt now and then, don’t we? I wanted to connect it to opera since that’s why we’re all here, so I posed this question to them, “What opera character are you most like and why?” I found out quite a lot, maybe more than I wanted to.

Here are their responses:

Katie, our Assistant Ticket Services Manager, was the first to respond. “What opera character is pregnant? That would be me.” (For those of you wondering, yes, Katie is expecting.) We racked our brains for the better part of a day and we couldn’t think of one, well at least not one with a happy ending and we didn’t want to go there... So Katie decided on Carmen. Why? “Because I beat to my own drum, and for a while moved around the country like a gypsy. Not to mention working in Rock n’ Roll for 9 years. Although so far, knock on wood, my life has not ended in tragedy. Did I mention I am sassy too?”

Felicia, our grant consultant, was also quick to reply. “Oh, that is so easy for me. Mimi in Boheme because she and I go on about everything. She’s also why we named one of our new pups 'Mimi' . . . she always looks so pitiful and needy and helpless. But, she really isn’t.”

Hally, our Production Manager also had animals in mind when choosing her character. “I loved Jezibaba when we did Rusalka. I swore that when I got a second horse, that would be their name.” I know you’re wondering if that came true. Sadly, no. Hally’s second horse came already named so there’s no pony prancing about to the name of Jezibaba; at least not that I’m aware of.

After about a day, this became a topic of conversation in the office. Who were we? Who did others think we were? Some of the characters were easy to figure out. Julie, our Staff Accountant chose Carmen too and we all agreed. I think women view Carmen differently than men... Why Carmen? Julie said, “Because she’s fiery and sassy but not slutty.” Did I mention that Julie is a red-head?

Meghan, our Manager of Education chose Flora from La Traviata, “Because I’m a good friend and I love to throw a party!” I can’t argue with that one. I’ve seen her in action – mad hostess skills.

Now Greg, our General Director, is a thoughtful man. He gave this topic some consideration. His answer? “Being a highly creative person I would choose the character of Spalanzani (the inventor of the Doll) in Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. Spalanzani uses his creative genius to invent a doll that appears to be human.” Well said, don’t you think?

Dan, our Director of Development is new to opera, so we had a think-tank. Don’t laugh. This is serious business. You have to pick just the right character. I mean, this is going in a blog after all. For Dan we chose Dandini from La Cenerentola. He's lively, charming, funny and always up for a challenge. He can also really sell an idea and is a faithful and devoted servant...umm, I mean friend.

Laura, our Box Office Manager, threw me a curve ball. She said she was a mix between Michaela, in Carmen and the Queen of the Night, from The Magic Flute. That’s quite a combo. Laura elaborated, “Micaela has a good heart and tries her best to help people make good decisions. She goes above and beyond to do the right things, even when it’s hard for her. Queen of the Night... because she’s a witch and I love Halloween!” Okie dokie.

The topic was really gaining steam in the office now. People were asking, “Who did you choose?” We were talking about it in groups at lunch. Even our Chief Financial Officer, Darrel, got into the spirit. He chose Mephistopheles from Faust. I asked why, a little uncertain that I wanted to know the answer given that this character is the devil. Darrel responded, “Because I like doing favors for people in return for their souls.” Darrel is a nice man, I promise.

Brad, our Director of Artistic Operations, came into the conversation late and had only this to say, “Wow. I cannot even imagine. I should have gotten my Masters and this could have been my dissertation…”

Erin, our Marketing and Promotions Coordinator, took the longest to respond. She put some serious thought into her choice, even doing some research. So, who did she select? “Violetta from La Traviata, because I love a good party, I never seem to have enough money, and I hate being sick.” Don’t we all?

As for me, after helping everyone else figure out who they were, I couldn’t choose for myself. I asked my colleagues to pick a character for me. Funnily enough, they chose a character from my favorite Rossini opera; Angelina from La Cenerentola. Why? “Because no matter what gets thrown at you, you go at it head on. You have a big heart and lots and lots of patience.” A sappy one, I’ll grant you, but I love it!

Now it’s your turn readers. What character are you and why? Come on! We want to get to know you. We want responses. Let’s make this blog go viral!

Cherity Koepke, Director of Education and Community Programs

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Christopher Magiera

Meet the Man Your Mother Warned You About…

Opera Colorado’s Don Giovanni, Christopher Magiera

Opera Colorado audiences are in for a treat when baritone Christopher Magiera makes his Colorado debut, AND his role debut as the devilish seducer, Don Giovanni, in Mozart’s masterpiece, in March and April 2013. We are particularly pleased to present an outstanding cast composed entirely of brand-new-to-Opera Colorado-artists for Don Giovanni.

Christopher Magiera grew up on the north shore of Chicago. His parents were ticket holders at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he attended the opera as a child with them. The first performance he saw was Madama Butterfly, but he also distinctly remembers seeing Thomas Allen perform Figaro when he was about 8 years old. He remains to this day a die-hard Chicago sports fan: “I love the Cubs and Bears especially, as I grew up going to games from when I was a young kid. I'll still try to find any game on TV or radio that I can watch/listen to wherever I am in the world.”

“I have lived all over the place (multiple suburbs of Chicago, North Carolina, Australia, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, Florida, Munich and Dresden, Germany) most recently in Dresden where I was a member of the Semperoper for 2 years. I was asked to sing Giovanni there as in a revival production, but felt that the short rehearsal process would make the complex role difficult to master. So, I'm really glad I have the chance to do a new production of it at OC."

“I made my professional debut a few years ago as Onegin with Kevin Newbury directing, who is also directing the Don Giovanni. I'm very excited to work with him again, as I haven't seen him since.”

“One of my favorite things about performing is when I get to sing with someone I have admired and seen on stage. This has happened to me a few times and every time I am usually quite star struck. Often I say something really stupid and leave embarrassed. Most recently I worked with Alan Opie - an amazing baritone - who had lots to offer on Giovanni as a role and approaching it throughout one's career. It was such a treat to work with him."

When he’s not at the opera house, Chris likes to cook, exercise, play golf, go on long walks and a million other things. “I think cooking is one of the most important skills for a singer. If you master a few recipes that remind you of home, you can make them anywhere you go and feel that instant comfort which we all need at times on the road. Of course, now that Lou Malnatti's Deep Dish Chicago pizza - the best pizza in the world - delivers everywhere in the USA, it is even easier to find that taste of home.”

Finally, Chris has never been to Colorado. “Once I flew through the Denver airport but that's the closest I've come. I can't wait to get there and experience it!”

We’re looking forward to having you with us, Chris!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Investing in live opera

As the Director of Development at Opera Colorado, I spend most of my days building relationships with donors, patrons, potential new donors, people who used to donate but for some reason stopped, and companies.

The summer has been filled with a couple of direct mail campaigns and dozens of visits with companies in the hopes of building a relationship.

Now it's time to begin conversations with those who have the financial means of making a large gift to Opera Colorado.

I am grateful for the dozens of individuals and families who have made major gifts to Opera Colorado in our 30 years.

A major gift to me is an annual donation of $5,000 or more. Imagine what we can do with that.

At $10,000, a family can get recognized as being a supporter of a 2013 opera. At $20,000 a family can be a sponsor of a 2013 production. Without people like this, our amazingly creative team of Greg Carpenter and Brad Trexell cannot bring the great classics or new and rarely performed operas to Denver.

A great example is the upcoming World Premiere of Lori Laitman's The Scarlet Letter. A World Premiere. In Denver.

I recently spoke with a group of opera lovers who alone could not make a gift at this level but for the first time are seeing if as a group they can make a gift at this level and support The Scarlet Letter. They were thrilled to listen to their options around giving and what their gift would mean to Opera Colorado and our community.

Sustainability in the performing arts is not easy these days. Gifts on this level go a long way in supporting the sustainability of Opera Colorado.

If you have questions on investing in our work or on donating in general, feel free to email me at

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The 2013 Season!

We've been a little quieter than usual lately here on Backstage, but there's good reason. Preparations for the upcoming 30th Anniversary Season are chugging along at break-neck speed - from the Gala to the new look of the upcoming season, from our incoming 2012-2013 Young Artists to the fun special events in the works - you'll be hearing all about it over the coming weeks. So if you aren't on our e-mail or mailing list already, be sure to sign up. You won't want to miss a minute of our 30th Anniversary festivities!

Join the E-mail Club or e-mail to be added to our regular mailing list. And be sure to visit our website regularly for updates.

Today, we'll leave you with a taste of what's to come. Be the first to check out our 2013 Season Brochure!