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

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