Monday, May 11, 2015
It’s here! It’s finally here!! The Young Artists are starting their contracts and we’re about to go into production for Madama Butterfly! Wait… that’s not right. Either I’ve fallen into a wormhole or time is actually speeding up. It can’t be May already. We can’t just have closed our production of The Magic Flute yesterday and the Young Artists can’t be in their final weeks on contract. Where has this year gone? That’s what I woke up thinking today as I got ready to hit the road for our 2015 Greater Colorado Tour. Yes readers, it’s time for tour – already. I can’t quite believe it.
I scamper around getting some last minute packing done before heading to pick up the others and happily leave on time. Remarkably, I hit very little traffic on my way downtown. Things are looking good. I mean, I’m tired and it’s a little early, but the weather has cleared up and things are off to a good start. That is, until I look at my watch and realize I am 1-hour ahead of schedule. Time may indeed be trying to mess with me… Do I let this bother me? No! I do what most adults do when they find themselves with time to spare. I get coffee.
The coffee time is just what I need to wrap my head around the next couple of weeks. We’re about to embark on quite a journey and for a fabulous reason; we’re taking opera where opera doesn’t usually get to go. We have many stops along the way and there will be many stories to tell. The first stop is to pick up our accompanist extraordinaire, Taylor Baldwin. We haven’t seen each other in about a year and it’s so good to have him back! We catch up on the drive to meet the rest of our group. I’m talking so much that I miss our turn, but we manage to arrive at the rendezvous point on time. The Young Artists are being little worker bees as we pull up. Let me introduce them for those readers who are new: Leah Bobbey (soprano), Katherine Sanford (mezzo), Brett Sprague (tenor), Andrew Paulson (baritone) and Daniel DeVicente (bass baritone). Add Taylor and me to the mix and you have your 7 intrepid travelers. They are currently not quite intrepid; but busy transferring the sets, props and costumes from the Yukon to our rental van. You read that right; the Yukon will not be making this trip with us. I’ve decided to give it a vacation. And by “it” I mean me. I just couldn’t face another trip plagued by breakdowns; emotional and engine, so we’re playing it safe. It actually seems to take less time to load the van than it does to get all our luggage into the rental tank; which is actually not a tank but a Yukon XL – seems I’m destined to take something with that moniker on tour. This one is newer, has spiffier extras (like air-conditioned seats) and, most importantly, has a reliable engine. It had better behave! Bags are in, doors are forcibly closed and we’re off! Tour has officially begun!
We’re heading to Salida. We don’t have a performance today. After closing The Magic Flute yesterday and a run of shows including the student matinee, the Young Artists need a day to rest. We do have an interview with an arts reporter though and we’ve got repertoire to plan and rehearsals to set, so it won’t be a day off, that’s for sure. It also cuts down the drive to Lake City tomorrow which we’ll need because the schedule is packed. Andrew and Daniel are in the van and Leah, Katherine and Taylor are with me and Brett assumes his role as copilot. Not too far down the road, Leah, ever the conversationalist, kicks things off by asking Taylor to tell her about himself. She’s not kidding either. She wants the whole story, starting at childhood and working chronologically forward to present day. You see, Taylor is a new addition to our group. He’s joining us for tour while Allan Armstrong, our resident coach accompanist, plays for another program in Canada. Taylor gives Leah some teaser information, but says he doesn’t want to give too much away too soon. It’s a long trip after all and we’ll be spending lots of time together. Well, all this chatter gets me distracted and I completely miss our turn. I notice when Brett sees the Coors brewery. We’re in Golden. That’s not right. I mean, I know it’s a local attraction and this group does enjoy a finely crafted beverage now and then, but this is not the time. I blame wormholes. We quickly turn around and head the right way into the mountains.
Brett decides to take that as a cue to get the questions really rolling. We have a book called “If” with us and it’s full of… well, if questions. Questions like, “If you could live in any time in history, when would it be?” Some of the answers from the group are predictable. Some are not. Some are perplexing and some are so right, so fitting, fate itself must have decreed they be answered. For example, this question, “If you could start a rock band, what would you name it?” Brett’s answer: “The Star Flaming Queen and her Ladies.” They would cover Queen songs in full drag; of course. Or this one, “If you could choose any person in history to read your eulogy, who would it be?” Taylor’s answer, “James Earl Jones.” We go on for a while and things get interesting. We get a question about a tattoo you would get and where you would get it. Answers happened at this point. Then comes this question, “If you were a food that describes your personality, what would that food be?” Taylor immediately answers; he’s pesto. Brett is a nice, juicy bison steak. Katherine? She’s a banana. We ask why, but she can put it into words; it just seems right. Then she changes her answer to a salad. Leah – she’s trail mix. Because when you pull your hand out of the bag, you never know what you’re going to get. Some days it’s all the good stuff; some days it’s everything you didn’t want. Some days it’s what’s good for you and some days… it’s just nuts. I don’t see how I’m going to top that answer readers, so that’s where we’ll end this round of the “If” game.
We arrive at our first pit stop and take time to fill up the pseudo-Yukon and the van. I take a moment to snap a group photo with a stunning mountain backdrop. There’s more snow on the peaks than there was when we took a mini trip to Gunnison in March! We pile back into the cars and make our way to Salida. It’s fairly uneventful other than me spilling a bottle of water on myself while driving. No story there – it was… refreshing. The air-conditioned seats created a sort of polar ice effect.
Let’s jump forward in time as we arrive at the hotel. We’re only able to check into two of the rooms at the moment, so we just drop off our luggage and then head into town to grab lunch. We decide on a great little place – that is closed. So we walk around town and find another local watering hole. It’s a lovely day so we sit out on the patio. Toasts are made, to the season, to tour and to getting back to our touring productions. We’ve been away from them since April. While talking about Romeo and Juliet, our waitress overhears us and interjects this little gem, “Yeah, there are a lot of Romeos around here looking for some action.” I feel like we got off track somehow…
After lunch Brett and I are interviewed by a reporter about Hansel and Gretel. It’s always great to share information about what we do and why we do it. These touring productions aren’t just little things that are thrown together. We take a lot of pride in the fact that we’re presenting solid productions; real opera in an accessible way, performed by talented artists. I think it’s one of the things that sets Opera Colorado apart. We take a few minutes to look around some of the shops in town and then we head back to the hotel. Taylor’s walking. No – I didn’t kick him out of the car. I mean the avalanche clapping has already begun, but I’m a pretty tolerant person. (Taylor desperately wants to see an avalanche happen, so he claps anytime he sees a large accumulation of snow in hopes he can trigger one). We get everyone else checked into their rooms and we have a tour briefing. I go over the next two weeks in detail and make sure everyone is on the same page. I also consider using this meeting to synchronize our watches, given that time seems to be toying with me, but decide against it. Telling them that they have to be ready by 7:00AM to head out to a performance in a couple of days was enough for now…
After the briefing, we have some down time before heading to dinner. Everyone goes their own way. Katherine goes for a run. Leah catches a nap and then goes for a run. Brett hits the gym and Taylor goes back into town and looks around a bit more. Daniel makes use of the lovely pool, opting not to hot tub at this time as it is the temperature of the sun. I work for a bit and catch up on some reading. The evening arrives and it’s time for dinner.
I have to admit, we get a lot of attention when we walk into a local hangout. Maybe it’s because we’re not locals. Maybe it’s because we’re wearing our Opera Colorado jackets, but there’s definitely something. Maybe we’re just that charming… Dinner is a festive affair and there are more toasts. I take the opportunity to ask the “If” question about food to Andrew and Daniel since they missed the opportunity. Andrew immediately answers and what follows is an exceptionally detailed and thoughtful response. This response is not a simple one and I get the feeling that Andrew has thought about this very question before. Andrew is the Russian dish, Plov. It’s a dish that brings together both ingredients and people. I’m not sure I caught all of it, I was distracted by a dog on a boat, but I think it means our Andrew is a complex fellow with a multi-faceted personality. Daniel… he’s bacon. Pretty much an easy concept to grab there. Now, our Katherine, she’s a thinker and she’s been pondering her response. She’s decided she’s not a banana, nor a salad. She is an avocado. Softy on the outside with a solid core. Good one. I think we can safely put that question to rest. Leah has taken a Benadryl and the medication kicks in at the dinner table. She switches from being a quiet, but intensely focused observer, fascinated by the movement of her own fingers, to an orator that fervently expresses her certainty that she is indeed trail mix. We need to get this girl some food!
Dinner conversation turns to dogs (there was a dog, on a boat, in a doggie life jacket). Taylor has two Golden Retrievers. He wants a Great Dane because he’s tired of bending down to pet them. We continue on, talking about dogs we grew up with, have now or want in the future and the food arrives. A hush comes over the table so that means it must be good. Andrew proclaims his green chili aioli a revelation. The food is great and conversation begins to die down as the sun sets. We’re tired and it’s starting to get cold. We take a look at a couple of other shops and then decide to call it a night. Taylor is walking again, by choice. Katherine and Andrew decide to walk to a local brewery and check it out. Leah, Brett, Daniel and I head back to the hotel. There are plans to visit the hot tub as the sun has set and the temperature will no longer turn them into a stew. There’s a general consensus to get in some R&R before tour begins in earnest tomorrow. I have plans too. I will be heading to my room to get some work done before turning in; the goal is before midnight (Cinderella is my guru).
For a first day, it’s gone well. We will get into a rhythm as the days go on, but we’re off to a good start. The time continues to fly and I realize, in all likelihood, that won’t change. The days will be long, the work will be challenging, but, when you’re doing what you love, time flies. I hope you’ll stay with us on our journey this year. It’s sure to worth your time.