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.”

No comments: