Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 11

Friday, May 22, 2015

Good morning readers! It’s Day 11 – our final day of the 2015 Greater Colorado Tour. Today we’ll be doing a double bill of Hansel and Gretel for the students at Bauder Elementary School in Ft. Collins.  As much as we’ve had happen in the past two-weeks, it’s still hard to believe that we’re already on the last day. Time… it just keeps rolling, doesn’t it? Breakfast consumed, we load the cars and head to the school. It’s raining again and is supposed to most of the day, so loading in will be a challenge. On the drive, the conversation turns to the intelligence quotient. You know, would you rather be intelligent and savvy about the world around you or would you rather be more naïve and not as aware of things? I know… way too deep for this early in the morning.

We arrive at the school and Brett and I head to the office to check-in. We’re immediately greeted by Deanna, the music teacher. She’s been waiting in the office to welcome us. She walks us down to the gym, where we’ll be performing and on the way, we’re greeted by more of the teachers. Everyone is so excited that we’re here. Looking around the gym, I may have to make some extra rules for today. There are far too many temptations within easy reach; jai alai weapons, balls of every size and bouncy-ness, hula hoops and more. Taylor and I move as many of the items out of the set up area as we can to lessen the temptation factor (and give us room for the set). It’s not the students I’m concerned about – it’s our group. We’re easily distracted. Andrew moves the van around to the load-in sight and we get things into the space as quickly as we can to avoid getting soaked. As the Young Artists get into costume and makeup, Taylor serenades us with various selections on the piano. The students begin to come in. For the first performance, we have 3rd-5th grades. They are being very quiet and respectful. I go out to do the pre-show talk and as soon as I say that we are here to perform Hansel and Gretel, there’s a room full of excited faces. The performance goes well and the students really enjoy it. There’s a lack of energy, but at this point on tour, it’s something to be expected. It’s early in the day and they have another performance to go, so saving a little in the tank is a good idea. For the Q&A, we get a young man who asks a very thoughtful question, “Why did you have a Witch in the story and not a Warlock.” He’s picked on up the fact that the Witch is sung by a man, so that question makes perfect sense. Brett answers by telling him the reasons that opera sometimes casts a man in a female role or female as a male character. There’s unanimous agreement that having the Witch sung by a tenor makes the character creepier and funnier at the same time.

We wave goodbye to the students and reset for the top of the show. As the re-set is happening, I talk with one of the teachers who is just gushing about the performance. She admits that she doesn’t like opera; that it’s always just been people screaming. I tell her if it sounds like screaming, then its opera being done wrong. She agrees with me and tells me how much she loved the show. Everyone’s voices were beautiful, the production was like a fairytale and everything just came to life for her. Hmm… we may have a new opera convert… Touring productions aren’t just for kids.

After everyone gets out of costume, we jump into the car and head to a local spot for a very quick lunch. We’ve got less than an hour before we need to be back for the second performance. At lunch, there’s very little talking. Sure the food is good, but it’s more than that. It is… technology. As I look around the table, just about everyone has their eyes glued to their phones. I don’t begrudge them that; we’ve been in the mountains for 2-weeks and had little to no reception. They have lives outside of opera after all. I haven’t missed it though. A break from the cyber world has been quite welcome. We finish lunch and head back to the school. There’s just enough time to get everyone back into costume before the second group of students arrive; this time we have Kindergarten – 2nd grade. They are adorable. Apparently today is pajama day!

This is a big school, so each performance is packed. I go out to do the pre-show talk and I can tell that we’ve got a very special group of kids. They are so excited, but so well-behaved too. As the performance begins, they are hanging on every word, every note. It’s almost as if they take a breath each time one of the singers does. As I sit backstage, I’m treated to hundreds of little voices shouting “bravo” after every number. Andrew, Daniel and Brett are inspired backstage as well. During the dance scene, they get their groove on. I stop giggling long enough to snap a picture. On stage, things continue to go well. The kids are so responsive. Leah and Katherine make their exit as Andrew sings his aria and Leah becomes very emotional. The kids have grabbed ahold of her heart (metaphor – go with me readers). She says that the little ones in the front were copying every dance move she made; clapping their hands, snapping their fingers, tapping their feet.  Sometimes, during a live performance, there’s just a feeling in the air. Something happens that’s magical – you connect with your audience in a way that words can’t quite describe. That’s what we’ve got going on here and we all feel it. Daniel goes on for the Sandman scene and the kids are yawning along with Leah and Katherine. When Brett goes on as the Witch, the laughter in the room is contagious and we’re laughing backstage, listening to the kids respond. Daniel can’t resist and peaks through a gap in the set to watch the action unfold. Brett takes his cue from the energy in the room and plays the Witch as completely goofy. His rhyme today? “I’ll go inside and feed my pet llama; I hope you don’t mind, but I’m your new mama.” The kids are howling with laughter and this time, I can hear the teachers laughing too.

When I’m directing a show, I make choices based on what I think will appeal to an audience; try to tell the story and showcase the art form in a way that represents the truth of what opera is. I never really know if I’ve gotten it right until I put it in front of an audience. The way these kids are responding; we got it right. I wish that words could convey what it sounds like as the Young Artists take their bows. The students are cheering for them, standing up, calling “bravo” over and over; and the best part? Their joy at what they’ve experienced is completely genuine. It’s probably the best performance of Hansel and Gretel that the Young Artists have given all season. The final show on our tour – and it’s one I will remember for a very long time. We go out for the Q&A and, sadly, we’re only able to take 3 questions. There’s been a surprise visit from the superintendent and they have an award to present to one of the students. It’s a wonderful thing, but we would have liked to spend some more time answering the students’ questions – they were such a fabulous audience.

There’s an official presentation with multiple speakers and then there are numerous photos taken of the superintendent and the winner, on our set, so we have to wait to begin to take things down and load out. The teachers come backstage to tell us how much they enjoyed the show and ask us repeatedly to come back. Deanna, the music teacher, says that Opera Colorado’s program is something that her school highly values and she’ll be bringing us back for sure. We get to the business of loading out for the final time on tour. Everyone is tired, but the energy of the kids is still buzzing in our minds.  Load out complete, we get in the cars and begin the drive back to Denver. Within minutes, everyone but the drivers and copilots are asleep.

We have one final stop on tour – it’s become something of a tradition to have the final stop of tour be a unique Colorado experience.  In 2014, we stopped at the Coney Island Hot Dog stand in Bailey, Colorado. This year… it’s Johnson’s Corner for their world famous cinnamon rolls. Funny… they always seem to involve food. We sit at a booth the size of Rhode Island and I snap a picture of the group as they consider the volume of what they’re about to ingest.  Daniel makes a toast to tour. It’s been a busy, challenging and incredibly rewarding two weeks. Cinnamon delights consumed, groans of the overly-indulgent in process, we make the final leg of our journey back to Denver.

That’s it readers. We’ve been on the road for 11 days. Traveled over 1,600 miles, been snowed in, on roads that go nowhere, attacked by bugs of unusual size and seen amazing sights. We’ve taken opera to more than 1,500 people. Tour is over… or is it? We’re actually not done with our travels. We have a performance in Colorado Springs on Wednesday. We couldn’t fit that into our official tour weeks; there were just too many requests that came in, so the Young Artists will be doing a day trip. I won’t be blogging about that one. My digits are fatigued. There’s more exciting news… You have a chance to hear the Young Artists in person one final time before they complete their residency with Opera Colorado. On Sunday, May 31st at 2:00PM, they will be singing their Farewell Concert. Tickets are available now and we hope to see you there. You can find more information about the performance here: 2015 Young Artists Farewell.

To those of you who have contacted me about the blogs, thank you for your support. We’re glad that you enjoy them. Rest assured, tour commentary will continue in 2016. Well beyond that we hope. Time keeps rolling… and so will we. All in the name of this incredible art that we love… opera.

Thanks for joining us on our journey.

Till next year,


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 10

Thursday, May 21, 2015

You know that feeling when you wake up? I don’t, at least not this morning. I got about 2-hours of sleep last night due to various factors, the biggest culprit being a bug the size of a baseball who decided to make my room his home base. I have no idea what it was. I know that it could fly and it made a hissing sound when it felt threatened. First, it claimed my shoe as its domicile. I threw my other shoe at it, which caused an immediate cessation of occupancy. Then it scampered into my closet so I shut the door and laid awake the rest of the night, listening with my eyes. By the time I fell asleep it was about an hour before we had to get up in order to get ready, eat breakfast and check out. Brett offered emotional support and made me coffee, but because of my nocturnal bug vigil, we left about 20-minutes behind schedule. Brett is driving this morning, which is probably best. Daniel is following us in the van with Andrew.

We stop for gas the then begin the drive to Summit Middle School. Leah is in charge of the tunes this morning and selects The Goat Rodeo Sessions. It’s a mix of bluegrass, celtic and other music featuring Yo-Yo Ma and other artists whose names I can’t remember. Taylor comments on the awesomeness that is Yo-Yo Ma and Katherine, the pinnacle of modesty, says that she is the Yo-Yo Ma of opera. The area got more snow overnight but it’s partly cloudy this morning. I think all of the beauty, combined with the stress of driving the pass coming into Breckenridge is beginning to take its toll on Brett. He begins to have some kind of psychotic break while driving; fits of giggles. It all seems to center around Hansel and Gretel rhymes, so I don’t think he’s dangerous.

Brett and Andrew do an excellent job driving and manage to make up 15-minutes, so we arrive at the school just 5-minutes behind schedule. We then manage to do the fastest set up on record, 20-minutes flat. No one lost and eye or anything. I don’t recommend this for amateurs.  I connect with Mary Jane and several of the teachers at Summit Middle School while everyone gets into costume and makeup. I also get to connect with Joyce Mueller from the Breckenridge Music Festival. We’re excited to have Steve Dilts, our Young Artist Liaison here today. He’s driven up from Denver to watch the performance and workshop and then we’re all having lunch. Opera Colorado’s supporters are, quite simply, the best. The students begin to come in and we’ve got a packed house today; over 250 6th graders. We’ve decided that today is the day to try out a new bit in the show. When we were in Salida, Brett and I found the most amazing hand puppet. It’s an ostrich – or an emu – not sure which. This is a character element that I’ve thought about, but haven’t tried before now. You know, the Witch has gone so bonkers living in the forest alone; she’s created this creature to have someone to talk to. To make it work, the tenor playing the Witch has to embrace the concept.  Oh boy has Brett embraced it; his new creative new venture.

I am introduced to give the pre-curtain talk and readers… I’ve changed. “Kathy” Koepke will now begin the show.  I am able to gauge the energy in the audience within seconds and know that I need to add a behavior expectation section to my talk. I exit the stage and the show begins. The Young Artists work like crazy over the next 50-minutes to perform for a tough audience. It’s not that they’re not enjoying the show; they are. Sometimes, we get a group of kids that just doesn’t respond in a way that we expect. The ostrich puppet bit gets a couple of really big laughs so it will be something I look at in the future.  At bows, the audience is cheering. As the Young Artists exit, I take over and begin the interactive workshop that we’ll do for the next 45-minutes. As the Young Artists get out of costume and makeup, they will come out and join me and each take over teaching a section. This is something I’ve started to do each year towards the end of the season. It’s a way for me to see what they’ve learned during their residency in terms of presentation skills and engaging an audience. Brett did this last year, so he works to load out as much as he can by himself while I do crowd control. After Leah, Kathrine, Andrew and Daniel have run through their activities, Taylor takes over for a bit and gives the students a work out singing scales and adding numbers and clapping on certain beats. By this point, the students are getting incredibly rowdy, so I take the reins again with Brett. Readers, if you’ve never worked interactively with middle school students... proceed with caution. It’s something they might want to consider as an option for training our military before they go into combat. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I love it. By the time the workshop ends, the kids are engaged and, we hope, have learned some skills that they will be able to utilize.

The teachers and our program sponsors are thrilled with what we were able to bring to the students today. We’re showered with compliments on the quality of the performance and the workshop. They want us back next season; at more schools and doing more workshops. That’s exciting. I think we’re offering something very unique with these interactive workshops. We’re connecting kids to opera in a way that not only entertains but helps develop their skills. I now need a nap – it takes a ton of energy to teach a group that big and I tend to put in every ounce I can. We load out the last bit of our set and then head to a local restaurant to meet Steve. As we arrive, we see him, standing in a parking spot in front of the building to save it for us.  Does this man take good care of us or what!? Lunch is good but it’s especially good to have Steve with us. Throughout the year, Steve makes sure that the Young Artists have a support system while they are in Denver. He attends rehearsals, comes to performances and even brings donuts and coffee. The Young Artists have come to call these occasions, “Donuts with Dilts.” It may not sound like a big deal but, to us, it’s huge. Steve, we appreciate you more than we can say.

We persuade Steve to let us buy him a cup of coffee for the road and then we say our goodbyes. We load into the cars and make our way to Ft. Collins, Colorado where we’ll be staying overnight. We have a double bill at Bauder Elementary tomorrow, our last stop on tour. Katherine’s driving the van with Daniel and Brett is driving while I attempt to copilot. The rest of our car is asleep within minutes of being on the road. Brett and I don’t have that luxury; driving on I-70 isn’t something and I enjoy on a good day and today the weather is bad and the traffic is nuts. It doesn’t help that there’s road construction every few miles. Brett’s catlike reflexes allow him to avoid getting into a serious accident when a truck swerves in front of us. Brett honks the horn and we are treated to repeated hand gestures involving the middle finger. This goes on for quite a while. Leah says we should pull alongside him and blow him a kiss. I consider it, until I see the “Hello Kitty” sticker on his rear window – the bundle of cuteness is holding an AK47. Things go from bad to worse when the driver starts swerving all over, drives in both lanes and takes out construction cones. Brett and I get his license plate; we seriously think he’s intoxicated. We keep our distance and he finally exits off the highway.

We continue to hit traffic and drivers continue to make poor choices. One woman drives on the shoulder of the road, not realizing she’s not in an actual lane and then pulls in front of us, narrowly missing the concrete wall ahead of her. By the time we get to Ft. Collins, we are ready to not be in the cars any longer. We get to the hotel, check in and I schedule a meeting in my room after everyone has a chance to get settled. While we’re still finishing up tour, we have to start thinking about what’s next. We’ve got performances this weekend and the last week of May is packed.  We discuss repertoire, I hand out music and set schedules. We also discuss move-out details – the end of their contracts is just around the corner.

After the meeting, everyone is on own their own for dinner. Leah, Katherine, Andrew and Daniel decide to head to a brewery and Brett, Taylor and I decide to walk to a nearby restaurant. Back that the hotel, I spend some time looking at our abridged production of Carmen that we will tour next year. I wasn’t completely happy with some of the translations I did, so I am reworking it. Brett is interested in the process I take when creating a touring show, so he’s been helping me revise the dialogue. I’ll tell ya – it makes a difference having a male brain to pick when you’ve got a story like this to condense into an hour. I can do many things, I have various skills and talents, but… thinking like a man. That’s one thing I can’t do.

It’s time to turn in. Tomorrow will be another busy day. We’re looking forward to performing for more students and then heading back to Denver.

Sleep well readers – I plan to. This room appears to be bug free.


Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 9

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What a difference a day makes… 24 little hours… That’s what I woke up thinking today as the sun was rising. The snow has stopped, there’s blue sky with puffy white clouds and the roads have improved. It’s a marathon of breakfast and bathroom sharing (not as simultaneous activities) as we get ready to head out. This non-morning group is quiet but Leah entertains everyone with renditions of arias as done by Melissa Ethridge, Celine Dion and Rihanna. I was moved in a way I haven’t been moved before while listening to those arias…

In the car, Katherine shares her feelings about yesterday. She says it felt like the longest day. First it was snowing; then it wasn’t. We had power, then we didn’t, then we had power again. Yes… yes that’s right Katherine. That is an accurate summary.  Thank you. We’re driving to Frisco, Colorado today and we get to pass through Leadville, so we’ll get to the see all of the scenery we missed last week when the weather disrupted our view. The weather… Wow, this year has been intense, even for Colorado. Spring has sprung, but apparently it got bored and bounded away because what we are seeing outside our windows does not look like spring. It’s like we stepped back in time a few months. Time… it’s that time thing again!

The drive is beautiful. Copilot Brett snaps photos as we go. The car is quiet. It is early and this is going to be a long day with 2 performances, 2 load ins, 2 set ups , 2 tear downs and 2 load outs. We get to Frisco right on time and check into our first school for the day, Frisco Elementary. We’re performing for the whole school and will have preschool – 5th grade. The staff is incredibly welcoming and even has bottled water waiting for us. Set up goes smoothly and we have about 30-minutes for everyone to get into costume and makeup before the students come in. While the Young Artists warm up, I visit with Mary Jane Wurster from the Breckenridge Music Festival. She’s been my contact for the last several years and has helped us bring performances to schools in the region. It’s amazing to have such support from our communities around Colorado.

Everything is ready and the students have arrived. One little guy, probably around 3-years old, enters the space and sees Brett backstage. He points at him and yells, “Yay!” We hear you little man. We’re excited to be here too. The principal introduces us and I go out to talk with the kids and get them ready for what they’re about to see. Many schools we go to have little to no knowledge of opera or even the story of Hansel and Gretel. We send out Teacher Guidebooks packed with resources and curriculum materials, but they aren’t always utilized. So, I make sure to tell them a little about the story and give a snapshot of what opera actually is. One of the 4th grade boys gets it in one guess – “opera is a story that you sing and stuff.”

During the show, I sit backstage. I love to do this. I get to see their faces and watch their expressions as the opera unfolds (the kids not the Young Artists). Kids are unbelievably honest. If they don’t like something, you’ll know it. If they like something, it’s written all over their faces and based on what I can see, they are loving the show. During the dance scene with Hansel and Gretel, a little girl in the front row is copying every move that Leah makes. When Andrew, as Father, scolds Hansel and Gretel, a little boy shows genuine concern. Kids are rubbing their sleepy eyes during the Sandman scenes and when Brett comes on as the Witch, their eyes grow wide and they whisper to each other. The adults are enjoying it just as much as the students; another reason I love opera. There really is something in it for everyone.

The first performance of the day is done. It was a little low-energy, but being that it’s just after 10:00AM and they’re singing at over 9,000 feet, I’m happy with what they did out there. I go out and begin the Q&A. First question today, “I have a brother named Daniel.” That’s great – more questions. We get everything from “Can I have some candy?” to “Why did we have the house painted on the backdrop?” Brett gets asked if he was forced to wear a dress. Technically, yes, I guess he was. It’s in his contract. He also gets asked what the Witch wanted to do to the kids. He deftly sidesteps the topic of cannibalism saying that she wanted to turn them into gingerbread. Now that I think about it, Hansel and Gretel deals with some pretty dark themes. It’s probably best that I put Brett in a dress; you know for that all important whimsy factor. Q&A done, we bid goodbye to the students and begin our first load out of the day. Some of the 1st graders have so many questions that they stay behind. While everyone else takes down the set and loads everything into the van, I spend time with 12 very inquisitive little minds and 1 very grateful teacher. They’re now heading back to their classroom to video-journal about what they saw and this afternoon they will be making their own gingerbread houses while listening to the opera. How cool!

Time for a break and we drive to the main street area in Frisco for lunch. Mary Jane has recommended a local spot called Butterhorn Bakery. Andrew brought his lunch – he’s a plan ahead kind of guy – but the rest of us decide to try it. The food is great and they have baked goods made right on sight (kid of figures since it’s a bakery). After lunch, we walk around town for a few minutes and let the baked goods settle, then meet back up at the car. We wait in the car. And we wait. I’m getting strange looks from the others. Am I waiting for something, they ask? Well… yes. I am waiting for Leah. I’d rather not leave town without her. Leah is in the car. Has been the whole time. Readers… in my defense, Leah is petite. Or maybe… just maybe… I might be tired.

We drive to our second school for the day, Silverthorne Elementary School. Mary Jane meets us at the school again and we take look at the performance space and figure out where to set up. The piano has a gimpy wheel, so we’re not supposed to move it. We’re going to have to move it though, otherwise it will be on the opposite side of the room and while Taylor is incredibly talented, I’m not sure he can use flag signals and play the piano at the same time. As the Young Artists set up, I talk with Mary Jane and meet the school principal. This school is larger, so we’ll have a bigger audience.  Everything is in place and it’s time to move the piano (we’ve gotten permission). All the guys gingerly half carry/half roll it into place. Andrew reminisces about their first performance way back in October. There was a piano there that also had a gimpy wheel. It was almost a disaster, Andrew laughs. Ah… memories. Right as we get the piano to the spot where Taylor needs it, the wheel pops off the front. We use a sandbag to hold it in place. Didn’t know we had to be maintenance workers too did you? I can’t count the number of times we’ve had to MacGyver something on the spot. I go out to introduce the performance and right away, I know this group of kids is going to be a handful. They are excited and very verbal in their responses. With a big bravo, I head backstage and give everyone a heads up – this show has got to be high energy.

I am not disappointed. Katherine and Leah have the students laughing at their antics within the first few minutes of the performance.  Their faces are priceless when Andrew enters as the Father and gets mad at the mess Hansel and Gretel have made. Sitting backstage, I get to watch the behind the scenes action. It’s like a ballet really. No, it’s not. Let me ask you a question readers… How many men does it take to set a table? In the case of Hansel and Gretel, the answer is 3. They are so precise; so careful. It’s very cute to see how much attention they give it. Brett has taken the “energy” comment quite seriously. He’s found a new prop and created a new line just for this performance. Usually he sings, “I’ll go inside and see to my cat; while you remain here, little brat.” Today’s show will be the premiere of, “I’ll go inside and see to my chicken, and when I get back, you’ll be finger lickin’.” Yes, there is a rubber chicken. Did you expect any less?

It may sound silly that we’re being silly, but its things like this that can keep a show fresh. When you perform something as many times as we do this show, it can easily become tired and unmotivated. Throwing new ideas and bits into the show, things that aren’t disruptive, can add something new and fresh for the performers to work with. The show continues to go well. Leah’s cry when Hansel scares her, Brett’s magic spell hip swivels; the kids are laughing like crazy. The laughter turns to howls when Brett’s wigs falls off. It’s actually perfectly timed with the music and he doesn’t miss a beat. It looks like it was supposed to happen. These people are pros! By the time the show ends, the students are cheering. I go out to start the Q&A and it takes me a few minutes to get the

m quiet enough to hear us. We take questions for about 10-minutes before we have to end the show so the kids can get back to class in time for dismissal. As we’re beginning to tear things down, the principal comes back to talk to us. He says one of the students stopped him in the hall and told him how much he loved the show. He said it looked just like a movie. Another student told him that it was her favorite part of being in 2nd grade. The principal says that for most of his students, this will be the first, if not only chance to see an opera until they are adults. What an honor we have – and what a huge responsibility. This is so important, not just for the future of the art form, but for kids and their development. They need to know what’s out there; that the arts are right in their own community. They can give them a voice, help them express themselves…

I shall now step off my soapbox and rejoin the world – it’s time to take down the set… again. I can tell the Young Artists know that this was not just a good show, but a great show. There are more smiles, conversations are more lively and laughter is more prevalent. We thank Mary Jane for her help in getting us to today’s schools and bid her goodbye until tomorrow. We have one more school that is being sponsored by Breckenridge Music in the Schools on Thursday. As the final load out gets completed, Andrew and Brett are working on new line changes for the next Hansel and Gretel. These guys… so creative. And these lines… so not happening. We decide to grab a quick thermos of coffee before making the drive back to Nathrop. Brett is not deterred. He’s still making up rhymes. I challenge him; offering up words that he has to rhyme with. To my consternation, he does it. No matter what I throw him, he finds a way to make it into a singable phrase. Drat. Oh well. I never made any promises of future performance. I’ve learned that lesson.

Everyone sleeps on the drive back. Except Brett and Andrew. They are driving and that would be unsafe. Katherine and I are co-piloting, so we’re not sleeping either as our job is entertainment. Brett and I listen to Jonas Kaufman and Ben Heppner. That mixed with the unbelievable scenery make for a lovely drive. There’s yet another storm moving in tonight, but I’ve decided to play my Scarlet O’Hara card and think about it tomorrow.

We get back to our lodging as the sun is setting and the mountains look like they are shimmering. Everyone cooks dinner and then takes what little time we have left in the day to visit the hot springs. I blog and get some work done, enjoying the view. It’s not the mountains this time; it’s the Young Artists and Taylor (well, minus Daniel, not sure where he is). They are enjoying the water and each other’s company. It puts a smile on my face. This program ends on May 31st. They’ll all soon be headed in different directions. I’m really happy that they had a little time to just hang out with their colleagues.

Once everyone is sufficiently waterlogged, Leah, Katherine, Brett, Taylor and I decide to play a game. This is the last time we’ll be sharing lodging as a big group, so it’s probably our last game night. Telestrations – the sequel commences. It’s just as much fun and just as funny as the game we played in Lake City. Tonight we went from “Grand Canyon” to “sunset search party,” “button your lip” to “ice moles (the animal, not the beauty mark),” and the winner for the night… “Spaghetti” to “afro pie.”

It’s time to turn in. We have another busy day tomorrow. We’ll be performing at a middle school and teaching a workshop directly after the show. Then we’re meeting Steve Dilts, the Young Artist Liaison, for lunch before driving to our overnight stop. It feels like we’re back on track and tour is how it should be… days full of opera from sun up to sun down. Exciting and challenging and exhausting. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wishing you a good night readers,


Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 8

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BREAKING NEWS… a group of opera singers, on tour through the western slope of Colorado, have been reported missing. A powerful spring snowstorm blanketed the area last night, dropping over a foot of snow. This morning, unable to drive to their performance location, the singers banded together and set out on foot. Sightings have been reported, but nothing is confirmed. If you see the singers, do not approach them. They are cold, waterlogged and have experienced back-to-back performance cancellations, making them moody and highly unpredictable. Information will be updated as it becomes available. Back to you Cherity…

Good morning readers! Guess what? We’re snowed in! In May… the 19th… In the teeny, tiny, town of Nathrop… Well, this was not on the schedule. We got hit with a massive storm front last night and it dumped over a foot of snow in the area. We were supposed to perform in Fairplay today, but they got close to two feet. Oh, and we also have no power. Seems heavy snow and power lines do not play well together.

There’s an outage that extends from here to Leadville. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Daniel’s face as he held his raw, unscrambled eggs as the power went out just before he put them in the pan. We can’t cook, we have no heat and the snow is still coming down heavily. Not willing to give up, we try to get to the car so we can go to the lodge. It takes Daniel, Andrew and Brett working together to get enough snow off so I can see to drive. I trudge to the car and step in snow and mud that completely swallows my feet. Brett and I head to the lodge with Daniel so he can eat something and I can try and reach the school. Phone lines are down too, but after about 20-minutes, I finally get through and I’m told that schools is on a delay, they’re having power problems too and roughly 75% of the students aren’t there. We wait it out at our lodging for a bit to see if things improve, but they don’t. I go back to the lodge and run into an officer with the Sheriff’s department. He says the roads around here are passable, but the power outage has closed the road into the pass. Red Feather Hill, which is where we need to go, is icy and there’s freezing fog. He asks me why we’re in the area and I tell him that we’re with Opera Colorado. His response, “Opera Colorado… well what the heck are you doing out here?” Taking opera into Colorado’s communities! Or at least trying too… He strongly advises us not to make the trip and says the power may not be on until this evening.  I call the school again and based on conditions, we decide to cancel the show.

This stinks – and there’s nothing we can do about it. Mother Nature gets the victory today. Katherine and Leah go to the gym where at least there’s a backup generator and they can shower, etc. While Leah is drying her hair, the power surges and the hair dryer sparks. It lands on her shoulder where it smolders and then goes out. She’s fine, her fair is fine, but I wouldn’t want to be that hair dryer. Andrew and Daniel hang out in their rooms, I think; I haven’t seen them – maybe they’re out playing in the snow… Taylor has a massage appointment set up which he is able to keep. Brett and I head out to the front porch and do some writing. There are still plenty of things I can work on. I have articles to write, guidebooks for the 15-16 season to create and the blog must go on. We make the best of it, but we’d rather be performing for those kids. As our rooms get colder, Leah, Katherine, Brett and I decide to try and head into nearby Buena Vista so we can at least grab something to eat. Andrew and Daniel decide to stay here and Taylor… he’s so relaxed after his massage that we just pour him into the car and take him with us.

There’s no denying that it’s beautiful outside but it looks more like December than May. It’s alternating between raining and snowing which is creating a huge mess. There are stretches of road that are icy, some places are mud bogs with huge potholes and there are tree limbs down all over the place. The mountains leading to the pass are completely socked in. You can’t even see most of the range. We find a restaurant in Buena Vista and stop to eat. Hardly anyone is out, but the food is very good and we’re able to warm up. A couple people decide to order food to take back with us in case we don’t have power tonight. Brett and I decide to take our chances – we can always eat tomorrow.

We head back to Nathrop. On the car ride back, the stress from being snowed in and back-to-back cancellations finally breaks through. Leah begins to sing mash ups of Mozart operas. Katherine is doing ornamentations for Non piu mesta that sound like a cross between jazz scat and southern gospel. Taylor is mixing up the words from the Lion King and Carmen; Hakuna Navaha. Brett is making up new text for Hansel and Gretel in an effort to be as culturally diverse as possible. I may have blacked out for a time… when I come to; we’re back in Nathrop I start a game of “Hey Cow” just to keep from cracking. “Hey Cow” is a game where you yell “Hey Cow” out of the window. There are rules of course. 1. There must be cows. 2. If the cows look at you when you call out, you get points. 3. Points are taken away if you scare a baby cow. My lesson in this game is not heeded and things quickly go awry. Katherine plays “hey snow,” Taylor is screaming at the horses, Brett is holding his head in his hands, possibly weeping and Leah is still singing. In the name of all that is good and right in the world… please let tomorrow’s performances happen.

Back at our lodging, the power is still out. Our lodging is pretty cold now, but, again, there’s nothing we can do about it. Some people take a nap. I work on an article for our upcoming issue for Ovation. Definitely not how this day way supposed to go. Deciding to take advantage of the time we have in this lovely location, Brett gets a massage and I get a facial. It’s a rare treat (and by rare I mean maybe a once-a -year event) and I’m feeling like a marshmallow by time I exit the spa. Brett is upright, has a very goofy smile on his face and is moving rather slowly. By the time the power comes back on, the day is pretty much over. We crank the heat to get things warmed up and Leah, Katherine, Brett and I watch an episode of Chopped on TV – because we can - then head to bed. We are up very early tomorrow to head to our first of two performance locations – and by sunder – we’re going!  We’re in Frisco for a morning Hansel and Gretel, then we tear everything down, head to Silverthorne and do it all again. Two performances at two separate schools – now you’re talking my language! Plus we’ll be at over 9,000 feet.

Time to take a deep breath.

Till tomorrow readers,


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 7

Monday, May 18, 2015

Its Monday readers. Boy… is it Monday. I’m up early to tackle a “To Do” list before I head to pick everyone up. I’ve got some music to copy, some emails to send and have to get gas in the pseudo-Yukon. While some tasks are completed with efficiency, I cannot say the same for the things that take place in the world outside of my control. It’s raining like mad, the road to get where I need to go is flooded and once I do get on the highway, traffic is an absolute mess. Not exactly the ideal way to start out tour week #2. I’m more than 30-minutes late to pick up Taylor, which means I’m late to get the rest of the group too. Oh well; I always pad the departure schedule with about ½ hour of wiggle room just in case things like this happen.

By the time I get to the house to pick everyone up, they are ready to load the cars and go. Since we no longer need the Romeo & Juliet set, props and costumes, some of the Young Artists took them out of the van and put them in the guy’s house. While it’s nice to have the additional space, Road Manager Brett and I are pondering why the items are spending the week in the house and not in the Yukon (you know, the one that isn’t allowed to come on tour; where those items will live the last week in May as we complete the season). Perhaps they are house sitting… Whatever. At least they were productive while waiting for me to show up.

By this point, we’ve become experts at packing. We even have about 5-inches of space in the back that does not contain an item. Look at us, being minimalists. We begin the drive out of town and into the mountains again and this time I manage to make the correct turn! It’s a good thing because the weather does not look promising. The clouds are really low and before long, I’m driving in questionable visibility, trying to keep Andrew in my sights as he follows in the van. Though it’s tricky driving, the scenery is amazing. As we get higher into the pass, it starts to snow, looking like a fairytale; we’re surrounded by snow covered trees. The conversation in my car has been all over the place this morning, but currently it involves dogs. It seems like a favorite topic that we keep coming back to. Brett has assigned a voice to one of Taylor’s Golden Retrievers whose name is Beau. It’s what we imagine Beau would sound like if he could talk. I wish these blogs had sound clips, because Beau is quite entertaining. Leah offers to tell us another one of her stories, but we decline, still not quite over the last tale which involved a car ghost.

We’re on our way to Nathrop, Colorado where we have an Arias & Ensembles performance this evening at the Mt. Princeton Resort. However, before that, we have an important stop to make. We’re going to meet up with Joyce and Dirk deRoos. Dirk is on Opera Colorado’s board and Joyce is our volunteer coordinator. They invited us to stop and have lunch with them. They have a cabin in Jefferson, Colorado and it’s literally on the way, so I jumped at the chance to spend some time with these fabulous people who are incredibly supportive of what we do. The weather does not go easy on us, but we manage to make it to the turn off. Once we get off the paved road, things get very interesting. I’ve got 4 wheel-drive in the tank, but the van doesn’t. The dirt roads are basically frozen mud and incredibly slick. We take it slow and, somehow, reach the cabin right on time. We are greeted by Joyce, waiving us in. My hands are shaking from gripping the wheel so tightly and Andrew’s jaw has frozen in a clenched-tooth smile, but otherwise we’re fine.

Though the clouds are covering the mountains, the view is stunning. There are elk in the valley just below the cabin and Aspen trees on all sides. Inside, everything is warm and incredibly cozy. This is a place that just begs you to relax. Joyce has been busy cooking and as we get ready for lunch, Dirk arrives, having driven in from Denver. We also have a furry friend joining us who enjoys ear scratches, which dog whisperer Taylor seems especially good at.

Lunch is delicious. The company and conversation is even more wonderful. To add to the ambience, Brett has built a fire in the living room (in the fireplace folks, not the actual room – he’s handy, not destructive). After lunch, I step outside to enjoy the view and the doggy comes with me. I’m immersed in watching the clouds roll in and I hear a loud warble to my left. Bigfoot? Dirk says they’re up here but if you give them cookies they leave you alone. Alas, I am sans cookies. But there’s no bigfoot in sight. It seems our furry friend is in need of rescuing, he’s gotten stuck on the steps and can’t get up or down. I grab him and go back inside. Some of the group are relaxing while others choose to get adventurous. Dirk and Joyce have traveled extensively and he’s picked up some interesting things along the way. One of these things is called an At-latyl. It’s a spear throwing device used in many different cultures. Dirk offers to teach us how to use it and Brett and Daniel jump at the chance. The rain has now turned to snow, but opera singers are brave; the elements do not stop them. Unless you take into account our recent production of The Magic Flute and then The Elements stop everything… But, I digress. No, the elements do not stop these opera singers. Especially not when your lovely hostess provides fuzzy hats and warm jackets.

The goal is to throw the spear about 30-feet and hit a hay bale that Joyce has set up for this as well as archery. What ensues over the next 30-minutes is a combination of fun, fear and awe. Fun, because it’s delightful to watch Dirk teach the guys how the contraption works and because they are truly enjoying themselves. Fear, because they are holding and throwing something with a pointy tip and I am in the vicinity. Awe, because they actually do it; and do it well. Brett has great form and after just a few tries, gets the spear into the hay bale. Daniel’s form is reminiscent of the Olympic Games of old. He lofts one of the spears so far that we have to join forces to find it. As Joyce, Daniel and Brett search the forest; I find it covered in snow just inches away from the hay bale. This is a “finders keepers” moment that I will let pass…

The snow is really coming down now and we decide to move inside. Andrew looks like a mountain man on hiatus and Leah and Katherine have curled up in a chair by the fireplace and are very cozy. So cozy that Leah has fallen asleep. The rest of our party spends the time talking and listening to Dirk tell stories about the history of the area. Let me tell you, our Mr. deRoos can weave a mighty fine yarn (it’s a way of saying he’s good a telling stories, not actually turning fibrous materials into yarn). It’s absolutely fascinating and draws forth even our sleeping beauty Leah. Joyce has one last treat in store. She’s pulling out all the stops. We’ve got ice cream and all the toppings. While we are enjoying our treat and the hospitality, the weather begins to clear. *Sigh* It’s time for us to leave and head to Nathrop. I snap a group photo to commemorate the afternoon and then we say our goodbyes. How do you thank people for sharing their home with you? Their hospitality? When you live the nomadic life of an artist, it’s times like this that provide that sense of home that you miss. They are rare, which makes them all the more precious. We are deeply grateful Joyce and Dirk. Thank you for a wonderful afternoon.

We hit the road and, though it’s still raining, the weather has lifted a bit. We make a pit stop in Buena Vista for groceries for the next several days. We’ll be making Nathrop our home base and driving to locations all around for performances. It just so happens that we’re staying at a place that has natural hot springs. As part of the arrangement I made for lodging, we’re performing an A&E for the guests tonight – well, maybe. I got a call earlier today telling me they can’t locate a keyboard. I got that call after we had already left town, so we can’t even offer to bring ours. It’s kind of an essential item for opera. They called again at the grocery store and it’s not looking good. I haven’t said anything to the group yet; I’m still hoping it works out. Groceries purchased, we drive to Nathrop and get checked in. As we get settled, I connect with my contact here and they haven’t been able to find a keyboard, so tonight’s performance is off. We can’t reschedule either as the location is already booked for other events on the nights that we’ll be here. Boo! They’re disappointed and honestly, so are we. It would have been fun to perform in a new location for new people – that’s part of the reason we’re staying here. The manager promises that we’ll try again next year. They have plans to buy a piano or a keyboard for the new reception hall. She also says that our agreement for a lodging discount still stands. Well, that makes things a bit better. The gesture is appreciated. We try very hard to make thoughtful decisions about our budgets. Lodging expenses are a necessary part of tour and they can add up quickly. I try to find opportunities to lessen the cost of lodging so that the funding we have can go as far as possible.

With an unexpected free evening, everyone does their own thing. There is no cell service here and limited internet, so even I have to take some time off and unplug. Leah, Katherine and Brett decide to go to the hot springs, Taylor grabs dinner at the restaurant on-site and then also partakes of the aquatic amenities. Andrew and Daniel decide to drive to nearby Poncha Springs and visit the Elevation Brewing Company. I… decide to finish the blog for the day and then read. A luxury, I assure you. As I sit in the lounge area and blog about the day, the quiet little space I had set up for myself suddenly becomes a din of chaos. We’re being invaded… by teenagers. Busloads of them. They’re on their senior trip. I decide to head to my room and tuck in – quietly laughing at the hormonal energy of teens on a co-ed trip to the hot springs. Readers, there is an entire blog in what I witnessed.

Tomorrow we head to Fairplay to perform at the elementary school. Our performances the next 3-days are being sponsored by the Breckenridge Music in the Schools program. The weather is supposed to be pretty dicey overnight, so we’re hoping we don’t get all of the snow they’re predicting. We’re got kids waiting to see opera!

Today has been a day of wonderful memories with special people and an evening of unexpected downtime. The downtime is ending; the memories…? We’ll continue making those. We’ve got a full week of performances and workshops ahead of us and on Thursday, lunch with Young Artist Liaison, Steve Dilts. The rain has picked up again and the temp is dropping. I bid the others goodnight and turn in. Like the proverbial At-latyl, it’s time for me to hit the hay.

Have a good night readers,


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Days 5 and 6

Friday, May 15, 2015 – Saturday, May 16, 2015

Good morning readers. In an effort to keep you abreast of all of the tour happenings, I’ll be blogging about days 5 and 6 in this installment.

Friday, May 15th

Winter is coming. Either that or Colorado is experiencing its first typhoon. Skies are dark and look really threatening and it’s raining; pouring actually. This, of course, on the day that we have the longest drive of tour. We have to get from Carbondale to Pueblo. We had hoped to take Independence Pace to save some time (and secretly Brett likes to watch me white-knuckle the drive; not so secretly Taylor wanted to clap for avalanches), but it’s still closed for the season, so we have to take the longer route. Everyone meets up in the lobby to load the car and I am greeted by Leah, Katherine and a furry friend. No, it’s not Brett. Seems we have a hotel mascot. Her name is Tiger and she’s a sucker for a belly rub. But, who isn’t really?

After playing with the puppy for a bit, I sprint to the car to bring it around and manage to get soaked in the process. As I try and drip dry, Leah, packing champion, loads the luggage. We make a quick detour to get gas and then we hit the road – let the drive begin. It’s ladies day behind the wheel at the moment; I am driving the pseudo-Yukon and Katherine is driving the van with Leah and her copilot. That means that I’ve got a car full of guys all to myself – this should be fun!

This is not fun. The weather goes from bad to worse and back to bad again. People are driving like they’ve left their fine motor skills at home. When traveling is like this, I need to talk or sing or something; to find some way to make the drive the least bit enjoyable. Copilot Brett does a great job at this. He’s pulling everything out of his bag of tricks to entertain me. The other guys… they’re sleeping, listening to their own tunes or learning new music. The scenery is still beautiful. It’s incredibly green here too, in the valley as around Glenwood Springs. The clouds are so low; you can’t even see most of the mountains. As we approach Avon, the traffic gets worse, the weather is still bad and I need a break. As copilot Brett navigates us to a local Starbucks, I narrowly miss getting into two accidents because apparently turn signals are factory options. Finally parked, I take a deep breath, and Brett takes the keys. He’ll be the pilot for the rest of this particular trip. I’ve had enough.

We grab a quick cup of coffee and I check on the girls to make sure they’re OK in the van. They’re doing great. We get back on the road. Within minutes Brett has to navigate around people who are hydroplaning (their cars, not the people themselves), a bridge construction project that brings traffic to a halt and, when we get moving again, debris in the road. The back of a truck fell off and was in the road. How exactly does that happen? I assumed when they marked vehicles as ready for consumer use, that all the large parts were firmly attached… The driver of said truck decided it would be a good idea to walk out into the road, in front of us, to pick it up. Today’s drive will be brought to you by the makers of Advil. We trudge on. We turn off of I-70 and make our way up to Leadville. While traffic is better, the weather gets worse and pretty soon, it’s snowing so hard Brett can’t see more than a few feet in front of him. This is also because we’ve gotten behind a semi the size of a blue whale. Brett apparently knows the driver because he keeps referring to him by his given name; Bubba. The roads are still just wet, so it’s slow, but not icy. By the time we get to the summit, we are actually in the clouds. Off in the distance we can see the bridge that spans a ravine we’re about to cross and hear Daniel exclaim, “Oh god.” Not sure if that was out of joy or fear, I ask. It was both. These are some pretty intense conditions for our Florida boy. Bubba pulls off before the bridge so visibility is a bit better.
We make it through the pass and come to the turn to go into Leadville. The weather clears for a bit and we get to see some of the fourteeners that run the length of the valley. It’s gorgeous. For about 5-minutes. Then we get hit with the worst weather yet; white-out conditions with really heavy wind.  Thank you Mother Nature but I will save my blizzards for when I go to Dairy Queen. It’s May! In Colorado…

Brett doesn’t miss a beat. He makes sure he has Kathrine (who is also handling things beautifully) right behind him and he gets us safely into Leadville. Time to stop and eat lunch. We park downtown and walk around for a bit. We’re not really wearing appropriate artic attire, but thankfully our Opera Colorado jackets are warm! Six of us choose a local spot called Doc’s, but Daniel takes a diversion and chooses the saloon next door. There’s a sign that calls it the “best western saloon in America,” he couldn’t pass it up. Food and a break from the cars make a huge difference in not only our mood, but the weather. By the time we leave Leadville, the weather has cleared and there’s some blue sky. Andrew takes over driving the van and Leah moves to the tank. Brett, having proven his mettle behind the wheel, drives the rest of the way. We’re now on the way to Buena Vista, then to Salida, then Canon City and finally Pueblo. There’s more weather and more debris (including cans of black beans), but we make it to Pueblo safely. We check into the hotel and after a break, we decide to walk to a local Irish Pub for dinner. It’s a good call. There are pipers! Pipers in kilts! I’m in my element now. The food’s great and after the drive today, it’s nice to be able to just sit and relax. (If you caught that I have now equated listening to bagpipes as relaxing, you will fully grasp what today’s drive was like) Andrew, Leah and Katherine are chair dancing to the piper’s tunes, which is truly something to watch. Andrew’s got moves. Taylor is especially happy, ranking the quality of the food we’ve had on tour this week. This rates right up there.

We head back to the hotel so everyone can have the rest of the night to themselves. I’m really glad that I planned for today to be all about driving and we don’t have a performance. Tomorrow’s a doozy. We’ve got a double bill of Hansel and Gretel at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and I always look forward to playing in new venues. I’ll actually get to do a lighting plot for the shows which will be fun.

Tour blog day 5 – it may not have been the most entertaining day, but it’s an honest glimpse of what life on the road can be like. Days aren’t easy and not always fun. The thing that keeps us going is the belief in what we do. Opera matters, so we’ll keep driving.

Saturday, May 16th

Busy day today! We’re up and out the door by 9:00. We have a double bill of Hansel and Gretel and then a drive back to Denver. Luckily our hotel was just across the street from the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, so we get to the location quickly. Brett and I go into the theater and meet our crew for the day and figure out the set up details. Andrew gets the van to the loading dock and the process begins.

We actually have stage hands today and they’re a wonderful perk. What is not wonderful is the fact that we’ve somehow left our road bag, with all of our spike tape and other necessities, in Carbondale. This makes for an unhappy Director. At least we’re in a theater where they have some items in stock that we can use. They’re able to help us with the basics and we have the set up in no time. It’s a bit tricky to figure out the piano location and Taylor ends up partially behind the set once the wings are opened. It’s the best we can do though, so we’ll just have to make it work.

While everyone gets themselves settled and into costume and makeup, I work out a lighting plot with our production manager. It’s such a treat to have lighting to work with. We lay out a plot where the colors will change to represent day to night and then use pink to represent the world of the Witch. Lighting set, I go and meet with the house manager to get front of house details organized and then head backstage. Everyone is in costume, but they’re quiet. Morning shows take a bit of getting used to. Once they hear the audience’s response, they’ll have much more energy. As we wait for show time, I head downstairs to use the dressing room area. On the way, I see that there’s a ballet studio and it’s filled with bumble bees. Little girls, probably about 3 or 4 years old in yellow tutus with striped tops. Antenna and everything. They are absolutely precious. Taylor comes up with the idea to have them run across the stage as we change the set to the forest scene. For the cuteness factor alone – I actually considered it.

Time for show #1. I go out to do the pre-curtain speech. There are lots of little ones in the theater. I always tell them about a special word they can say if they like the opera. As I wrap up the comments, counting down 3, 2, 1, I hear a tiny little voice shout “bravo.” It sounded more like “bwavoh.” The cuteness factor just got raised. The first performance is underway. There are some fumbles, but it’s a good show. The energy is a little low but it picks up about halfway through. After bows, I go out and facilitate the Q&A session. We get good questions – little inquiring minds want to know if the candy is real, how they can sing like that and why the Witch is a boy. Seems like the fact that Hansel is sung by Katherine isn’t as noticeable. We wave to the audience, reset for the top of the show and take a break for lunch. We’re being pampered today; lunch is being delivered to us.

During lunch, Andrew does impressions, my favorite being the Queen of the Night, and Katherine strokes Leah’s hair as she ponders what her spirit animal is. She decides on a cat. She says that Katherine is a dog because she is loyal. Now, this is interesting. You see, the group has given Katherine the nickname of Kitty. More specifically, Kitty-cat, which is followed by a meow. It only seems fitting then that Katherine does not wish to be a dog. She has an affinity for horses, which are also loyal, so that works. Brett then teaches Leah how to spray water out of her mouth – you know, the classic spit take. She makes a valiant effort which is displayed on Daniel’s shoes and finally creates the effect she was going for. Hey… it could come in handy. You never know when you’ll need a good spit take in opera.

Enough goofing around, it’s time for show #2. We have a 5-minute hold and then I’m on stage for the pre-curtain speech. We’ve got a bigger crowd for this show, the kids are a bit older and there are quite a few adults too. As things get started, I know right away that this show will have more energy. The audience is responding with more laughter and applause. I watch for a bit from the upper level and, I have to say, this show, under lighting, looks fabulous. Brett gets big laughs for his antics as the Witch and as we reach bows, the audience is cheering. There are some memorable moments during the Q&A; one little guy, who was 3, asked about dinosaurs. He would like to know why there are no dinosaurs in our show. Well my man… gingerbread raptors are an interesting concept and I will keep it in mind. We get asked why we chose this show, which I answer, and then a young lady asks us if we’ve ever “tried frozen.” Now, I have a fairly well-developed ability to decipher the language of children, but this one stumped me. Was she asking me if I wanted frozen yogurt? Maybe she though the show needed to be set in winter. Nope. She wanted to know if we have considered the Disney movie Frozen as an opera.

Double bill completed, it’s time for load out. Many hands make light work and we’re done in about 30-minutes. It’s time to hit the road and make the drive back to Denver. Brett is acting as pilot again today, looking lovely in his leftover eyeliner (he’s failed to get all of the Witch off) and Andrew is driving the van with Leah and his copilot. The weather isn’t bad, but we hit rain around Colorado Springs. We also hit traffic. Our 2-hour drive turns into a 3-hour drive but the others manage to sleep through it. I entertain Brett as best I can, but he’s better at it that I am. Still, we make it back, safe and sound. Everyone grabs their stuff and we bid each other goodbye for all of 24-hours. We’re heading out for week 2 on Monday.

It’s been a good week. A week of taking opera to people who rarely have the opportunity to experience it. Tour is hard work with long hours. Opera is intensely physically and mentally demanding . We’re tired. But… you know what readers? We ready for more. Here’s to week #2!



Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 4

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Happy Thursday readers! Its day 4 of tour already.  You know what that means... time is flying. We’re up at a fairly leisurely pace for us this morning. That basically means that we’re not up with the sun, showering while warming up or packing the car while eating breakfast. That’s a luxury. We have a long day today, so we’re getting a little (and by little I mean about 1-hour) later start than usual so the group could get some extra rest. We’ve started to get into a rhythm and we all chip in with completing the check out “to do” list, getting the luggage into the car and doing one final sweep of the cabin to make sure we don’t leave anything behind.

On the road we go and begin the drive to our next stop on tour, Carbondale. It’s cloudy and cool today; there’s a chance for rain or snow. It’s just Colorado in the spring. Weather notwithstanding, I think it’s going to be a great day. We have a long but beautiful drive ahead of us, a workshop with students and then a performance of Romeo & Juliet. As the drive gets underway, it appears that this is going to be wildlife spotting day. Just minutes outside of Lake City we see deer and a large herd of elk. Katherine spots yet another animal and calls it out so that we also can partake of the enjoyment of seeing the wildlife; “horsies.” Yes, each time we pass horses in a field, or even a corral, Katherine informs us in this manner. There’s an additional element which you readers sadly can’t appreciate because each “horsey” is accompanied by a giggle. Katherine has another skill related to animals. She can tell happy cows from sad cows. Leah, ever the eager student, asks Katherine to impart her knowledge. Soon, each pasture we drive by is a lesson in how to determine the emotional state of the bovine occupants.

Brett is acting as copilot while I drive this first leg of the trip and he’s located a county road that will save us some time. The turn comes up quicker than expected (our GPS lady is polite but her reaction time is questionable), but we make it. Andrew and Daniel are following in the van. Thankfully Andrew’s reaction time is better than the GPS lady. It’s a dirt road, but it’s in decent shape. There are “horsies” and happy cows and the road parallels the river. It’s quite a lovely setting. I again think, this is going to be a great day. The road begins to narrow a bit and we get to a junction. We see a sign that reads “landslide area” but it’s the direction that we need to go and the GPS shows that the road in indeed open, so we proceed.  The road grows narrower still but we keep going. Finally, the GPS lady tells us to take the next turn on the right so that we can meet up with the road that will take us to the main highway. So, copilot Brett and I look for the turn off to our right. Nothing to the right and the river is to the left. Maybe it’s a bit further down the road than the GPS lady thinks. Copilot Brett agrees. I keep driving. The road narrows again; now you could touch the rocks on either side of the car by leaning out of the windows. Taylor offers the sage advice that if it starts to rain, we should head to higher ground. Its then that I realize we’re in a very narrow, steep canyon with a swiftly flowing river. Now, I’m getting a bit nervous and it doesn’t help that copilot Brett is whistling the theme from Deliverance. Thankfully, the GPS lady’s voice comes on and says… “At the next available spot, please make a U-turn.” There’s a group outcry at this, but we agree to turn around and look for that turn again. We missed it somehow. Andrew, Daniel and copilot Brett get the van turned around. I over hear Andrew say something about a sign he saw, but when I ask copilot Brett about it, he smiles and says “it’s all good.”  He and Taylor help me turn the tank around and we head back. We arrive at the exact spot that the GPS lady says to turn. Only… there’s no turn. Turn…? There’s no ROAD. Nothing even resembling a road. Perplexed, all we can do is head back out the way we came in and take the longer route. (It’s not until later that I find out that Andrew saw a sign that said the road had been closed due to a landslide. Based on the state of the “road” I can only assume that happened sometime in the Jurassic period.) Copilot Brett feels terrible; this was his call after all. But really, it was no big deal and we learned a valuable lesson; Copilot Brett is not psychic. He cannot see into the future to determine if GPS lady’s roads exist or not. So, we extended our drive by about 20-minutes. We got to see some beautiful scenery and now we have a story to tell about tour. It’s still going to be a good day.

Leah is very intuitive and she can sense that there’s a bit of stress in the car. She does her best to alleviate this by telling us a story. The story is based on us, though, to protect our identities, Leah has changed our names. The characters in the story are Sunshine, Rhett, Cobbler, Doggy and Poops. (I’ll let you readers see if you can figure out who is who) The story is about 5 people on a car trip; only one of them is a ghost. Good. Thank you Leah, we all feel much better now.

We stop for a much needed break and then begin the drive through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This is one of my favorite drives in Colorado. Pictures don’t do it justice. We see more wildlife here; a wild turkey and a marmot. The aspens are just beginning to leaf. Brett and I sound like kids watching fireworks as we “ooh” and “aah” at each new vista. We’re even selecting the appropriate background music to enhance the experience. (What do you think we listened to readers?) We reach the scenic overlook and we stop so everyone can snap a few pictures and stretch their legs. Back in the car, we munch on snacks and head over the canyon into the valley near Hotchkiss and into Paonia. The views in the valley are stunning too. Everything is so green – that rain and snow did a good job. The lakes are full and the rivers are running high. Appetites are also running high, so we stop in Paonia for lunch. Some of us head to a local diner and others hit a farm to table café. We head back to the cars and Brett moves from copilot to pilot so I can take a break from driving. He communicates with the GPS lady to get directions to our final destination and there’s a problem. Having made this drive before, I know we’re about 1 hr. 10 min. from Carbondale. That leaves us with enough time to get there, check into our hotel and then get to the performance location before I have to start leading the workshop. Well… according to the GPS lady, the drive will take 1 hr. 40 min., putting us behind schedule. What happened. Time again? Wormhole? Copilot Brett’s ill-fated drive to the road that did not exist? Nope. Rock scaling work on the highway and it’s not something we can get around. Oh well. There’s nothing we can do about it.

We head down the highway and, sure enough, we arrive at the roadwork and traffic comes to a complete stop. I spend the time snapping pictures of beautiful Colorado and of a partially amused Brett. We have to wait for a while and when we finally start moving, we’re way more than 40-minutes behind schedule. We still have to get over McClure Pass and the valley beyond. Again, there’s nothing we can do about it, so we just keep on truckin’. The scenery just gets more and more amazing – it’s still going to be an OK day.

On the way over the pass, Brett and I see a field full of white stones. Odd. Never seen so many white stones… oh, wait. They’re moving. Those aren’t stones at all. The entire field is full of sheep. Hundreds of them. Baby ones too. Brett questions what we are seeing, “What the flock?” Yes, our Brett; lover of puns. The valley just beyond McClure Pass is greener that I have ever seen it. There are waterfalls, little streams and flowers blooming everywhere. There are also lots of ‘horsies’ and very happy cows. As we pull into the final stretch of our drive, we see another animal off to the side of the road. This is epic readers. By this sighting, we may have just missed answering a question that has perplexed man for ages. Why did the chicken cross the road? We couldn’t stop and ask him. We have places to be.

Brett has done a great job as pilot; he’s made up considerable time (no, he hasn’t been speeding; at least not the whole time). We pull into Carbondale in time for him to drop me off at the workshop/performance location so I can get ready while the others go check into the hotel. Then they’ll make their way back so they can set up and eventually take part in the workshop. As I enter the location, there’s a sign about tonight’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. I meet up with my contacts Amy and Jennifer, who are both fabulous and work tremendously hard to make sure the arts are a big part of people’s lives here in Carbondale. Thank you for all you do ladies and for your support in getting us here!

I get myself set for the workshop. Today, I’ll be working with students who are part of the SOL Theater Company. They range in age from elementary school – high school and teaching a workshop to multiple ages will be a challenge. The Young Artists and Taylor get back just as the students begin arriving. We hold the workshop for a few minutes to wait for some latecomers, so I let them watch how the Young Artists put the set together. With a cue from Jennifer that all the students have arrived, I start the workshop. Taylor joins me and we start with the Name Game for an ice breaker. I know right away that we’re going to have a good class. The kids are incredibly creative and invested in learning everything they can about performance skills. The Young Artists join us as they finish setting up for Romeo & Juliet. I begin a game called “environment” where the students have to react physically and emotionally to whatever settings I call out. I give them things like “on the moon,” “across broken glass,” or “in a bowl of chewed up bubble gum.” It’s during this last one that something hilarious happens. One of the girls in the class comes up with perhaps the most creative way to address this environment that I have ever seen. She gets Brett to give her a piggyback ride. He plays his part well  and the duo makes it safely to less squishy ground.

As the workshop ends, we spend time on expressing emotions in a way that’s big enough for the stage. Then we take questions from the students. Their questions are just like them, thoughtful and focused. These kids are serious about the performing arts. They ask a question about how to handle rejection when you don’t get the part you want. It’s here that the Young Artists and Taylor shine. They are encouraging and supportive, but they’re honest too. They talk about putting the focus on being as prepared as you can and always doing your best. The rest, you take as it comes. It’s not easy but it is something you have to be prepared to deal with if you want a career in the performing arts. Instead of being put off by this answer, it’s clear the students appreciate hearing the truth. Questions keep coming in and we answer as many as we can. We have to end the class, but we stay behind and talk to the students one on one so that no one leaves without getting their questions answered. 
It’s time for a break for dinner before tonight’s show. I drop everyone off downtown and then Brett helps me get checked into the hotel. I grab what I need for tonight but we don’t have a lot of time, so I scramble around as quickly as I can and… I lock my keys in the room. Yes indeed this is going to be… has been… a day. I’ll deal with it later. We head back downtown and grab something to eat (fabulous Thai food). As we’re dining, I’m unable to engage in conversation. No – I am not still wishing that we had stayed to watch that darn chicken – there is a man in the restaurant who is wearing a duck bill on his head and a hotdog costume. He is holding up the cut out of an elephant’s head, people take his picture and then, he leaves. Moments after that a couple comes in. She’s wearing something that looks like Raggedy Anne met Brünnhilde and he’s wearing a Superman onesie. What is happening and do I need to fear for my safety? No. The town is holding a scavenger hunt.

Dinner break over, we head back to the performance location. I have the Young Artists do a dialogue drill in the car and Taylor helps move things along by making piano sounds. As soon as we arrive, we do a fight call and then run over any sections in the score that we need to so everyone is comfortable. As the audience arrives, we sequester ourselves in the green hallway (for it is not an actual room). I talk with the Young Artists before they go on. This is the last Romeo & Juliet that we have this season and the production will be retired for a while after this. I’ve pushed them incredibly hard on this show; challenged them dramatically. I tell them to just go out there and tell the story; to enjoy the moment. We hold for 15-minutes because people are still arriving and more chairs have to be set up. Finally, Amy begins the opening remarks and then I go out and do the opening narration. Daniel takes over with the Shakespeare prologue and the show begins. I know in the first 10-minutes that this is not only going to be a good show, but the audience is enthralled. They are laughing at every funny moment, reacting with audible sighs in the love duets and shock in the fight scene. The Young Artists take that energy and deliver one of the finest performances they’ve given all year. We reach the death scene and I can hear people crying. They’re not the only ones. This time, they got me too and that doesn’t happen often. Brett’s death scene as Romeo is stunning and wrenching; Leah is a heartbreaking Juliet. You can hear a pin drop as Taylor lets the final notes ring. This is what I wanted; for this final Romeo & Juliet to showcase the Young Artists’ talent and Opera Colorado as an organization in a way that says – THIS is what opera is. This is how it can move you, inspire you, take you on a journey. That is what they did. I think they’re all aware that the energy on stage tonight was special. It’s especially poignant for Brett – this was his final Romeo with us as a Young Artist. It’s been wonderful to watch him work in this role for the past two seasons.

After bows, we do the Q&A session and get not only questions, but people simply wanting to tell us how much they loved the performance and to thank us for coming. Our hosts have arranged a reception for us so we take a minute to catch our breath and then we spend time mingling with the audience. This includes members of the Carbondale Council for the Arts who helped fund our stop here and provided our lodging for tonight. We are so grateful for their support! Over the next hour, we meet people who love opera, who have been regular opera goers for years and who have never gone to an opera before. Every single person we talk to has nothing but positive things to say about what they just experienced. Notice I didn’t say, “what they saw.” Opera is not about going to watch something on a stage. It’s something you experience.

I love talking to people about Opera Colorado and what we do. I also love to watch the Young Artists in this setting. Leah and Katherine are being hugged by some ladies who are still crying. Andrew is engaged in a very lively conversation with a woman who saw her first opera last year when we came with our production of The Barber of Seville. She tells him that ever since she had that experience, she sings opera at home because she can’t get enough. Daniel is talking with a couple who actually met each other at Opera Colorado’s production of the Tales of Hoffmann in the 1980’s. She says that when she saw him at the opera, she knew he was the one and 30 years later they’re still together. Brett is talking to a woman who admits she has a massive crush on him; his portrayal of Romeo stole her heart . She then pays me one of the best compliments I have ever gotten as a Director. She tells me that I’ve converted her. Turns out, she was one of those people who swore that she would never go to the opera. She hated it. She came tonight because her neighbor organized the reception and needed her help. She said this production and how it was handled literally changed her mind about opera. That’s something that you hope for when you’re putting a production together but you rarely hear. It’s humbling and wonderful. She can’t wait to learn more about it. Brett gives her some suggestions of operas she might like and we invite her to come see something at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House so she can get the full experience. On her way out the door, she has Opera Colorado’s website on her phone. We are asked back over and over and I’m not allowed to make my exit until I promise to come back next year. They want our touring production of Carmen, more workshops and this time, they want to bring us into the schools with Hansel and Gretel. I think we can make that happen.

We say our goodbyes and thank everyone for coming; for the amazing reception, and then we begin the process of loading out. It’s really late and it’s been a very long day, but the Young Artists are laughing and talking to each other as they pack the van; still smiling in reaction to what they did tonight. We get back to the hotel, I get a new key, set the plan for tomorrow then we head to bed. Andrew decides to go to the gym, so I fully expect to find him passed out on the elliptical machine tomorrow morning. Tomorrow will be another long day but it will be all driving. We have to get to Pueblo for back-to-back performances of Hansel and Gretel at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center on Saturday. Time for me to turn in as well.

Seems I was right… it was a great day.

Sleep well readers,