Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 1

[Cue Edvard Greig’s masterpiece, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46: I. Morning]

The sun’s rays color the sky with pink and gold. The birds welcome the new day with their joyful, melodious calls. With a luxurious stretch, I rise with a smile to welcome the beautiful morning.

[Cue record scratch]

Yeah, that’s not how today began, but I thought I’d give you a glorious picture to hold on to because what actually greeted me was… interesting. We’re smack dab in the middle of a spring storm. It snowed all day yesterday and it’s still snowing. We’re headed up I-70 to Beaver Creek today which is going to be… interesting. Welcome to our 2014 Greater Colorado Tour everyone!

I pack up the beast of a car that is one of the two rentals we’re taking on tour this year. Those of you who are return readers will remember the Yukon saga of 2013. Choosing not to repeat that and thus further damage my already shaky relationship with the Yukon, we have rented another vehicle that will haul our sets, costumes and props. I’m driving the other one – the biggest thing they had on the lot. Packed and ready to go, I head out to pick up the rest of the crew. Our goal is to be on the road no later than 10:30 which we hope will allow for the roads to clear a bit before we get into the high country.

As I pull onto the highway, the morning gets… interesting. The oil gauge on the beast swings over to hot and the engine makes this sort of chuggy-chug sound (technical term). Then a light appears the dashboard and the chuggy-chug becomes more of a veer-eer. I don’t panic. After last year’s tour, I’ve become quite good at dealing with vehicle problems on the fly, so I call the rental agency and tell them I’m bringing the beasty in. They will check it and give me a new vehicle if needed. As I’m driving to the rental lot, I get a call from Brett. He bids me a cheery good morning, our Brett is a morning person, and then moves on to the news, which is… interesting. It seems that the rental Yukon is not as roomy as our Yukon and we can’t get all of our set pieces in. Juliet’s tomb may not make the trip – I suppose I could have her lay on the floor, but I forego that idea when I realize it would mean that Romeo would basically have his death scene on top of her and that’s not the tone I want to set with our production.

Rental agency reached, I explain the symptoms and have to make the chuggy-chug sound for 4 guys before one of them takes the initiative to just go look at the car. While I wait, I chat with a lovely lady in the lobby. She asks what I’m renting a car for and I tell her I work for Opera Colorado and we’re heading out on our annual Greater Colorado Tour. She becomes very intrigued and wants to know all about what we do. She asks if we perform at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and I tell her all about that too. The rental agent at the counter overhears this and joins in the conversation and tells me that she just saw Carmen and loved it. It was her first opera – how cool is that?!

But, back to the action. The car has been checked and apparently there is something wrong with the oil temperature. When I asked what’s wrong, I am told the oil is too hot. Wow. I ask if I can just get another vehicle as I’m on a schedule. Here’s where the day gets… interesting. Apparently the only other car they have that is the same size as the beast is out at the airport. I can either wait for them to bring it to me in about 2 hours or I can drive to get it myself. Keys in hand, I’m headed to the airport. I knew we would be traveling a lot of miles on tour, but I really thought it would be after we left the Denver metro area.

The weather and roads get considerably worse the further east I go, but I make it. I get to where I need to go and the replacement beasty is brought around. As I’m transferring everything from one vehicle into the other, the rental agent sees my jacket, emblazoned with our company logo, and asks what Opera Colorado is. I tell him and his response is, and I quote, “So you guys sing opera or something?” Now readers, this has been an… interesting morning and I’m pretty much over it at this point. I’m covered in snow, running almost 1 ½ hours behind schedule, trying to figure out how to keep Juliet from performing her death scene from underneath Romeo… I admit, for just a second I thought about replying, “Why no, actually we breed poodles.” I didn’t. I’m too proud of what we do at Opera Colorado, so I told him all about it.

New beast loaded, I’m back out on the road heading through the weather again to meet up with the rest of the crew. Amazingly, this time I make it without anything interesting happening. There they are, their beaming faces welcoming me, telling me without saying a word how excited they are to begin tour. Well… that’s partly true. They are smiling. They’re also exhausted (we closed Carmen yesterday folks). After navigating the jungle that has appeared in the front yard thanks to the heavy, wet snow, we begin the task of getting 7 people’s luggage into 1 vehicle and trying to get every essential piece of our sets, costumes and props into the other. Sadly, Juliet’s tomb won’t be making the journey – I’ll figure it out later. I snap a quick picture of the group to document tour day one and we head off.

Looking in the rear view mirror, I can see Colleen sitting in the very back seat. She looks like a little girl surrounded by stuffed toys, but in this case she’s pinned in by suitcases and costume bags. She’ll be fine; it’s cozy. Brett and Jared are in the other back seat singing parts of Carmen, which is still stuck in all of our heads, and Taylor is riding shotgun. Louise and Ben are in the rental Yukon. OK – here we go for real. Greater Colorado Tour 2014!

As we get closer to the mountains the snow gets thicker. Brett notices that there is some… interesting fog covering the road. This is, in fact, not fog but steam and blowing snow. Jared says he doesn’t like it – the snow blowing on the roads – Brett, trying to calm Jared tells him that it’s not snow, but snakes. Yes, very comforting. Thank you, Brett. The roads aren’t horrible but they’re not great either so we take our time. We decide to stop for lunch in Idaho Springs where I introduce the group to a local hot spot. At the table, Colleen shows off her artistic skill by coloring a picture. Louise and Ben help. Taylor isn’t allowed to – he doesn’t color in the lines.

Lunch enjoyed, it’s time to get back on the road. It’s snowing a bit harder now and the steep downhill grade is… interesting. The gents try to keep me entertained by selecting various tunes. Everything from Irish gigs to musical theater to country to Anna Russell. WHO is Anna Russell you ask? She was a singer turned comedian who is especially known for her hilarious commentary on Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Look her up – it’s totally worth it.

On the drive, I keep hearing comments like “wow,” “jeeze,” “man” etc. Not comments on my driving, no snakes on the road, but responses to the scenery. It really is beyond amazing. Snow covered trees and mountain tops; in May. *sigh* There’s no place like Colorado. I hear Taylor give another shout. Yes Taylor, it’s beautiful. Oh, wait. This time it’s not scenery, but sheep. Big Horn sheep. Right off the side of the road! I’ve lived here for almost 8 years and been in this canyon countless times. I have never, not once, seen them. I admit it. I got a little excited, gave the beast too much leash. As I get us back on the road, Brett provides moral support. Just before we reach the Eisenhower Tower, Taylor tells us how much he would like to see an avalanche. I’m not in favor of this. I had a hard time with sheep, I’m not sure my driving skills are up to outrunning an avalanche.

Finally, 3 hours behind schedule, we arrive at our destination, the Vilar Performing Arts Center. We’ll be performing 2 shows of The Barber of Seville tomorrow, but we have to get set up today. Their crew meets our crew (for you new readers, our crew means us – we do it all) and we begin the process of loading in. The theater is wonderful and things are pretty uneventful. Colleen smashes her finger, Brett breaks the bucket, I get into a physical argument with duct tape then almost skewer Jared with a set pole, Ben, acting as resident blacksmith, has to hammer one of the pins for the folding screen into shape and Louise performs her tightrope act as she skirts the edge of the stage. Yep – it’s pretty much a routine set up. Taylor provides the soundtrack. Jared is inspired and begins to sing something from Sleeping Beauty. I was swept off my feet – it was enchanting… until I realized that in Jared’s rendition, I am Prince Charming and he is the comatose princess.

Set is up, lighting will be figured out in the morning. So we bid our site crew goodbye until tomorrow and head off to check into our lodging for the evening. I’m getting settled into my room when I hear my name being called. Who knows me here…? I realize it’s one of the guys so I open my door. The question that greets me is about sleeping arrangements. The rooms are… interesting. When you walk in the door, there’s a full size bed directly to your right and another… well, we’ll call it a bed, though it’s more like a gurney, to your left. Ben tells me he doesn’t think he’ll fit on it; the gurney that is. Not to worry. There’s a couch in the sitting area that makes into a full bed. Phew.

After a little downtime, we head off to dinner; a local barbecue joint is selected (Ben likes meat). Louise and Ben elect to walk and the rest of us pile into the beasty. After everything I went through to get this car – I’m going to take it everywhere. Plus it’s supposed to snow again tonight and I don’t walk to have to walk back in the arctic tundra. We get to the restaurant - which is closed (Jared and I have a joint flashback to last year’s hot dog fiasco – it’s a long story and makes me look bad, so I’m not going to re-tell it). So, time to come up with option number two. Taylor asks Siri. Now, Taylor and Siri – they’re in a relationship apparently. They have to be because he’s actually fighting with her. Things were said, names were called, it was quite uncomfortable for the rest of us. Ben and Louise have arrived from their walk, so we choose another local eatery and ALL of us pile into the car.

As we enter, we bring the local conversation to a halt. Really. One side of the restaurant is a bar; the other side is the place where you eat. The bar side is full of locals which we apparently aren’t. Interesting. I smile and follow the others. We’re greeted by our server who tells us he’s the only server for the entire restaurant. Oh goody. This should be… wait for it… interesting. Actually, he’s great and we have a good meal. We decide that Louise should use the castanets in both our touring productions. She worked so hard to learn them for Carmen and they could add a really unexpected element. Maybe they’ll take the attention away from the “no tomb” thing. I know it’s time to call it a night when part of the table goes quiet, Taylor begins to smell burnt toast (it’s a thing he does… never mind) and Brett begins to revert into his Don José character. Bed time! On the way to the car Colleen adopts a mid-western accent and says something to the effect of her needing a heater in her pants. Yeah.

So, back at our lodging, we make a plan for the morning and it’s time to turn in. I’ll admit, with the schedule we’ve been keeping for the past several weeks, maybe the past 5 months, I’m tired. They rest of our group is too. We’ve all been working incredibly hard; but you know what? We wouldn’t change a second of it. We’re doing something really special – sharing opera with people. Not many people can say they get to do what they love; we know just how lucky we are.

I hope you’ll join us for the next two weeks as we journey across Colorado’s western slope. With the group we have this year, I can promise you this. It’s going to be… interesting.

Goodnight readers,


Meet this year’s group:
Colleen Jackson – soprano
Louise Rogan – mezzo
Brett Sprague – tenor
Jared Guest – baritone
Ben Sieverding – bass
Taylor Baldwin – accompanist
Cherity Koepke - director

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