Thursday, September 27, 2012

Supporting live opera

As many of you know, Opera Colorado's 30th Anniversary Gala was last Saturday. I intend to write a blog all about the Gala later. This post is about people who support live opera.

As soon as I began as Director of Development here at Opera Colorado it was clear to me that people who financially support Opera Colorado and who are passionate about opera are also passionate about living. They're passionate about their community and about supporting other non-profits that make a community a better pace to live.

Day after day I meet people who firmly believe, as I do, that a strong community includes a strong performing arts community, one that has a thriving opera company. I am beyond grateful that I get to be a part of our community's thriving opera company.

And every day I have the incredible opportunity to speak with those who support live opera. Their support comes in many ways:

They volunteer for Opera Colorado.

They purchase tickets to an opera, or better yet season tickets for the whole season!

They make a financial gift to us.

They make a multi-year financial pledge.

They put Opera Colorado in their will.

They host our Young Artists.

My list could go on. My gratitude for all of these folks definitely goes on and on. I have the privilege of working with these generous people every day.

Thank you.

Thanks for reading our blog!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Theatre Bug—Contagious or Genetic?

Meet Kelly Van Oosbree, Director of Sideshow! for 2012

By day she has a relatively normal job, handling lighting sales for Barbizon Theatrical Lighting Company, but when the sun goes down, she transforms into Director/Choreographer Kelly Van Oosbree! (The second ‘o’ in Oosbree is silent, which results in a pronunciation of ‘OZ-bree’.) Kelly will direct Opera Colorado’s 2012 version of Sideshow!, the catch-all title given to the project initiated last Fall which combines a potpourri menu of staged opera with songs or cabaret music, in a relaxed, cabaret setting.

Kelly jumped at the opportunity to direct this year’s incarnation of Sideshow! mostly because she loves working with young performers, and always strives to leave them with something useful during the rehearsal process that they might be able to call upon throughout their careers on the stage. She especially loves working with opera singers, who may not be particularly comfortable or accustomed to dancing on stage, and enjoys helping them become comfortable with movement.

Kelly was either born with—or perhaps bitten by—The Theatre Bug early on because her mother was, and still is, a theater director in their native Iowa. Taking after her mother, Kelly remembers always wanting to tell stories, or figure out how to tell stories in interesting ways, from the time she was a small child. After receiving her B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa, Kelly relocated to Colorado in 2001. Eventually she realized her day job needed some nocturnal theatrical oomph, and since 2008, she has directed over a dozen local productions—both musicals and legitimate theater—for companies like Performance Now, Vintage Theater, and Afterthought Theatre. Her recent production of ‘Of Mice and Men’ for the Platte Valley Players, received warm reviews at the Armory in Brighton. Recently engaged to fiancé Brian, Kelly also makes her home in Brighton with her two dogs, Cooper and Santa.

She just loves working with actors and other performers, encouraging them to interpret stories and to go places they didn’t think they would go. Before Sideshow! rehearsals begin, Kelly will have another opportunity to put on a musical production when she directs ‘You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown’ for Performance Now at the Lakewood Cultural Arts Center. Performances run October 12th through 21st.

‘The most rewarding thing for me is when the performers amaze even themselves with what they are able to accomplish. As for me, I just love to tell a good story!’

We can’t wait to see how it turns out, Kelly!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Note: Sideshow! will be performed at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on November 1, 2, 3 at 7:30pm. Table seating ($45) and theater seating ($40) are available. Cocktails and snacks will be available for purchase. For tickets, call 303.468.2030 or visit

This year’s program includes Douglas Moore’s hilarious one-act soap-opera parody, Gallantry, cabaret songs by William Bolcom, and show tunes by Cole Porter.

The performers will be Opera Colorado’s Young Artists: Morgan Harmison, Cassidy Smith, Joshua Bouillon, Alex DeSocio and Jared Guest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meet Joshua Bouillon, one of the 2012-2013 Opera Colorado Young Artists

Joshua, our tenor, joins the Opera Colorado family from New York State where he received his Bachelors degree from Liberty University and his Masters from the Eastman School of Music.

OC: When did you first know you wanted to be an opera singer?

It was not until my mid-twenties that I recognized that I had the gifts and abilities to be an opera singer.

OC: If you couldn’t be an opera singer, what would you be?

If I couldn’t be an opera singer I would be a music teacher/choral director in France. I love France!

OC: Do you prefer comedic or dramatic operas?

Though I do enjoy singing comedic roles I prefer dramatic opera because of the depths of emotion that can be explored and how it can go beyond the entertainment value of art.

OC: What is your favorite opera?

My favorite opera is Puccini's La bohème. I would love to sing Rodolfo.

OC: Who are you in a nutshell?

I am someone who is kind, sincere, and respectful, and ever striving to be all of the above.

OC: If you could have dinner with three famous people, who would they be?

William Wilberforce (British politician and philanthropist), Eric Liddell (Scottish athlete and missionary), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German Lutheran pastor and theologian). These are men who influenced or changed the world for the better because they held to their convictions even in the face of great adversity.

OC: If you could compose an opera on any topic, person, or event, what would it be?

I think I would compose an opera on the biblical narrative of Joseph found in the book of Genesis. The themes of envy and jealousy, and redemption and forgiveness would make for a very moving opera.

OC: What excites you the most about your season as an Opera Colorado Young Artist?

I am so thankful for the experience I will gain by having the privilege to be singing great roles with a great opera company.

This season Joshua will be performing the roles of Don José (Carmen) and Count Almaviva (The Barber of Seville) in Opera Colorado’s outreach touring productions, as well as covering the role of Romeo for Opera Colorado’s main stage production of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. He can also be heard, with all of the Young Artists, in Sideshow! on November 1, 2, and 3 at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

By Erin Acheson, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An opera World Premiere - The Scarlet Letter

To say that I am giddy about Opera Colorado's upcoming production of The Scarlet Letter is an understatement. After all, this will be my first official World Premiere in my opera life.

And when I say World Premiere, it is technically the professional World Premiere. This opera has been performed once, in a college setting.

The Scarlet Letter is a treat on many levels. The first is that it was composed by Lori Laitman, a superstar in my eyes and a woman who has been part of the movement (unofficial) that is currently breathing new, exciting life into the national world of opera. I have met her and if she is representative of the modern opera world then things look very bright for opera!

Another treat is that many people already know the story of The Scarlet Letter. It is still required reading in schools. Like I have said many times, an opera can be so much more enjoyable if you have even a small grasp on what it is all about when the curtain goes up.

I love operas in Italian and French. At Opera Colorado we have a subtitling system so that our patrons can read the translation throughout the opera. With The Scarlet Letter, it becomes even easier as the opera is in English. I look forward to the day when the language does not matter but today it still seems to.

Tickets go on sale on October 1st. This is an opera not to miss, brought to you by an opera company that continues to bring new and rarely performed operas to the Denver metro area. I hope to see you at one of the performances!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kicking Off the 30th Anniversary Season in Style

Last Thursday, Opera Colorado kicked off its 30th Anniversary Season with an elegant Patron Party hosted by board member Alessandra Schulein and her husband Ben. The event was the official pre-party to celebrate the milestone Gala taking place on Saturday, September 22nd at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. All proceeds from the Gala support Opera Colorado’s dynamic Education & Community Programs, including in-school residencies, student-friendly touring performances, introductory opera programs, and backstage workshops showcasing the inner workings of a main stage opera production.

A core component to the Education & Community Programs is the Opera Colorado Young Artists, five talented singers selected to participate in a seven-month training and outreach residency with the company. The Young Artists received their first public introduction to the board, donors, and corporate partners at the event.

Along with delectable treats and delicious wine, Patron Party attendees were treated to live tango music and dancers and an exquisite performance by soprano Inna Dukach, one of the stars from our 2012 production of Florencia en el Amazonas. Guests were also given an early preview of one of the items that will be auctioned live at the Gala. Artist Stephen Batura graciously donated the original color study painting of The Rehearsal, the large mural in the lobby of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House commissioned to commemorate the 2005 completion of Denver’s new grand opera venue.

Excitement is building as we enter the final weeks leading up to the Gala, our hallmark fundraising event for the season. And it is not too late to pledge your support. VIP table packages and single tickets are still available. A vast array of silent and live auction items, excursions, and experiences will be available for bidding. If you are unable to attend the gala, you can still bid on these exciting items. Check them out on our website and contact Susan Hennessy to learn how you can get your bid in.

It promises to be a thrilling evening for the benefit of thousands of students and dozens of communities across the state. Please join us!

To RSVP, or for more information, contact Susan Hennessy at 303.778.7086 or

By Erin Acheson, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator
Photography by Jennifer Koskinen, Merritt Design Photo

Thursday, September 6, 2012

“As Ye Rip, So Shall Ye Sew”

A Chat with Terese Wadden, Costume Designer for The Scarlet Letter

Mimì, Puccini’s immortal Bohemienne, and Hester Prynne, the defiant heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cornerstone of American literature, The Scarlet Letter, share at least one similarity: both are seamstresses and make their living embroidering garments for others to wear. Mimì spends her time embroidering flowers, which remind her of spring. Hester embroiders gloves for Governor Bellingham, later embellishes her own mark of shame-- the scarlet letter—and eventually lives out her life using her needle to fulfill an active and necessary role in the community which otherwise shuns her.

And so, it is entirely ‘fitting’—pun intended—that we meet the costume designer who will clothe Hester and the other inhabitants of her Puritan community , who will populate composer Lori Laitman’s version of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

Like many of us who follow a course of study, and end up in a completely different career, Terese Wadden grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, and moved to New York, to study English Literature. While in college, she began working as a shop assistant for various designers in the New York fashion industry. She soon realized that she was less interested in the business of glamour and high fashion, than in the psychology of the characters she had studied as an English Lit. major, and what the clothes those people might have worn could say about them. She found she loved the notion of ‘interpreting’ what she found in the literature, and soon embarked on a plan to meld her interests through clothes. What was important to her was to give a character a perspective and a point of view via their costumes. The mantra, ‘Why would somebody wear this,’ informs her work.

She interned for a semester at the Metropolitan Opera, where she was given odd jobs such as sorting beads or buttons, or shopping for fabric and notions so the costume shop could build costumes or make needed repairs to their stock. The demands of keeping a full Met season of rotating casts costumed in a repertoire performance schedule makes the Met shops a bee-hive of frenetic activity. Stepping into the frenzy, her first assignment was one such shopping trip. She was handed $400 and given a list, with no idea how or where to fulfill this all-day ‘scavenger hunt’ in New York City. She returned, mission accomplished, slightly later than the Union 4:45pm costume shop closing time, only to find the crew waiting for her. No one had informed her of ‘quitting time’ and in the days before ‘a-cell-phone-in-every-pocket,’ they had had no way to reach her as she made her rounds!

These days, Terese designs for both theater and opera, and this season, in addition to The Scarlet Letter for Opera Colorado, she will design a new touring production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It with the Acting Company and a new play based on a Jonathan Franzen short story for The Transport Group in New York City. When asked to compare designing for ‘legitimate’ theater and opera, she offers, “In opera, sometimes subtlety is lost, and romantic lead characters, especially, could have more depth and character in their costumes, which I try to give them. I also find a little more artistic freedom in opera because audiences are more willing to accept big ideas expressed through the clothes.” Contrary to popular belief that ‘divas are difficult’ Terese thoroughly enjoys working with singers to get their costumes just right. “ They, so far, have been lovely to work with, and I particularly like to work with young artists, who are always so interested in the process.”

She does not have a favorite historical period to design, but, "for a while I was stuck designing from 1910-1930, and got a little pigeon-holed!" She is enjoying designing the costumes for Hester Prynne and her neighbors, and the challenge of depicting a strict, closed society, its values, and its one outsider. “The work itself makes a big statement about morals and society, and my job is to make the costumes support that vision.”

We’re on pins and needles, Terese!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meet Cassidy Smith, one of the 2012-2013 Opera Colorado Young Artists

This month, Cassidy Smith joins the Opera Colorado family as the mezzo-soprano in our quintet of Young Artists. Cassidy is a Colorado native, receiving her Performance Certificate and Bachelor of Music degree from Denver University’s Lamont School of Music.

OC: When did you first know you wanted to be an opera singer?
I have always known that singing would be a big part of my life, but I didn't know that I would be singing opera until half way through college. I studied abroad in Vienna as a Junior in college, and during that four- month span I went to the opera 26 times (I saw 2 operas twice, and only missed 1 opera in their fall season). The Standing Room at the Vienna Staatsoper is €4, and so I went as often as I could. I was also living with 6 other singers in one apartment (sharing one bathroom!), and we all fed off of each others' enthusiasm. I absolutely fell in love with opera during that time, and I've been working hard to make opera my career ever since.

OC: Who or what most influenced you?
Those few months in Vienna definitely had the most influence on my development as a singer. But long before my time in Vienna, while I was deciding which engineering college applications I should fill out, my voice teacher, Kate Emerich, encouraged me to just make an audition CD to send to a couple of music schools and see what happened. Her gentle nudge helped me to realize that I wanted to make a career out of singing.

OC: If you couldn’t be an opera singer, what would you be?
I would be an astrophysicist.

OC: What are you the most excited about as an Opera Colorado Young Artist?
I am excited to bring two operas that I love (Carmen and The Barber of Seville) to young audiences in Denver and beyond. I’m also excited to stay in Denver for another year – it’s one of my favorite places on Earth!

OC: If you could sing any role, what would it be?
Violetta from La Traviata. She is an incredibly complex character that I would love to dive into and try to understand. And the music she gets to sing is breathtaking; from the Act 1 show-stopper of "Sempre Libera" to the heart-wrenching "Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti" in Act 3, Verdi's music adds incredible depth to her character. Unfortunately I can only dream of a high E-flat, so that role will continue to only be sung in my dreams.

OC: Do you prefer comedic or dramatic operas?
I prefer performing in comedic operas because I enjoy making people laugh, and I've always felt that comedic acting came more easily to me than drama. However, I prefer watching a dramatic opera. The music adds so much depth and feeling to the story, and a dramatic opera really has the power to move my soul.

OC: What is something people would be suprised to learn about you?
People might be surprised to find out that I was a ski racer for 9 years, and that I Nordic Jumped for a couple of years as well. And if they already knew that, they’d probably be surprised that I was also a Girl Scout for 13 years.


As an Opera Colorado Young Artist, Cassidy will sing the title role in Carmen and the role of Rosina in The Barber of Seville in abridged, English-language versions that will be performed in schools and communities throughout Colorado and southern Wyoming, as well as the trouser role of Stephano in the student matinee performance of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet and a role in the main stage, world premiere production of Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter.