Thursday, November 29, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Meet Morgan Smith

Some singers spend much of their careers singing traditional operatic "classics" such as Verdi, Mozart and Puccini.  Some specialize in new works, and some effortlessly combine the two.  Having just disembarked the Pequod following another voyage of critically-acclaimed performances as Starbuck in Jake Heggie’s opera based on Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby-Dick, Morgan Smith recently gave us an inside look at how he came to discover opera, and how he came to this point in his career.  Last seen as Marcello in Opera Colorado’s 2010 La bohème, Morgan will appear as Roger Chillingworth, Hester Prynne’s long-missing and revenge-obsessed husband in Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter, which, like Moby-Dick is based on another 19th Century giant of classic American Literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter

“My first exposure to opera came in the form of a 7th birthday gift, when my mother took me to the Met to see Hänsel and Gretel. Apparently I was ‘Tra-la-la-ing’ the father's music on the way home and  for days afterwards. The next truly seminal opera moment for me came in my junior year of high school, when I had an impromptu invitation to the Met's opening production of The Tales of Hoffman with Placido Domingo, Sam Ramey, and Natalie Dessay. The singers seemed to be having a ball onstage, and that comic book-like production left me surprised and enchanted. I thought to myself, "I wanna get paid to do that too!" According to my mother, I've got the best job ever. She and my father also helped me and my three siblings develop a love of music from a young age. My cello teacher put up with me from age 6-18, despite the other interests that pulled me away from true devotion to the instrument (whitewater slalom, soccer, and later, playing double-bass in jazz ensembles). I'd sometimes come to lessons with my left hand in a splint from goalkeeping injuries on the soccer field, and she'd ask, "Are you going to be a professional soccer player? I guess we'll just work on your bow-hand today." I owe her and many others a debt of gratitude for seeing the potential in me for a career in music, and cracking the whip!  Since then, this career has taken me to some exciting places, geographically, as well as musically.  A collaboration with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer on For a Look or a Touch with Music of Remembrance in Seattle turned out to be life-changing in many ways. It led to an invitation to join the premier cast of their new opera, Moby-Dick, which I've had the honor of performing in Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco. Working with these two brilliant artists has helped foster a deep love of new music, and the creative process that goes into presenting a work to the public for the first time. I feel so lucky to be joining such a stellar cast for The Scarlet Letter in Denver this Spring. One of my first thoughts after reading the novel in high school was, "this story would make a great opera!" Lori Laitman and David Mason have created a very special dramatic work of art, and I can't wait to dive in.”

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arts Education at Work

As you may know, Opera Colorado has one of the most comprehensive arts education programs in the state, reaching over 35,000 students and adults throughout the region during the 2011-2012 school year. One of our newest, and quite frankly coolest, programs is Generation OC (OC for Opera Colorado). Gen OC, as we fondly call it, is an in-school residency program where the arts are used to teach 21st Century Workforce Readiness Skills, a major emphasis under the Colorado Department of Education’s new academic standards. The curriculum is completely customizable to the teacher’s goals and students’ needs and ultimately introduces the students to career options in the arts like design and marketing.

The residency is a huge undertaking between our education department and the teacher spearheading the program at the participating school. We have been incredibly lucky to be working once again with Colleen Holub and her students at Rocky Heights Middle School, the place where Gen OC first started three years ago. We recently asked Ms. Holub about her experience with Gen OC and what impact she has seen it have on her students:

“It's loud.  It's chaotic.  It's not the settled English classroom of my youth, run by sturdy Mrs. Cordes who would certainly not approve of the commotion.  Or would she?  

The chaos and noise?  It's student energy and enthusiasm as my eighth graders discuss themes, symbols, and tag-lines appropriate for Romeo and Juliet.  They're talking about the most appropriate colors and fonts to use as they promote a story written by that old-dead-guy, Shakespeare.  They’re collaborating on marketing strategies while at the same time tutoring classmates through the finer points of using Photoshop.  These 14-year-olds know the difference between the events in the play and the opera, and they're looking forward to actually seeing the opera this school year.  What magic is this?'s Generation OC at Rocky Heights Middle School in Highlands Ranch.  

Gen OC is an amazingly effective way to present to students marketing strategies, story structure, and visual communication, while at the same time building an appreciation for opera and the arts.  With the guidance of Cherity Koepke and Meghan Benedetto, these kids have moved from thinking that opera is loud nonsense (really...many didn't know that opera actually had meaning!) to understanding that opera is yet another way to tell a story.  They’ve grown into critical consumers of information.  They’ve internalized the skill of persuasive writing at a deeper level. They’ve learned to trust each other and many have had the opportunity to be experts in photography, layout and design, image manipulation, Photoshop layering, and so much more.  There’s a lot going on and it isn't peaceful, but the noisy chaos is music to my ears. place I’d rather spend my days than with my eighth graders and Gen OC.”
Watch the Opera Colorado Facebook page to see the students’ final Gen OC projects on Romeo and Juliet and read more about the Gen OC program in the Winter 2013 edition of Ovation! due out in early January.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

‘Tis the season for giving thanks…

We are thankful for our founders who had the vision to create Opera Colorado 30 years ago and all those who have been by our side throughout the journey.

We are thankful for being a part of the thriving Denver arts community, just one of the things that make Denver such a wonderful place to live and work.

We are thankful to be able to work with exceptionally talented artists and musicians.

We are thankful for the SCFD and Colorado’s citizens who value the arts so greatly.

We are thankful for our loyal donors, supporters, and corporate sponsors who recognize the 
benefit of arts in the community.


“I am thankful for our supporters and season ticket buyers who make what we do possible.” 
– Camille, Director of Sales & Marketing

“I am thankful that I get to bring this amazing art form – opera – to thousands of students 
across the state of Colorado. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of!” 
– Cherity, Director of Education & Community Programs

“I am grateful for my amazing family, including my companion animals, 
and for the opportunity to be a fundraiser!” 
– Dan, Director of Development

“I am thankful for my first Thanksgiving in Denver and all the wonderful people I have met in my first 10 months as a Colorado resident.” 
– Erin, Marketing & Promotions Coordinator 

“I am thankful for our incredibly devoted and generous Board of Directors.” 
– Greg, General Director

“I am thankful for the support of my colleagues here at OC while I go through my 2nd pregnancy!” 
– Katie, Assistant Ticket Services Manager

“I am grateful for my friends and family and their love and support.”  
– Laura, Ticket Services Manager

“I am thankful for all our wonderful volunteers… the education department wouldn’t be 
able to do what we do without their support!” 
- Meghan, Manager of Education & Community Programs

From all of us at Opera Colorado, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Live performance, the gift that keeps on giving

You may have already noticed, but we’re pretty keen on education and outreach around here. We love reading articles about how arts exposure during childhood helps with learning and emotional growth. We are thrilled to see middle and high school students in our Generation OC program learning about practical life skills like marketing and communication by way of opera. We also love hearing stories and receiving notes from people of all ages who have recently experienced their first opera. We want everyone to enjoy opera as much as we do and experience it for what it is, a compelling story told through music. 

With the holidays right around the corner, why not consider giving a gift of live performance? Get a season ticket package and bring your family to our main stage productions for three special nights out together. (Ticket to individual operas are also available!) Send your neighbors an Opera Colorado gift certificate so they can attend an opera for the first time. Purchase an outreach performance of Carmen or The Barber of Seville for your child’s school or your local community center. Not only would you be supporting your local non-profit arts organization, but you will also be providing an unforgettable experience for your children, your friends, and your community.

Make a real impact this holiday season. Give the gift of live performance!

For information on GIFT CERTIFICATES or OPERA TICKETS, click the appropriate link to the left or call Laura or Katie in the Opera Colorado Ticket Office at 303.468.2030.

For information on educational programs and outreach productions, contact Meghan Benedetto at 303.778.7350 or