History of Opera Theatre of the Rockies

Opera Theatre of the Rockies was a dream: the dream of a visionary who circled the globe captivating audiences from the world’s most prestigious stages with her tremendous operatic prowess. Opera Theatre of the Rockies was founded in 1998 by international soprano, Martile Rowland, with the expert guidance of Colorado Springs’ own music community legends Bee Vradenburg and Kathleen Fox Collins. And so it was that in 1999, with a Big Dream, a small purse and a cadre of enthused, energized and talented singers, Martile Rowland launched Opera Theatre of the Rockies with three sold out performances of The Merry Widow upon the historic stage of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

In 2000, Opera Theatre of the Rockies celebrated its Colorado roots with the Leadville story, The Ballad of Baby Doe followed in 2001 by the popular double-header from the Italian operatic repertoire – Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci. Leonard Bernstein’s American classic – Candide – was the success story of 2002 creating a new circle of friends and fans for Opera Theatre of the Rockies.
Martile’s uncompromising quest for musical and theatrical excellence brought “The Best of the Best” to the Armstrong Theatre stage for Daughter of the Regiment. Singers – surely sent by the Muses of Voice, a little gem of an orchestra led by the supremely talented Lawrence Leighton Smith and a hugely talented Production Team created a memorable experience.

The 2004 Season sparkled with the production of The Marriage of Figaro – or to say it more deliciously – Le Nozze di Figaro. For this production Martile assembled a stellar cast of singer-actors and twenty-nine of Colorado’s hottest orchestral musicians plus one equally fine conductor – Jamie Albritten.

The 2005 season brought the intriguing dark tales of the mysterious Mack the Knife to the stage when Opera Theatre collaborated with UCCS Theatreworks for Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. This was followed by the magical tale of Cinderella with the company’s production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, enthusiastically received by the audience.

And so it continues through the years, with Opera Theatre having presented 30 opera productions to more than 50,000 dedicated audience members. The company collaborates with more than 20 other community arts organizations and is funded by 20 foundations and family trusts. Its founding visionaries sought to have Opera Theatre of the Rockies offer aspiring Colorado singers training, exposure and experience in the operatic arts. Its operatic family includes the Pikes Peak Opera League and the award-winning education program also founded in 1998, Opera Theatre Goes to School. This arts education and community outreach program has exposed 950 teachers and 48,000 students to opera as an art form in an accessible and relevant way. Opera Theatre productions have received the highest public and critical acclaim, winning several community awards. The Young Artists & Outreach Ensemble, founded in 2011, provides Colorado singers with invaluable experience and training from world-renowned artists bringing the art form to audiences across southern Colorado. “I am constantly in awe of the dedication and courage of the singers, the passion they exhibit for their art, and of the sheer joy that permeates their performances,” says Rowland. “Opera Theatre was created on the belief that immense talent surrounds us and that it is our obligation to provide a forum for that talent. Our hope is to increase a sense of pride in our community and in the artists who live among us.”

Opera Theatre company members are now our Colorado ambassadors to such companies and festivals as Central City Opera, Opera Colorado, Opera Fort Collins, Pacific Repertory Opera, Chautauqua, Indianapolis, Natchez Operas, St. Bartholomew’s International Festival, Crested Butte Music Festival, Canary Islands Festival, Prague, Bulgaria, Lyons, Santa Fe, Florida Grand and San Diego Operas, to name a few.

Seventeen years of heralded productions have come to life under the Opera Theatre of the Rockies banner including two of the most highly-acclaimed performances ever presented, the 2012 production of Verdi’s La Traviata – heralded as a “phenomenon never to be forgotten” , and the 2013 production of the seldom performed Lakme.