Monday, October 29, 2012

Inside "Sideshow!"

An old joke goes:  ‘Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?’ And the punchline is:  ‘Practice’.  The answer and the process is the same for every theatrical or musical endeavor.  Practice, practice, practice.  Or as we call it, ‘rehearsal.' 

In one corner of the mostly empty Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the cast of Sideshow! is in rehearsal in order to polish the show before the first audience arrives on November 1st.  Stage Director Kelly Van Oosbree gives notes following a run through of Gallantry changing 'blocking’ or staging, adjusting the travel pattern of a particular prop throughout the show, and refining some comedic timing.  The talented cast listens attentively and adjusts accordingly, and then receives some notes on the musical aspect of the run-through from pianist and music director for Sideshow!, Beth Nielsen.  Throughout, the process is enhanced by gales of laughter from the cast and the director.  Combining singing, while acting, being funny, and dealing with props takes concentration and repetition to get just right, but it’s hard not to dissolve into laughter when rehearsing a comedy.

“It’s been an absolute treat to work with the Young Artists - they are incredible talents and they are also really fun (and funny) people!,’ commented stage director Kelly Van Oosbree.  "As we work on the farce of Gallantry - I can't help but think of some of my favorite farces: Noises Off and Soapdish (which I immediately thought of the first time I read Gallantry).  Sideshow!- Gallantry in particular-  is an experience from top to bottom.  I can't wait to have an audience!"

Sideshow!, for those who are unfamiliar, was inaugurated last fall in the newly christened Studio Loft performance and event space high up in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.  With a newly condensed season in the first half of the calendar year, Opera Colorado felt the need to present something musical in the fall, and felt the Studio Loft was the perfect location to present an intimate evening, combining a short, staged one-act opera, along with some cabaret songs.  The venue comes complete with a bar, so guests can enjoy a cocktail or two and snacks throughout the performances.  Seating is arranged at cabaret tables, and also in rows on levels. It’s the perfect before-or-after dinner show, and ideal dose of a little music for those who may be new to opera, for whom the prospect of a three-hour grand opera in a foreign language may be a bit daunting.  The selections for Sideshow! are all in English.

Gallantry by Douglas Moore, is a hilarious spoof of live soap operas from the early days of television, complete with live musical advertisements from "our sponsors": Lochinvar Soap and Billy Boy Wax!  As Dr. Gregg and Nurse Lola prepare to perform an operation, Dr. Gregg reveals his lust for Nurse Lola.  When the patient turns out to be Nurse Lola’s fiancé, the comedy begins.  It is a fond look back at the now almost-extinct television soap opera.  With actual soap.

The program is rounded out by a selection of familiar Cole Porter songs, and a set by a modern master of cabaret songs, William Bolcom.  With only three main-stage grand operas each season, the range of music Opera Colorado is able to present is somewhat limited.  The music for Sideshow!, selected from the vast realm of available vocal material, provides an opportunity to present familiar and traditional offerings alongside newer works, all of which are more appropriate for a more intimate setting than the grand stage of the Ellie. The Studio Loft is a perfect fit.  The talented cast includes soprano Morgan Harmison, mezzo-soprano Cassidy Smith, tenor Joshua Bouillon, and baritones Alex DeSocio and Jared Guest. 

Nurse Lola herself—AKA Morgan Harmison adds, "It’s been wonderful working with such a brilliant director as Kelly, who has been guiding us on making a melodrama like Gallantry comedic.  The second act consists of pieces in the form of a cabaret.  We are able to have a great time being ourselves and enjoy classics by William Bolcom and Cole Porter. I love performing Sideshow!, but at the same time I wish I could be in the audience to watch it. It’s so much fun!"

Now that staging is nearing completion, in the coming few days the show will start to look like a show.  Lights will be hung, focused and cued, costumes will appear, and tables, chairs and risers will be setup in the Studio Loft to await their occupants.   All that is missing, now, is you.  Join us, won’t you? 

Cocktails.  Did we mention there will be cocktails?

Tables for up to four guests are available for $45 per seat, and riser seat tickets are $40 by calling the Opera Colorado Ticket Services at 303.468.2030 or ordering online at

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fundraising successes at Opera Colorado

It's a question I am asked often by donors: What else are you doing to raise money other than calling me?

I totally get the question. Our donors are incredibly loyal, generous, sustaining and in many cases have been giving to Opera Colorado for years. It's important that they know they are not our only source for funding!

Recently at Opera Colorado we have had a couple of successful events that I wanted to share with our donors and supporters. I'd like to call this a string of events yet with only two in a row right now I don't think I have enough to warrant calling it a string.

Yet these days, with Opera Colorado getting ready for an amazing 2013 Season and having to pay for the rest of 2012, a success is a success.

As most of our readers and supporters know, on September 22nd, Opera Colorado had our 30th Anniversary Gala. Some say the days of an elegant fundraising gala are over, yet the 380 guests at our Gala would definitely disagree. Then again, our Gala is not the run of the mill Gala. Live opera music. Cocktails on the stage of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, one of the best silent auctions out there, a no-rubber-chicken dinner prepared by Chef Kevin Taylor and his culinary team and then back to the stage for dancing.

Yes, it makes for a long evening, and an evening that benefits Opera Colorado's education outreach. This year we made goal for the second year in a row, we even beat it by a healthy amount!

A couple weeks after the Gala we had our first-in-memory warehouse sale. Imagine 30 years of posters, props, costumes, music and anything else you can think of that would accumulate in an opera company's storage facility. Hundreds came to visit us over two days and left with something that meant a lot to the person. Meanwhile, I watch a Cinderella carriage sell and many arm loads of costumes go out the door. By the end of the day we had sold much more than we had hoped, raising more money than we had originally budgeted.

Two success in a row.

And you can be a part of the third. This is very important and then I can call this a string of financial successes.

Join us on November 1st, 2nd or 3rd for a performance of Sideshow, our new cabaret, up close and personal opera. Performed three evenings in the 4th floor Studio Loft at The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, this is a great night out with amazing singing. One can purchase seats or a table, and a successful Sideshow means even more success with our budget!

If you would like more information on Sideshow or would like to purchase tickets, please call our box office at 303.468.2030.

Please know that all of our successes cannot happen without you. Whether you are a subscriber, a volunteer, a donor, or all of the above, success only happens with you.

Thank you for reading! Fell free to connect me at 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Ava Pine Makes A Welcome and Surprise Return

Soprano Ava Pine -Superheroine, Slips into Juliet’s Ball Gown, Comes to Rescue

Opera companies plan quite far in advance, often selecting operas and casting singers for the main roles two, three—even five years in advance. So it was with the upcoming Romeo and Juliet in which Heidi Stober was expected to return as Juliet. However, sometimes life intervenes in the years after the ink on the contract dries. Just a couple of weeks ago Opera Colorado received the happy news from Heidi that when the curtain goes up in February, she will be just about ready to give birth to her first child. We wish Heidi, her husband and soon-to-be bundle of joy all the best as they embark on this new chapter in their lives. Sometimes--very rarely--life is more important than opera! However, Heidi’s withdrawal from the production meant we needed a new Juliet for our Romeo who was left standing at the secret altar! Enter Ava Pine, who thrilled our audiences with a breathtaking role debut as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro last season. Ava, (pronounced AH-va), sang the role of Juliet for Dallas Opera in 2011, and is looking forward to returning to Denver, and re-visiting the role. Return engagements often take several seasons to arrange due to the advance planning and tight schedules in the opera industry, but fortunately for OC audiences, Ava was able to make herself available and will step into the role in our production. You won’t have to wait several seasons to hear Ava again on the stage of the Ellie!

Born on Galveston Island into a musical family, Ava is the eldest of five closely-spaced siblings. Her father, an emergency-room physician by day/old school Country Western singer-songwriter by night, moved the family to Fredericksburg, in the heart of Central Texas, when Ava was young. The family raised cattle, horses, chickens along with an orchard full of peaches, plums, pecans, pears and cherries. Ava’s father wanted her to follow in his bootsteps and sing Country music, and in fact her first professional engagement was singing the National Anthem, a capella, at Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic, where she was introduced by Willie himself! In college, Ava rebelled and chose a classical music path.

As a girl she wanted to be an astronomer—until she found out how much math was involved! Attending college thanks to an academic scholarship, her course of study was broad-based and not the typical music major. In fact she did more traditional theater in college than opera, and after graduation, unsure about pursuing a career as a performer, took a job doing marketing for a software publisher specializing in handheld devices like Blackberries and Palm Pilots. Looking back she realizes it probably wasn’t the career for her, because she was not as obsessed with continuously checking her e-mail for new messages as her co-workers were! Continuing to perform, occasionally singing oratorio or with choral groups while holding down her ‘real’ job, Ava finally discovered opera in her late 20’s. She realized it was the perfect marriage of classical music, and the theatrical challenge of stepping into another person’s shoes for the evening. “I love opera because I get the chance to be someone else, and to experience entirely different feelings and reactions than what I usually experience—even if only for an evening. I’m a very visceral, involved singer when it comes to character. I really FEEL it. When I sing Juliet, I will really feel the butterflies of first love and the anguish of losing it. When I sing Pamina, I feel the rejection of Tamino’s silence. When I sing ditzy characters, I lose the weight that comes with rational awareness in everyday life. It’s fun! Actually, opera can be the best form of therapy.”

Ava is looking forward to be in back in Denver, partly to resume training by running along Cherry Creek. She trained for her first half-marathon while she was here last season for Figaro, and spent a lot of time on that trail. She runs her second half-marathon next month, and may plan to run another in early January so she will be in great shape to tackle a difficult role like Juliet at Mile-High altitude.

“To be able to earn a living from my art, my talent—it’s the greatest feeling. There is nothing quite like it and I am extraordinarily fortunate! But, it can also be the biggest drawback. Because my ‘product’ comes from within me, it can feel very personal—or not living up to the expectations we set for ourselves can hit very close to home. It’s a tough dichotomy and something all singers struggle with, I think. But, to be able to do what I do every day is pretty much a dream come true.”

Segue way to Juliet-- who in her first big scene in Gounod’s opera, sings Juliet’s Waltz: “Je veux vivre dans le rêve qui m’enivre…” or “I want to live in the dream that intoxicates me…”

Welcome back, Ava Pine!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Jared Guest, one of the 2012-2013 Opera Colorado Young Artists

Jared Guest joins the Opera Colorado family as one of our two Young Artist baritones for the 2012-2013 season. Jared grew up in the suburbs of Orlando where he learned to love and appreciate classical music and opera. He received a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from Florida State University in Tallahassee and, after moving to Texas, earned his Master of Music degree in Voice Performance and Opera from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music.

OC: When did you first know you wanted to be an opera singer?
I first knew I wanted to sing opera after seeing a production of I Pagliacci at vocal solo camp at Florida State University when I was thirteen.

OC: Who or what most influenced you?
My voice teacher in my undergraduate degree did the most to set up a solid foundation for my singing career, both vocally and emotionally. I owe him a great deal!

OC: Do you prefer comedic or dramatic operas?I prefer to perform in comic operas because they are a blast to put on, but if I'm going to attend an opera, it would be a dramatic one. If there aren't tears in my eyes when I leave the theater, I didn't like it.

OC: What are you the most excited about as an Opera Colorado Young Artist?
After living in Florida for most of my life, I’m excited to see snow!

OC: What are you least excited about as an Opera Colorado Young Artist?
I’m least excited about only being a young artist for one year. I wish it could be a longer program.

OC: If you could sing any role, what would it be?
If I could sing any role, I would sing Iago from Verdi's Otello.

OC: If you could compose an opera on any topic, person, or event, what would it be?
If I could compose any opera, it would be on Peter Pan. I think it could make a great libretto with a fantastic mezzo playing the title character.

OC: What do you love most in the world?

OC: If you were a food, what would you be?
I would be moussaka, because I have many different layers and an unexpected spicy side.

During the 2012-2013 season Jared will be performing in the opera cabaret Sideshow! (November 1, 2 and 3 at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House), singing the roles of Zuniga/Narrator (Carmen) and Bartolo (The Barber of Seville) in the company’s abridged touring productions, and the role of Frère Laurent in the student matinee production of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet.

By Erin Acheson, Marketing & Promotions Coordinator

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Young Artists' Fall Tour Blog...Day Three

You know how they say “the early bird catches the worm…?” Not true. Here’s what really happens. The early bird, when startled by a train whistle, crashes into my window; at 6:00AM. The bird is fine, I watched it fly away, and I was up anyway; conveniently looking out said window at the time of impact, so I got the full effect. I swear, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Good morning readers! It’s a beautiful day in Cheyenne and I’ve been up long enough to get the play by play action. The sunrise is stunning; hot pink against a blue sky. There’s no time to admire it though. We’ve got a crazy day ahead. I get ready as quickly and quietly as possible and head downstairs to meet the group for breakfast. To my surprise (not really), I am the first one to arrive. The next to appear is Meghan and then Morgan and then… “the Alex.” Oh my. It’s bad. We haven’t even reached the general grunting phase yet. He seems to be coherent thought, so that’s something. A few minutes later Steven, Joshua and Jared arrive followed by Cassidy. Breakfast is a hushed affair; we’re all running on empty. Joshua is half awake and neglects his toast. I didn’t know bread could get that dark without catching on fire. He says it’s OK though because it’s a good source of carbon. Do humans need to eat carbon? Jared is still trying to make a case for using Mr. Quacksworth as a roaming gnome. He wants to take pictures of him with the people we perform for, sort of like a scrapbook. I have to admit, the idea has possibilities. It’s quirky and unexpected, not bad things when you’re trying to grab people’s attention. We decide on a test run; we’ll try it today and see how the students respond.

Breakfast finished, everyone goes back to their rooms to grab their stuff before checking out. Alex has moved to two word comments; things like: “Forgot something.” “Be back.” It’s a good sign. Time to load the cars – again. Steven and Joshua put on brave faces and get to work. I’m now absolutely positive that the luggage is multiplying when we’re not looking. Meghan heads off to the first school before of the rest of us. She says she’s going to get us checked in, but I think she might be scouting photo ops for that duck. Trunks are successfully closed, bodies are in cars and we’re off. Next stop, Central High School. This will be our third year at this school. We’ve performed Romeo and Juliet, Carmen and now The Barber of Seville. We arrive at the school and it's all hands on deck. We’re on a really tight timeline today so every minute counts. The set goes up pretty smoothly and the teachers are incredibly welcoming and helpful. Steven works with one of the teachers to fix the piano, while I work with another one to set light levels. Joshua can’t find his bow tie, so Steven ransacks the Yukon. While he does that, I fill up water bottles and prepare props. These tasks generally fall under the heading of “other duties as assigned” on our job descriptions. Water is distributed, props are set but, alas, the bow tie has eluded us; still the show must go on. The students arrive and it’s a full house. We’ve got 6th grade – high school and some guests from the community too. I start with an introduction and our very first student performance of The Barber of Seville begins.

Joshua does the flower toss. No laughter. Alex’s aria gets some tentative applause. As the show progresses, I start to get worried. They’re so quiet. Do they like it? I look around and what I see instantly eases my fears. Every face I look at, literally every single one, has a big smile. They’re enjoying the performance; they’re just so focused on what’s happening on stage, they are being quiet. Well, that’s OK! I’m sitting next to a group of middle school students. We arrive at the scene change. Jared walks on stage and, from the girl sitting next to me I hear… “Well, hello.” I turn to her, ready to shake her hand, but she wasn’t talking to me. That comment was for Jared. Too cute! He does look incredibly dapper in his Bartolo costume. The show continues and the laughs are picking up. I can tell that the Young Artists are tired, the energy is a little low, but they are still giving a great performance. I’m also sitting by a group of students with special needs. One young man taps his head excitedly every time Cassidy sings and gets a huge grin on his face. Another student quietly claps for every note that Alex utters. It’s hard to describe what it’s like for me to witness moments like these.

Near the middle of the performance, we have our second tour related injury. Before you ask, Mr. Quacksworth is fine. This time it’s Alex. He slices his finger on a piece of broken china. I know it’s pretty bad when I see him sucking on it in between notes. He’s a pro though and manages to get through the scene without missing a beat. He makes his exit and when he enters a few minutes later, he’s got hot pink spike tape on his finger. Our Alex is a resourceful guy.

The show reaches the finale and then it’s time for bows. The students applaud and you can hear some tentative but sincere “bravos.” I take the stage to begin the Q&A and I’m in for a surprise. This group of students, who has been so quiet during the performance, keeps us answering questions for the next 25 minutes. I was right. They were paying attention to every word. Time runs out before questions do and soon we’re breaking down the set and loading out. I check out Alex’s tour injury; it’s a nasty cut but it’s stopped bleeding. I get him bandaged up and we finish loading everything into the Yukon. First performance of the day… check. Thanks for having us Central High, we’ve loved being here!

We have just enough time to grab a quick lunch before heading to school number two. In the busy-ness of the morning, we completely forgot to try out the Roaming Quacksworth idea. We’ll try it this afternoon. Over lunch, I tell Jared that he has a fan. He’s delighted, of course. Apparently his charm extends to older women too because he gets a free cookie from the cashier. “The Alex” is not amused. Meghan heads off to school number two and we finish lunch and load into the cars. We’re performing The Barber of Seville again, but this time for a new school; South High School. Meghan gets us checked in and we begin the process of loading in and setting up. We’re really getting the hang of it and have the set up in about 20 minutes. The school has a fabulous theater and we even have dressing rooms. The students soon arrive and, after another introduction by yours truly, our second performance of the day begins. We know within minutes that this audience is ready to laugh. Joshua's rose toss get a big giggle and they’re applauding Alex’s aria before the music even ends. The Young Artists can feel the energy in the room and they respond, giving a wonderful performance. Joshua’s characterization of an inebriated solider gets a huge laugh. Morgan’s aria is hilarious. At one point, she flops herself down on a chair, looking for all the world like a benched baseball player. Alex and Jared have one young man laughing so hard, he accidentally head butts his friend. It was audible. His friend was laughing too, so it’s all good. Once we reach bows, the audience is cheering and some even give a standing ovation. The Q&A is fantastic. The students ask some really interesting questions and the Young Artists are complete naturals; giving fun but thoughtful answers. We actually run out of time and have to cut things off as the bell rings to dismiss students from school. South High School – thank you! It’s been a great afternoon and we can’t wait to come back (yes, we’ve already been invited).

As we break down the set and load out, yet again, I can tell that the Young Artists enjoyed the performance and the Q&A. That’s a really good thing, because this is just the beginning. Meghan has managed to try out the Roaming Quacksworth idea and to my surprise, it’s a huge hit with teachers and students. The cars are loaded and we make a quick pit stop at Starbuck’s to fuel ourselves for the drive back to Denver. I decide to gauge the response to the Roaming Quacksworth myself. I tell the baristas where we’re from and what we do. They’re interested, but they don’t ask questions. Then I tell them the idea behind the duck and ask if they’d be willing to take a picture. Instant response. Picture taken and the questions about what we do on tour begin. It worked.

We pile into the cars for the final time and begin the drive to Denver. I’m in the car with all the guys and I soon find myself in completely unfamiliar territory. Silence. Steven is driving, Jared is reading, Alex is dozing and Joshua is fast asleep, using Alex and Jared as cushions. I find my thoughts turning to everything that’s happened over the past 3 days. I estimate that we’ve brought opera to about 500 people. It’s been a series of long days and hard work, but if you asked any of us, we’d all give you the same answer. It’s been totally worth it. So, readers, thanks for coming along. We hope you’ll join us again in March for our Greater Colorado Tour. We’ll be out and about for almost 2 ½ weeks. Based on the experiences from the past 3 days, I think it’s safe to say it will be worth reading about.

So… thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting what we do. And don’t forget to watch for that duck. Roaming Quacksworth. You never know where he might show up next.



Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Programs

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Young Artists' Fall 2012 Tour...Day Two

Since the day the first railroad tracks were laid, trains have played an important role in American history. They made it possible to reach places that were unreachable and transport goods and people all over the country. I respect that. I do… I just have a hard time being historically respectful at 4:00 in the morning when I am woken by a conductor gleefully blowing his whistle. It woke me up out of a dead sleep. I jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom, literally. After popping my shoulder back in place, I figured out what the noise was and went back to bed. 3 hours and 3 trains later, I finally gave in and got up. Good morning.

It’s Day Two of our fall tour. My outlook on the day gets much better when I look out the window. It’s a beautiful day; the fall colors looking amazing against the blue sky. Fall in Colorado – does it get much better than that? Today we’re headed up to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Everyone is on their own for breakfast this morning but soon we all meet up in the lobby, get checked out of our hotel and head to the cars. There are still 7 of us and we’re still going to be gone the same number of days. How is it possible that we seem to have more luggage than when we left? Since it worked so well the last time, I step back and allow the guys to pack again. Steven, Alex and Joshua look like they’re playing a game of Tetris, but they manage to get it all loaded. We pile into the cars and off we go. Thanks Ft. Collins and CSU! We’ve had a great time and can’t wait to come back!

Everyone is a little quiet this morning and I suspect one of two things. It’s either that we’re moving into performance mode, focused on getting ready for the event we have this afternoon, or I wasn’t the only one who got a wake-up call from Mr. choo-choo. Turns out its performance mode and soon light singing can be heard from the backseat courtesy of Morgan and Joshua. We see buffalo on the way to Cheyenne and talk about which map apps are the best. Steven sells Cassidy on one he likes and she excitedly loads it onto her phone. She’s chosen a pink bug icon to represent her. I’m not sure why that’s important, but she was so excited about it, I figured it was blog-worthy. We’re now listening to my GPS and her phone give two sets of audible directions, but we make it to our destination, The Plains Hotel in downtown Cheyenne. We’re going to be staying here for the night, but also performing here. We’ll be doing a preview for the 2013 season as well as an Arias & Ensembles concert. We’re soon settled into our rooms and have just enough time to grab a quick lunch before we start to get ready for the event.

In no time at all, we’re in the performance space. We’re singing on the 2nd floor and overlooking the lobby via a balcony. It feels like being back in Victorian times. Our party goes back to 8 as Meghan arrives and we get set for the performance. As guests begin to arrive, we take our places in our makeshift green room. The first half of the program features pieces from our 2013 season; Romeo and Juliet, Don Giovanni and The Scarlet Letter. The audience is very receptive and it’s going well. We take a quick break before launching into the second half of the program, Arias & Ensembles. Everyone sounds great again, but this is a unique space to perform in. Jared gets the award today for keeping calm under pressure. As he’s beginning his aria, he gets heckled from the lobby and then accidentally backs into a woman who has mistakenly gotten off of the elevator on the wrong floor. He handles it with a smile and sings his aria beautifully, making us all very proud. Live performance… it takes guts.

The performance ends with lots of applause and it’s time for us to mingle with our audience. Among our guests is a 6 ½ year old boy (I promised him I would include the ½; it’s very important) who wants to be an opera singer. I watch as, one by one, all five of the Young Artists gather around him. They ask him questions and talk with him about what they do. As they encourage him to go for his dreams, I see his eyes light up. It was a priceless moment. Thank goodness for Meghan. As I stand there misty-eyed, she is quick to react, talking to his parents about his school. We’re going to do our best to get there.

Things begin to wind down, so we head back to our rooms to change and catch our breath. We agree to meet in the lobby later and head to dinner. We’re planning on hitting a local steakhouse. Alex has been prepping for it all day. In the hallway, on the way back to my room, I meet one of the housekeepers who works at the hotel. She tells me that she listened to the singing and loved it. Her mother used to sing opera to her when she was little. She then tells me that her mother passed away a few months ago and it’s been hard. But today, she felt like her mother was there, listening with her. Two priceless moments in one day all because of this wonderful art form. Opera rocks.

With a little more bounce in my step, I head back downstairs to meet up with the group for dinner. The first one I see is Alex, looking like a happy puppy. The restaurant is just around the corner so we’re walking. Well, 7 of us are; Alex is literally skipping. As we get closer, something begins to nag at me. There are no cars in the parking lot. I keep it to myself as long as I can, but finally have to say something; I don’t think they are open. Alex staggers and Jared advises me to back away slowly. “The Alex” in this state is apparently unpredictable. He bounds across the street and confirms our fears – closed on Sunday. Steven and I jump into action, pulling out our phones to locate another steakhouse. I call one – closed. Steven finds another one – closed. We’re not giving up. A steak dinner was promised and a steak dinner it shall be. Joshua has moved off to the side and is observing “the Alex” from a distance. I take a picture to capture the moment. Cassidy, Morgan and Jared are consoling Alex who has reverted back to general grunting. Just when I think things are hopeless, Steven comes through. He finds another steakhouse and makes a reservation.

Now a party of 8, it’s a comedy of errors getting all of us into one vehicle. We look like one of those cars the clowns pile out of at the circus. We arrive at the restaurant and get Alex inside, hoping the smell of steak will prevent a total shutdown. As we wait for our table, Joshua strikes up a conversation with the restaurant’s baker. Why you ask? Just to be polite? Perhaps. Joshua is a polite guy. But this conversation went deeper than that. This was Joshua, the Frenchman, talking about a vital part of his culture. Bread. We’re all chatting and enjoying some downtime when we hear it. “Mr. Quacksworth, party of 8.” First Jared, now Steven. It’s spreading. I knew I hadn’t heard the last of that duck.

The evening plays out with conversation, laughter and way too much food. “The Alex,” having been fed, is now fully functioning again and Joshua watches in fascination. He’s almost got enough material for part one of his documentary. I make the discovery that just the sound of Morgan’s laugh makes me laugh and Meghan discovers that one must be assertive when asking for water in a packed restaurant. Dinner over, we pack ourselves back into the car. On the way to the hotel, Steven, Meghan and I are treated to an impromptu performance of a piece from The Tales of Hoffmann. How was it? Well… I still like that opera, so that’s good. That performance somehow morphs into Jared doing an impression of me introducing myself to a group of students, in French. It was actually quite a good impression… of Julia Child.

We’re soon back at the hotel. Alex gets locked in the car and I can’t find my car keys. Steven comes to the rescue for the second time that evening. Alex is fine, but he’s laughing so hard that he can’t walk. Unable to top that, we call it a night. We have a busy day tomorrow and it starts early. We’re performing The Barber of Seville at two different high schools here in Cheyenne. It will be our first performance for school-age students and we’re excited. We need to get a good night’s sleep. The ladies head up in the elevator together and Cassidy looks nervous. She’s been asking all day if the hotel is haunted. People have said things. There are stories. She and Morgan decide to have a slumber party. Meghan and I say goodnight and head to our own rooms. They know where we are if they need us for anything.

I enjoy some alone time and plan for tomorrow. Just as I get ready to get into bed, I hear an eerie sound. It’s coming from somewhere near the windows on the other side of the room. I pluck up my courage and slowly cross the room. There’s the sound again. Hand shaking, I reach out and pull back the curtains. It can’t be… but to my horror it is. Trains. Right outside my window. I blame the duck.

‘Till tomorrow readers,


Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Programs

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Young Artists' Fall 2012 Tour Blog...Day One

You’ve been itching for it since last spring, right? You’ve thought, “Something is missing from my life,” right? Well readers, the wait is over. The first tour blog for the season is here!

We’re taking opera on the road again, with an all new crew. Allow me to introduce them. The 2012-2013 Opera Colorado Young Artists are: Morgan (soprano), Cassidy (mezzo), Joshua (tenor), Alex (baritone) and Jared (baritone). Steven and I, of course, are back again this year. Meghan will be joining us for a few days as well. We begin our tour schedule with a 3-day trip to Northern Colorado and up into Wyoming. Day One finds us traveling to Ft. Collins for a performance at CSU for the college of music. We’ll be performing our new abridged production – The Barber of Seville. This will be our very first public performance for this production. We’re really looking forward to performing for some of the vocal students there and talking with them during the Q&A.

The day begins with everyone meeting at my house so we can all pile into the rental car and the company Yukon and head off. Joshua is our road manager this year, so he’s driving the Yukon which hauls all of our sets, props and costumes. He’s the first to arrive… well, he’s the first one that I see… driving around… looking for my house. Wait now; there are Opera Colorado signs on the Yukon. Maybe he’s just doing some grass-roots marketing. A phone call a few minutes later disproves that theory. He’s lost. Morgan’s with him. They’ll be there soon. Apparently “Avenue” vs. “Drive” makes a big difference when using map technology. They arrive and we wait for the others. Steven’s just texted me; he’s stuck in traffic. So we wait. And wait. And wait. Ah, there they are. Alex, Jared and Cassidy arrive. Turns out they’ve been on the hunt for something rare and illusive. A McDonald’s. Alex needed his breakfast. Alex is not a morning person. He wakes up by degrees and his senses begin to function little by little. We’re currently at the stage of general grunting.

Steven pulls up – all right, everyone’s here and we’re only 10 minutes behind schedule. We then set to packing up the cars. We’re going to be gone for 3 days. There are 7 of us. We have 15 pieces of luggage. This realization allows me an opportunity to take a step back, observe, and let the guys do the packing. They somehow manage to get everything loaded and get the trunk closed.

It’s a chilly morning and we could have rain later. Cassidy is cold, but Morgan’s prepared, wearing her “middle-level jacket.” It has fur and a hood. I can’t wait to see what her heavy-level jacket looks like. Alex has opted for a different approach, wearing shorts and flip-flops. He’s also now moved from general grunts to short comments. Progress.

Morgan is going to ride with Joshua on this first leg so the rest of us pile into the rental car. We’re off! Next stop, Ft. Collins and CSU! Steven’s driving, I’m the co-pilot. Because of all the luggage, Alex, Jared and Cassidy have to get cozy in the backseat. Really cozy. It’s OK. Cassidy makes friends easily. Less than 5 minutes into our trip, Cassidy announces that she’s not cold anymore and the giggling commences because she looks like the center of an Oreo cookie. During the drive, we discuss a variety of topics mainly prompted by Jared’s recent discovery that America has prairie dogs. Upon his first sighting of these creatures, Jared believed himself to be in Africa. Then he misidentified them as rabbits. Correct information in hand, Jared has decided that he wants one for a pet. This is the same man who has named the cane he uses as Bartolo in The Barber of Seville. It’s a carved wooden duck and he’s called Mr. Quacksworth. He’s really developing an identity of his own. He’s become a kind of mascot. There are even plans for Mr. Quacksworth to have his own blog or show up in tour photos like some kind or roaming gnome. Yeah… I’m not entirely sure that Jared is ready for a pet.

Before we know it, we’ve arrived. Meghan meets us there and completes our party of 8. We head inside, find the performance space and begin what will soon become a regular routine. Load-in. With this many hands, it goes fairly quickly. As I’m grabbing the last few props – it happens. Our first tour-related injury. It’s my fault. My hands are full and before I can reach out and stop it… Mr. Quacksworth takes a dive, beak first, onto the concrete. Concerned, I drop everything and grab him to make sure he’s OK.

He’s scratched up a bit, but nothing serious. As I see Jared approaching, I swallow and tell him what has just transpired. He handles the news admirably well, only biting his lip and shaking. I apologize and… that’s when it hits me. I have just apologized and felt badly for dropping a prop. Jared is indeed shaking; with laughter. All is well, Mr. Quacksworth will live on to fight another day and we’re done with load-in. The next step is to set up.

We’re performing in CSU’s organ recital hall. There’s a bit of a space issue on stage and we’re having to get creative with how we put the set together. After a few minor missteps, the set is 98% done. As we’re getting ready to put it in place, Cassidy notices that we’ve forgotten to secure the top portion of the drop to the frame. What takes place over the next few minutes is hard to describe… but really entertaining to watch. It involves Joshua and Alex climbing underneath the set and unhooking, securing and reattaching the drop to the frame. All I can see is legs and feet. Morgan, Jared and Cassidy are helping by providing moral support. It’s a struggle, but they get it done. Oh, by the way, Alex has now moved on to full phrases. Some of them quite descriptive. He also does sound effects.

The set is up; time to get into costumes and makeup. The audience begins to arrive and in what seems like seconds, it’s time to start the performance. I kick things off with an introduction and the first public performance of The Barber of Seville begins. We’ll know within the first minute if they’re going to like the melodrama concept I’ve come up with or not. Here it comes. Joshua enters with a rose. He looks longingly at the balcony. He takes the rose and throws it to the balcony and… it drops to the ground with a plop. You see, the balcony is painted on the backdrop. It was a planned bit to set the stage for what’s to come in this production. The audience responds in a major way – lots of laughter. It worked! The show goes on and just keeps getting better. Our audience is laughing up a storm, the Young Artists are giving a fabulous performance and they sound fantastic. As a director, it’s thrilling to see the vision that has lived in your head for the better part of a year come to life. It’s even better when the audiences’ response to it is everything you hoped for and more. The laughs are coming right where I wanted them; the sweet moments are touching… we’ve got a hit on our hands! I think this just might be the best production we’ve done, and that’s saying a lot.

After bows, we do a Q&A and spend some time talking to the voice students. They have questions about the business, what to do, who to talk to, etc. It’s great to be able to provide them with the chance to ask advice from people that are actually working in opera. After some one-on-one time with a few people, we have to say our goodbyes and begin taking down the set and loading out. This is going to be one for the record books. We just found that that there was a mistake on the schedule and another group needs the space in 20 minutes. So, riding the high that comes with a great performance, we get to work. We manage to do it within the time limit, but I have no idea how. It’s all a bit of a blur.

Load-out completed, it’s time for lunch. The weather has changed. It looks like that storm that they were forecasting is on its way. We’re all in the mood for soup, so we head off to a local café. After lunch, we say goodbye to Meghan. She’s heading back to Denver for now, but she’ll meet up with us again in 2 days when we are in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Our next stop is the hotel where we’ll be staying for 2 nights.

Everyone is feeling really good about today, but the energy level from earlier is waning. We’re tired. Since the Young Artists arrived on September 5th, we’ve rehearsed and performed for the 2013 Gala, and gotten 2 shows up on their feet – Carmen and The Barber of Seville. We’ve also gotten music ready for the 2013 season preview programs; put Arias & Ensembles together and begun work on Sideshow! We’ve averaged 1 day off per week. We’re not complaining, far from it. We all love what we do.

After taking some time to get settled into our rooms, we meet up and head to dinner. It’s a place that Alex has chosen. Apparently Alex reverts when he’s hungry because we’ve moved back into the grunting phase again. Joshua has started charting Alex’s behaviors and plans on doing a documentary a la National Geographic. “The Alex, in its native habitat…” you know, that sort of program. Dinner is full of conversation about today and food, lots of food. Alex is fully functioning again, having ordered two entrees. Morgan and Steven are in carb heaven with crab mac and cheese and Cassidy looks like she’s going to cry when she’s presented with cheesecake lollipops for dessert. Jared delves into his bread pudding while making career plans for Mr. Quacksworth and Joshua, ever observant, continues to study “the Alex.” It’s time to call it a day.

Tomorrow is a rare day off. We’re planning on resting and seeing some of Colorado’s beautiful fall scenery. I have a feeling that we’re going to have many more days like today. This year’s group of Young Artists… they’re amazing. They are incredibly talented and charming, not to mention, just really great people. We’re still getting to know each other, but I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months hold. We’re going to travel all over the state, bringing opera everywhere we can. And during those travels… somehow, somewhere… I just know that duck is going to make another appearance.

Night-night readers,


Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Programs

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Carmen" and Corporate Partnerships

The other night was an amazing night for Opera Colorado and those who believe that the performing arts are a vital part of a healthy, vibrant community.

Opera Colorado's 2012-13 Young Artists performed their final dress rehearsal of Carmen before bringing it to schools throughout Colorado and Wyoming. In fact today they leave for schools in northern Colorado and in the Cheyenne, Wyoming area.

They performed to a packed audience of corporate partners and potential corporate partners of Opera Colorado.

Opera Colorado is incredibly fortunate to have an intense amount of individual support, and we receive donations on many levels from over 1,000 people a year. Like many arts organizations, we lack in corporate support. The Carmen performance was an opportunity to show off what we do in schools throughout not only the Denver metro area, but all over Colorado and even into southeastern Wyoming.

In many cases, our presence in a school is the only taste of the performing arts a child will get.

So the other night dozens of local business people arrived with family members and co-workers to see a 50-minute performance of Carmen, and the feedback has been mind blowing.

Corporate partnerships mean that we can bring live opera to even more students. These partnerships are also crucial to bringing full-stage productions of popular operas as well as rarely-performed operas to Denver. They mean that we can take a risk and bring the World Premiere of The Scarlet Letter to our stage.

Imagine being able to support Opera Colorado AND engage with our supporters! Imagine our Young Artists performing Carmen in a school, presented by YOUR company! Imagine your company name welcome guests to a World Premiere of The Scarlet Letter. Corporate partnerships not only support Opera Colorado, they add so much to the companies supporting us.

For more information on all that makes Opera Colorado such an incredibly important part of our community, visit our website at And if you'd like more information on what a partnership with Opera Colorado would look like for your company, please email me at

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Unearthing Treasures at the Opera Colorado Warehouse

Own a piece of Opera Colorado history! This Friday and Saturday, October 12 and 13, Opera Colorado is cleaning out the proverbial closet with our first ever warehouse sale. Looking for the perfect Halloween costume? Need props for your child's school play? Come take a look!

Friday, October 12
VIP Preview: 8:00-9:30 am
Open to the Public: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm

Saturday, October 13
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Opera Colorado Warehouse
2515 W. 4th Avenue, Denver, 80219

Cash, Check, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express all accepted. For more information and photos, click here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Marcia Ragonetti

A Life Upon the Wicked—Unexpected—Stage: Marcia Ragonetti returns to Opera Colorado in Romeo and Juliet

One of Colorado’s hardest working “divas”—and only the nicest connotation of the word applies here—mezzo-soprano Marcia Ragonetti is almost always sure to pop up somewhere in the state. From opera to symphonic concerts to oratorio, from musical theater to cabaret to “legit” theatre with an operatic theme, Marcia truly embodies Floria Tosca’s famous aria “Vissi d’arte,” or “I lived for art.”

A 30-year veteran of countless productions with Opera Colorado, Central City Opera, Opera Theatre of the Rockies, Opera Fort Collins, the Colorado Symphony, recitals and symphony appearances all over the Rocky Mountain region—wherever she can reach people through music, Marcia will reach them. Pop or classical, Gershwinian or Handelian, she’s always stretching herself to share her talent for character and communication. When she “begged” Jim Robinson to cast her as the Beggar Woman in Opera Colorado’s Sweeney Todd, he was reluctant. Today she is grateful to him for seeing her “grittier, grubbier” side since she later reprised that role for her international debut in Italy. When she first sang the role of Augusta Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe, she didn’t foresee that it would be followed by a seven-year run of excerpts from the opera at the Historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville. She loves to delve into the lives of modern composers – Gershwin, Porter, Coward, Weill – and has written and produced original revues for venues such as Cherokee Ranch & Castle in Sedalia as well as summer festivals. Her creation, “George & Ira’s Little Sister,” has been especially popular with Front Range audiences. She even shows up on occasion at Bender’s Tavern in downtown Denver for its fun “Opera On Tap” nights.

Way back in 1982, she auditioned for the Opera Colorado chorus – “on a whim” -- and has since appeared in all venues of the company. She has been seen “in the round” at Boettcher Hall, at the Buell, and helped inaugurate the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Climbing the OC ladder from chorister to principal singer, Marcia has “archival” memories of the company’s history – from Day One when rehearsals took place in Nat Merrill and Louise Sherman’s living room to its present new home. Favorite roles with OC -- for those with long memories –are her Cherubino, Rosina, Angelina/Tisbe (La Cenerentola), Meg Page, Siebel, Annina (Der Rosenkavalier), Madame Larina (Eugene Onegin) and the Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), to name just a few standout portrayals.

Marcia actually came to opera later than other young singers today who study for years, completing rigorous graduate work and apprenticeships, before embarking on careers. It never occurred to her that she couldn’t audition for OC’s chorus -- despite having a career in advertising and degrees in psycholinguistics and English lit rather than vocal performance. After being accepted in that charter chorus, a mammoth 100+ voices strong, she learned the opera ropes “on my feet, with my ears and eyes the size of satellite dishes,” never looking back, embracing a life on the stage as a natural and necessary part of her being. Most likely, it’s precisely that sort of artistic drive that has kept her there, re-inventing and re-newing herself season after season. Earlier this year, she stunned audiences at the Miner’s Alley Playhouse in Golden with her spot-on portrayal of Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s play Master Class. The role is a tour-de-force one for the virtuosic speaking actress, but again -- on a whim -- Marcia took a chance, auditioned , then channeled the ionic La Divina’s life story, a successful re-tooling as “straight” actress, independent of her singing voice. She even snagged a “Best Diva” award from Westword and a coveted “Henry” award nomination in the process.
“What the next 30 years hold for me is an unknown. What I DO know is I cherish my many memories --and opportunities to shine -- on the Opera Colorado stage. Here’s to many more re-incarnations together since there so many notes left to share. Happy Anniversary, Opera Colorado!”

Opera Colorado is delighted to welcome Marcia back home, where she will appear as Gertrude, Juliet’s nurse in Romeo and Juliet.
A life and a home on the wicked stage. As Marcia likes to say: “It’s just what I was supposed to do.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meet Alex DeSocio, one of the 2012-2013 Opera Colorado Young Artists

Kansan Alex DeSocio, one of our two baritones, joins the Opera Colorado family with a varied background. After an injury sidelined him from a college football career, he decided to focus on singing, earning his BM in Vocal Performance from Northwestern University in 2010 and recently completing his MM at the University of Maryland with the Maryland Opera Studio.

OC: Who are you in a nutshell?
A former football player and engineer who somehow found his way into singing for a living.

OC: If you weren't an opera singer, what would you be?
At this point in my life, I don't know. I would say a software engineer or computer engineer, but my injured right shoulder wouldn't allow either one of those careers.

OC: What are you most excited about as an Opera Colorado Young Artist?
The performance opportunities and working for a company that, even in a time of economic strife, has its house in order. Also, Denver seems like a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

OC: What is your favorite opera?
My favorite opera that I have performed in is Puccini's Il tabarro. My favorite opera that I have heard would be Faust.

OC: If you could sing any role, what would it be?
Iago in Otello because it is probably the most vocally and dramatically difficult opera ever written for the baritone voice.

OC: If you could compose an opera on any topic, person, or event, what would it be?
The Shawshank Redemption would be a pretty awesome opera in my opinion.

OC: If you were a food, what would you be, and why?
A bone-in ribeye steak because I would be delicious and if I have to be food, I might as well be a delicious one.

OC: If you could have dinner with three famous people, who would they be, and why?
The three people would be the lead scientist that just discovered the Higgs Boson at Cern, Dali Lama, and Shigeru Miyamoto. The lead scientist that discovered the Higgs Boson because it is the greatest discovery in science of my lifetime and will most likely change the world in the same way Oppenheimer did by splitting the atom. The Dali Lama because he seems like he has lived through just about everything and is still smiling and sane. He probably has some great stories too. Shigeru Miyamoto because as the creator of The Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, etc., he has shaped my childhood more than any other external force that is not my family.

During the 2012-2013 season, Alex will perform the roles of Escamillo (Carmen) and Figaro (The Barber of Seville) in the company’s abridged touring productions, as well as Mercutio in the student matinee production of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet.

By Erin Acheson, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator