2014 Greater Colorado Tour – the prequel…
Hello readers! We’re baa-ack. Yes, that’s right – the blogs from Opera Colorado’s Greater Colorado Tour 2014 are about to begin. Well… almost. This blog is a bit of a teaser. A prequel if you will. We’re taking a short jaunt to Gunnison for a couple of days; testing the waters. The longer, more extensive tour happens in May this year. We needed to shift our schedule a little to accommodate an opera we’re doing. You may have heard of it… Carmen? Anyone? Rigoletto just closed and we had a small window of time before rehearsals begin for Carmen, so we’re hitting the road.
If you’ve read the blogs before, you’re familiar with how this all works, but if you’re a new reader (and we hope there are lots of you) let me introduce you to our group this year, the Opera Colorado Young Artists. No doubt you’ve heard about them already and you’ll be hearing much more as the blogs from tour progress. The incredibly talented line up is as follows: Colleen Jackson, our soprano. Louise Rogan, our mezzo, Brett Sprague, our tenor, Jared Guest, our baritone and Ben Sieverding, our bass. Taylor Baldwin joins us as our accompanist and coach. That leaves me – Cherity Koepke, the director, tour guide, occasional den mother and blogger. Oh wait, I forgot… there is one more. Mr. Quacksworth. If you read the blogs from last year, you’ll remember him. The Quack is baa-ack too and you’ll no doubt be hearing about him as we travel Colorado’s Western Slope.
We were up early, needing to be in Gunnison by 12:30 for a series of programs today and more tomorrow. We’re taking a rental car the size of the USS Enterprise and our touring vehicle, lovingly referred to as “the Yukon.” OK, it’s not very loving, but that vehicle and I have a past and it’s best to tread lightly. I arrive to pick up the group, minus Taylor who we will get on the way out of Denver, and I see happy, smiling faces. No really, this group is happy and smiling. It’s still early. We’ll see how they’re doing at 7:00 tomorrow when we’re getting ready for an 8:40 performance of The Barber of Seville.
Loading the Enterprise goes quickly; it’s just an overnight trip this time, so there’s not a lot of luggage. Me thinks this will change when we’re going out for 2 weeks in May. As soon as Jared and Colleen figure out how to work the seats and Brett figures out how to actually get in the car, we’re off, with Louise and Ben following us in the Yukon. It’s important on road trips to stay together. You know, keep each other in your sights in case something happens. The following thing lasts about 2 blocks – Ben soon goes his own way. Thank goodness for GPS.
We make it to pick up Taylor and Colleen and I have the added bonus of getting a guided tour of the local sights which consist of Brett and Jared’s favorite Chinese food buffet. Seats are shifted, Taylor is in the car and we’re off - again. Ben leads this time and when I catch him, we do a reasonable job of staying together.
The topic of conversation immediately goes to Rigoletto, Opera Colorado’s production that just closed. All of the Young Artists were involved and had an amazing experience. Such a fabulous production! Everyone is still buzzing about it.
We make a quick pit stop and peruse the convenience store. Colleen tries on several hats; my favorite being the lady bug and Brett and Jared sing for the staff. I admit, I was startled to be asked to sing upon exiting the ladies room – how did they know we were performers? I admit, I sing in the shower but that’s as far as it goes. Oh… the jackets. We’re wearing our Opera Colorado jackets. People see them, they talk – it goes from there. (If you don’t have one, you need one – they’re super cute and warm!) We take a minute to admire the breathtaking scenery and snap a group photo before we get back on the road.
After the guys try unsuccessfully to get Colleen to reveal dark, hidden stories about her formative years (which was basically attempted by making her laugh about noises the human body makes) the conversation in the car shifts to other genres of music. Brett and Jared are in charge of today’s play list. I reassure Taylor that it will be fine and we put our tunes on the stereo. We start with some Jason Robert Brown and move into some lively Irish gigs. As we drive up Monarch Pass, the tunes become more insightful, moving to classic musicals and deeply moving ballads. I think the scenery adds to the emotion in the car; or not. Taylor has gone quiet and Colleen is asleep.
Off the side of the road are signs warning us to keep a watch for wildlife and rocks (Which to be honest has always confused me – rocks? They’re everywhere, we’re in the mountains) Taylor accepts the job of wildlife watcher but passes on rock sentry duty to another as it’s just too much for him. No sooner have we stopped laughing but he gives the alert for deer. We see quite a few as we make our way into Gunnison.
We stop for a quick lunch before heading to Western Colorado State University for a masterclass with their vocal students. The class goes really well and it’s so great to be able to share a little of what we’ve learned with the students. I think some of my favorite advice comes from Brett who tells the students that they have a choice when singing, they can choose to breathe or they can choose to die. Laughter quiets down but not before Louise shoots me a look that tells me plainly that she misses her homeland (our Louise hails from the UK). I try to emote that I am sympathetic and supportive and we move on. Right after the class, we set up for tonight’s performance of Romeo and Juliet in Taylor Hall. Ben sees the piano; it’s a Baldwin. Now get this – and you’re not going to believe it – we’re performing in Taylor Hall and with a Baldwin piano. Taylor… Baldwin… Get it? If not, review the opening section of the blog and you will. Ben is savvy I tell ya.
Set up done, we check into our hotel and grab just a few minutes of down time before heading to dinner. We’ve selected a popular Italian place, which, upon reflection may not have been the wisest choice before a performance. The food is wonderful, but we’re now all feeling like slugs and moving about as fast. At dinner Taylor shares with us his philosophy on the relationship of birthdays to inspirational biblical figures and Louise tells us about a particularly challenging audition where she was asked, by a director, to sing a Cherubino aria as if watching a specific type of film inappropriate for a 14 year old to watch. Stay with me readers – trying to keep this blog family friendly. Colleen is again laughing about the human body and it’s noises, encouraged by Brett. Ben and Taylor bond over their lagers and Jared presents an artful representation of the Olympic rings with the onions on his salad before announcing, quite boisterously, that we will be performing OPERA tonight. Our waitress actually asked when we were performing; - he heard what and went with it.
The restaurant is busy so dinner takes longer than expected and we’re left dashing back to the theater to get ready for the performance. We’ve been away from this show for a while so there are some jitters. We review what we can and do a fight call so that things are as safe as possible and it’s time to start. We’ve got a great turnout and I begin the evening by welcoming the guests. I notice that there are quite a few younger kids in the audience and I have a moment of brilliance as I tell them that tonight’s show is a tragedy, which means it won’t have a happy ending. I follow that up with a chipper, “enjoy the show,” and we’re off. The audience is with us right off the bat and the show just gets stronger as it goes on. It’s funny and intense and heartbreaking – everything it should be and the audience is loving every minute. After hearty applause, we do a Q&A and get some fabulous questions. Everything from asking what words of advice we would give to young performers to what was the hardest part of the show to how do we handle stage fright. After thanking everyone for coming, we bid our audience adieu.
No rest for the weary, in this case, literally. We now have to break down the set, and load out. Thank goodness there are 7 of us; this would be too much without lots of hands to help. We accomplish the task fairly painlessly and we manage to get back to the hotel before 10:15. Everyone is off to their nightly rituals – we’ve got a seriously early morning tomorrow before heading back to Denver.
As I bid everyone goodnight, I’m struck once again, by how amazing this career is and how lucky I am to get to do something that I love, with people who are just as passionate. I know for a fact that there were people in our audience tonight who had never seen an opera before. What a privilege that we were the ones who got to introduce them to it.
So readers, that’s it for now – as I said, just a little teaser of what’s to come when we hit the road for real in May. I hope you’ll join us on the journey. It’s certain to be an interesting ride!
As you follow us on tour, I’m going to ask something of you too. Readers… “Like” us, “Share” us, “Tweet” or “Comment” – whatever it is that you do in cyber-world. We want people to know what we’re up to and how we’re sharing the wonderful world of opera with everyone we can.