Friday, May 16, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 4

Something happened this morning that has never happened before on our annual Greater Colorado Tour. I’m not sure how it happened exactly. I mean, I planned ahead so that, in case it happened, we’d be OK, but I didn’t actually think it was really in the realm of possibility. Readers… I slept until 9:15am.

Everyone gets up at their own pace today. It’s a real luxury. The morning unfolds slowly and we’re without anywhere to be, so we take advantage of it. Everyone spends some time outside and then Louise and Taylor decide to go for a run. After providing the required lecture on being careful when running at high altitude and the bear safety talk (which Brett was not in favor of as he wants to see a bear, even offered to put a steak on our front porch last night), the pair head off. Our host, John Smith, went to the grocery and left a bag of provisions for us in the cabin. Colleen, looking every inch the kitchen goddess, decides to make breakfast for the rest of us. She cooks, I clean - soon I’m up to my elbows in soap bubbles.

After breakfast, Taylor and Louise return looking a teeny bit winded. Apparently the last hill was a doozy. I get some work done while the others read, rest or watch T.V. Jared takes a walk as does Ben a bit later. Jared actually had a deer cross right in front of him on his foray. The sun is shining today and it’s partly cloudy and a little windy. Still a beautiful day though and the sun shining on the water makes it look likes its turquoise. Sitting on the back porch, Brett and I discuss the finer points of thinking about not thinking (which was much more intellectual than it sounds).
Jared returns from his walk and joins us outside and we just sit quietly, enjoying the scenery. It’s at this precise moment that the wildlife gets a little too wild. The calm, serene setting is shattered. Brett dodges; I fold into a ball and cover my eyes. Jared uses his cat-like reflexes. We’re evading a very aggressive humming bird. I love hummingbirds, but this vile little create was really after us. In all the commotion, Jared manages to pop his shoulder out of the socket. No joke. He also manages to quickly pop it back in. He’s OK but in a lot of pain. For a minute I thought I might have socked him in the face in my attempt to avoid the winged missile, but thankfully I didn’t. With ⅓ of us felled by a hummingbird with anger issues, we decide to move inside.

From the kitchen I hear an announcement that it’s sandwich time. Ben and Louise are feeling peckish and have decided to eat in. Colleen says she’s not hungry just yet. Taylor, Brett and Jared join me in heading into town for lunch. We choose the Cannibal Grill – named for the infamous Alfred Packer who made history in these parts for something… interesting. Look it up readers, it really is part of Colorado history. We’re waited on by a very lovely lady with a wonderful, bubbly personality. When she asks if we’re just visiting, we give our tour talk and she’s over the moon. She knows all about our performance tonight and is full of questions. It’s so cool to see people this honestly enthusiastic about opera. Just further proves that this is a living, breathing, relevant art form.

We head back to the cabin after lunch and our morning of leisure is officially over. We have to get ready for tonight’s show. I have the Young Artists sit at the dining room table and drill their Shakespeare dialogue and narration for Romeo and Juliet, we fix the mistakes and then I plan the repertoire for the Arias & Ensembles portion. We get packed up with what we’ll need for the rest of the day and head into town. Arriving at the theater, we find it already open for us. We switch the set over from Barber to Romeo and Juliet and spike all of the set pieces. Now it’s time for me, as the director, to finally face the music. I can’t put it off any longer. I have to figure out how the death scene is going to work with the whole “no tomb” thing. Many options are presented to me, but after trying several things, I decide to use the bench from the Barber of Seville, cover it with a sheet and have Colleen lay on that. We’ll cover her with a veil and it will look beautiful. Her feet are going to hang off the end so it’s not going to be comfortable for her, but it’s what we can make work and it’s not for an overly long period of time. Our group… professionals every one of them; always ready to pull together and represent Opera Colorado in the finest manner.

Now that one problem is solved, I have a few more to address. The stage is too small for us to use our balcony so I have Brett play his aria and dialogue from the floor and stairs and Colleen will be on the stage. The fight scene is a real concern with Jared’s shoulder. Fight choreography is an art. Every move is like a dance and it has to go right for the audience to believe it’s real but keep the performers absolutely safe. When you have someone with an injury, it can set the entire thing out of balance. So, working with Ben and Jared, we replace a few of the moves with something that will look great, but keep Jared from putting too much strain on his shoulder. I think we’re good to go.

We run a few pieces for the A&E portion of the program and then it’s time to head to dinner. We’re being hosted at the school again this evening. We meet two fabulous ladies, Rachel and Cathy; they’ve prepared roasted chicken, a broccoli and spinach casserole, fresh fruit salad and something smothered in chocolate (Louise is already beaming).
It’s all wonderful and we again feel extremely grateful to have a home-cooked meal. We have the chance to visit with our hosts, one of whom is a teacher at the school. She’s absolutely thrilled that her students had the opportunity to attend yesterday’s performance and is bringing her 90-year old mom to tonight’s show. She tells us that for her, this kind of opportunity, to see live opera in her own town, is more meaningful that we know. She says if Opera Colorado didn’t do this, go on tour; many of the people she knows would never have the chance to experience opera. She hit the nail on the head – it’s a big part of why we do this.

Time to head back to the theater and get ready for the show. We thank our gracious hostesses and go into production mode. This really is a thing for performers. You go into a different zone mentally. Everyone gets their costumes and props prepped and we change into our A&E attire. The audience begins to arrive and we wait backstage, listening to them on the intercom system. They are an excited group, which we love. Our host, John Smith begins the evening with a some announcements and says a few words about Opera Colorado and our relationship with Lake City. His remarks are so heartfelt about what this means to their community, that honestly, my eyes are brimming. It won’t be the last time that happens this evening. John introduces me and I come out to talk with the audience and get the A&E portion of the evening started.

We open with an unexpected piece, something from Spamalot. It’s a conscious choice I make; I do this because I want to catch people off guard. This piece is funny and it helps the audience relax and realize that we want them to have fun tonight. It works like a charm. The audience is laughing like crazy and you can feel the energy in the room shift and center around the stage. We offer some pieces from our 2014-2015 season to plug what we’re doing and let folks know that we want them to come see us in Denver too. The Magic Flute gets a big response. While Jared is on stage, the other Young Artists have some fun backstage. Seems being this close to props and costumes is just too big of a temptation. Brett becomes a pirate, Louise is some sort of trekker in the Australian Outback, Colleen is part bride, part church lady and Ben… well Ben has a moment with the king himself.

Yes, that’s right, Elvis is in the building.

The first part of the program done, I join everyone on stage to say a few very special “thank you’s.”  To John, Dan, Shawn, Cathy and Rachel – thank you for everything you’ve done to make our visit to Lake City so wonderful. You’ve welcomed us, housed us, provided us with everything we needed to perform and even made sure we ate well. We appreciate it more than we can say.

With that, I announce intermission and it’s time to get into costume for Romeo and Juliet. This is a really fast transition, so we have to be on our game. I’m still a bit concerned about the fight scene but I have to trust them to be the professionals that they are. We get the cue from Dan, and we begin the second half of the evening. I again go out and talk to the audience to start things off, then I give the stage to Ben. I sit backstage and begin working on the day’s blog while the performance goes on. I can hear everything over the intercom and I wait for the moment at the beginning of the show that will tell me if we have our audience with us or not… and we do. We get a huge laugh at the exact spot we want it. I know that it’s going to be a really good show.

Good show does not = smooth show. There are issues; there always are in live performance. You deal with them as best you can and keep going. At one point in the show, Louise forgets that she has a scene as the Nurse and changes into her costume for Stephano. Jared notices and Louise does the fastest costume re-change that I have ever seen. It’s like she has superpowers or something. Later in the show, there are some missed lines and musical mistakes, but they’re covered well due in large part to Taylor. He’s amazing at staying with the Young Artists at every moment. If something happens, he catches it and somehow makes it work. As a singer, it’s one of the most important things you look for in an accompanist. You know they have your back and you can trust them to support you. Ten points awarded to Mr. Taylor Baldwin (who, by the way, hasn’t avalanche clapped once all day).

We get to the final scene, the death scene. Somehow, the veil never gets onstage to cover Colleen, but I doubt anyone in the audience noticed. They are entirely focused on the story unfolding on stage. I can hear sniffles from backstage, which means they are emotionally invested in what we’re doing. This scene is really intense for Brett and Colleen. It requires an enormous amount from them mentally, emotionally and even physically. Tonight, they don’t hold back. It’s beautifully done. I can’t even see them, but by Colleen’s final line, I am holding back tears myself. After the final dialogue, the audience is silent. Then the applause begins. Then the cheers, the whistles; the standing ovation. They’ve earned it – well done everyone. I go out to give the Young Artists a chance to catch their breath and grab a drink of water. I take this opportunity to make sure that Taylor gets the applause that he deserves and then I bring everyone back out.

Q&A sessions with adult audiences usually last about 15-minutes. We spend the next 35-minutes answering questions from this audience. It’s fabulous. The focus is on the art form and making opera your career. We get to really shine a spotlight on Opera Colorado. John ends the Q&A with another heartfelt speech about why this matters for Lake City and I echo it with why it matters for us as well. We bid our audience goodnight and begin the task of loading out not one show, but two – Barber from yesterday and Romeo and Juliet from tonight.

We’re tired. Even though we had the morning to relax, it’s now after 10:00pm and we’ve got a good hour of work ahead of us. Everyone just pitches in and we get it done. With load out complete, we thank Dan, the king of everything, one more time and say our goodbyes. We head back to the cabin. The stars out here are amazing – what you can see without the city lights. We don’t turn the lights on right away in the cabin so we can fully appreciate what we’re looking at. But, we can’t stay out too long. It’s chilly and we have a drive ahead of us tomorrow when we’ll stop in Paonia for our next two Romeo and Juliet performances.

Today may not have been as silly as other days on tour this week. Sure, there was laughter, but there was also some quiet time and quite a bit of work. Every day is different and that’s part of what makes this career exciting. There’s always some new challenge; something that you’re working towards. Now though, it’s time to call it a night.

Hope you have a great one readers – ‘till tomorrow,


No comments: