OPERA THEATRE OF THE ROCKIES PRESENTS 2019 SUMMER VOCAL ARTS FESTIVAL
Who: In collaboration with Colorado College, Opera Theatre of the Rockies is proud to present the 2019 Vocal Arts Festival (VAF) and the Young Artists Intensive Training Program featuring the popular “WOW Project” generously underwritten by the Adventure Culture Fund, to be held on the Colorado College Campus from June 30 to July 21.
What: Thanks to the Adventure Culture Fund, the summer season of “WOW” has been established both to underwrite the newly-developed Mentorship Initiative and the WOW Career Development Cash Awards given to outstanding VAF participants in both Opera and Musical Theater. Joined by nationally-recognized artists who serve as teaching faculty, this three-week intensive is directed by widely-acclaimed soprano and Founder/Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of the Rockies, Martile Rowland. This year’s internationally known Vocal Arts Festival (VAF), Young Artists Intensive Training Program and “WOW Project” will draw 41 young singers from 13 states and three countries. Expert Voice Teachers, Coaches, a Choreographer/Dance Instructor and Stage Directors will guide participants in the Vocal and Dramatic Arts including private lessons, coaching sessions and classes in theatre arts and dance/movement. Back by popular demand, VAF Mentors Craig Terry, Director of Chicago Lyric Opera’s Ryan Artists Center and Peter Randsman, New York Artist Manager return to conduct a Participant Masterclass/Concert and a Career Advancement Masterclass respectively. In addition, participants will present Hearings to open the Festival, two Scenes Concerts as well as two beloved Puccini operas, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. The goal of the Vocal Arts Festival is to provide the highest level of professional training in order to propel young artists into fulfilling their dreams of becoming professional performers. Many VAF graduates are now singing professionally worldwide.
When & Where: VAF Schedule (June 30 – July 21, 2019):
Sunday, June 30 at 1:30 pm, Packard Hall (Each singer presents one song/aria)
With fully-staged, costumed and choreographed scenes from opera, Broadway
“Puccini Double Bill” Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi
Festival Details: Presented as Opera Theatre of the Rockies’ 21st season, the renowned Vocal Arts Festival has served 800 young singers in its 18-year history. Forty-one voice students and young performers ranging in age from college to post-college, young professionals will participate in this summer’s three-week Intensive Program of individualized voice coaching and singing, acting and dance classes. Part of VAF’s mission is to help singers broaden their performance skills. And so, they will participate in five public performances and two operas, along with Guest Artists at Colorado College, June 30-July 21. With this year’s Mentorship Initiative, there will be time for singers to network individually with Craig Terry, Music Director of Chicago Lyric Opera’s Ryan Artists Training Center and Peter Randsman, Founder and Artist Agent of the Randsman Artist Management of New York City. The Grand Finale of this year’s Festival is the presentation of two opera performances of the “Puccini Double Bill” featuring VAF participants and Guest Artists in Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi at the Cornerstone Arts Complex, Celeste Theatre on July 20 and 21.
Where: All events are open to the public and will be held at Packard Hall, Colorado College, on the SW corner of Cascade Avenue and Cache la Poudre Street, Colorado Springs except for the “Puccini Double Bill” presenting Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi at the Celeste Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Complex, SE corner of Cascade Avenue and Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado College, Colorado Springs.
Cost: Packard Hall Events: Participant Hearings on June 30 are $10 per person; Two Scenes Concerts on July 7 and July 14 are $15 for Adults; $10 for Students. Two Masterclasses/Concerts on July 5 and July 12 are also $15 for adults and $10 for students. All five Concerts/Masterclass events are Free to CC Students with a student ID. Cornerstone: Opera tickets for July 20-21 performances of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi are $20, general seating. A season PASS for adults is available for $80, for a savings of $10.
Tickets: To buy tickets, visit www.operatheatreoftherockies.org online or you may buy tickets at the Door. For Questions? Call 719-570-1950.
Web Site: For more detailed information, visit www.operatheatreoftherockies.org.
Background: Established by Opera Theatre of the Rockies’ Founder and Artistic Director, Martile Rowland, this distinctive professional Program is internationally-known. Now in its 18th year, the summer Vocal Arts Festival and Young Artists Intensive Training Program is a three-week intensive in voice, dance and acting held annually at Colorado College. The singers range in age from college to post-college/young professionals who come from all over the U.S. and other countries to participate in professional training sessions with distinguished coaches. Expert faculty and two visiting Mentors will present individualized coaching sessions and classes all day every day from Sunday, June 30 to Sunday, July 21, 2019. Nationally-recognized artists participate as teaching staff. Five concert performances including the opening Participant Hearings, two Scenes Concerts, two Masterclasses/Concerts and two Puccini Operas richly enhance the Pikes Peak Region’s summer music offerings. All events are open to the public and are held at Packard Hall, Colorado College except for the last two opera performances, presented at Cornerstone Arts Complex, Celeste Theatre. Audiences enjoy coming to each Event to see the young artists’ progress as they work hard to improve their singing and performing skills. Singers perform both opera and musical theater based on their interests, engaging in cross-over throughout the Program.
This year’s Festival events at Packard Hall feature the opening Participant Hearings, Sunday, June 30, two Scenes Concerts, Sundays, July 7 and July 14, Masterclass/Concerts on Friday, July 5 and July 12. Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for students except for the Hearings which is $10. Colorado College student tickets are Free with a valid ID. Tickets for Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi presented at Cornerstone Arts Complex, are $20, general seating. A season adult pass is available for $80, for a savings of $10. To purchase tickets, visit www.operatheatreoftherockies.org or buy them at the Door. For Questions, call 719-570-1950.
Opera Theatre of the Rockies is proud to collaborate with Colorado College to present the 2019 Vocal Arts Festival and wishes to thank the CC Music Department for its sponsorship of this fine Program. Opera Theatre also expresses its deepest gratitude to the Adventure Culture Fund for its underwriting of the popular WOW Project which has established the VAF Mentorship Initiative and Career Advancement Cash Awards given to outstanding VAF Participants. Many emerging artists who received professional training and stage experience via the Festival have gone on to successful worldwide opera careers attributed in part to their Vocal Arts Festival experience. One nationally-recognized singer wrote, “I spent four summers working with Martile Rowland at the VAF at Colorado College. It was where I first learned stagecraft, movement and preparation of a role…which later became very important in my singing career. I learned who I was as a performer, and cannot say enough about what a gift that has been to me in my career!” Annamarie Zmolek, soprano
Now celebrating its 21th Season, Opera Theatre of the Rockies is dedicated to advancing opera throughout southern Colorado through education, training and performance. The organization supports aspiring Colorado singers by offering professional training and performance opportunities in main stage opera productions, smaller operas and opera concerts. Also, regional audiences enjoy hearing singers of Opera Theatre’s Outreach Ensemble year-round.
Thank you to the 2019 Vocal Arts Festival Sponsors:
Adventure Culture Fund, Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Colorado College’s Cultural Attractions Fund, Colorado Creative Industries, Denver Lyric Opera Guild, Giddings Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation, Pikes Peak Opera League, Dr. Susan Rae Jensen, Tiemens Foundation, Virginia Snow, Webb Family Fund, and KCME 88.7 FM and Jazz 93.5 FM.
For more information or tickets, visit www.operatheatreoftherockies.org. Come and experience the magic of this summer’s Vocal Arts Festival!
Opera Theatre’s Aïda Pays Generous Musical Dividends
by David Sckolnik
No opera evokes images of the art form’s “grand” expression more specifically than Verdi’s Aïda. One could rightly expect grand palaces, pyramids, temples, never-ending patriotic parades, exotic ballets, huge orchestras and, if lucky, numerous elephants swaggering across the huge stages of opulent opera houses. It then becomes possible for Giuseppe Verdi’s spectacular score to play second fiddle to theatrical spectacle.
Not a chance of that happening at Thursday night’s opener of “Opera Theatre of the Rockies’” new production of this immortal work in the Shockley-Zalabak Theater at the new Ent Center for the Arts on UCCS campus. (Two more performances are scheduled for Saturday night at 7 pm and Sunday afternoon at 3 pm). Set on a traditional concert stage, with no pit in which to put an orchestra, with the chorus of priests, priestesses, ministers, citizens, or slaves dressed in black on rear risers, this performance was going to succeed or fail largely on the merits of its music making.
Thanks to the superior ingredients assembled by Opera Theatre’s mastermind Martile Rowland, this Aïda was a soulful and stimulating experience, providing an intimate forum with which to showcase solo voices and orchestra.
It took time for the performance to hit pay dirt. But at three hours in length, this opera has plenty of that. The violins of the “Bee Vradenburg Opera Theatre of the Rockies Orchestra” were stressed by the plaintive opening passages of the opera. But the firm hand of conductor James Albritten brought out a tight, passionate, and dramatic performance from the ensemble– essentially a scaled-down edition of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
The artistic and general director of North Carolina’s “Piedmont Opera” and a frequent collaborator with Opera Theatre, Albritten is a true man of the theatre. Bringing an inspired vision to the music, he made sure that his principals and chorus had everything needed to produce bravura performances. Unfortunately, the far-in-the-back placement of the Colorado Springs Chorale kept them from producing the sonic glory for which Aïda is renowned. The quieter and atmospheric off stage choral episodes, no doubt led by their director Deborah Jenkins Teske, fared much better in this sonic environment.
But this production was rigged to spotlight its principals. They were almost always positioned in front of the orchestra, in the lap of the audience– decked out in the prescribed costume and make-up one would expect to encounter at any fully-staged production of Verdi’s masterpiece.
If ever there were star-crossed lovers, Ethiopian princess and now slave girl and Aïda, and Egyptian war hero and Pharaoh-favorite Radamès would be them. Soprano Marsha Thompson and tenor Ta’u Pupu’a gave almost parallel performances. Thompson’s lower range lacked the bite to match the passion of her character but soared to sonic glory as the evening wore on. Pupu’a, an ex-NFL defensive lineman, displayed a solid tenor but needed time to connect it with the drama of the moment. Neither could be said to be great actors, but there was no denying the powerful and beautiful impact of their final death duet.
For all its glitz, Aïda is essentially a story of a love triangle. As Amneris, the daughter of Pharaoh, mezzo soprano Katherine Goeldner rendered a superb performance. Her singing was flawless, distinguished by beauty and drama and connected seamlessly to the complex machinations of her character. Aïda’s father, the captured King of Ethiopia was a triumph for baritone Brian Major. He possesses a honey-filled voice capable of organic, dramatic expression.
Opera Theatre brought back two of its longtime favorites to realize the roles of the Egyptian leaders. Bass Ashraf Sewailam scored as high priest Ramfis. Theatrically he transcended the limitations of this semi-staged concept and produced powerful and poignant vocal expression. Native son Erik Kroncke brought his always-focused bass voice and theatrical accuracy to the role of King Pharaoh.
Fine work was also proffered by tenor Humberto Borboa as The Messenger and soprano Carolyn Hoehle as the High Priestess.
As I sat waiting for the opera to begin, the biggest question at hand was how the immortal “Triumphant Scene” would fare in a setting would bereft of ballets and parades. And yet, it was but one of the many problems stage director Steven LaCosse would have to contend with. His only visually-dynamic tool were the back scrim projections of ancient Egypt chosen by designer Norman Coates. His solution was oddly compelling.
As principals froze in character and costume in front, the orchestra was whipped into a frenzy by Albritten. Had not Verdi’s music been so engaging, this would have been a disaster. After all, this is an age where opera lovers are more likely to know Aïda through recording than live performance. While Opera Theatre’s production does not qualify as a bucket-list experience of Aïda, it offers more than enough sonic and dramatic quality to necessitate a visit to the UCCS mesa.
Opera Theatre of the Rockies is 20-years-old. Here’s wishing them a Happy Birthday, many more, and the resources to elevate future productions to the gold standard of the operatic experience.
Opera Theatre of the Rockies to present Verdi’s Aida in May
Contact: Susanne Wheeler (email@example.com)
Opera Theatre of the Rockies is proud to present Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece, Aida, for its 20th Anniversary main stage production. A world-wide favorite, Aida offers a heart-rendering storyline and rich music. It has been performed through the centuries in almost every major opera house in the world. Written and sung in Italian, Aida was premiered at Cairo’s Opera House in 1871. A dramatic opera in four acts, it is set in ancient Egypt during the pharaohs’ reign. The opera is a tragic love story of the warrior Radamès and his love for the enslaved Ethiopian Princess, Aida. She is torn between her love for him and loyalty to her country, and it involves elements of deep-felt patriotism, jealousy, war, and the conflict between a strong sense of duty versus deep-felt love.
Aida features eight main characters with singers expertly brought together from all over the globe by Opera Theatre’s Artistic Director and Producer, Martile Rowland. Aida is being sung by internationally-acclaimed soprano, Marsha Thompson, hailed for her “warm and agile voice…and expressive singing.” Winner of several prestigious competitions and grant awards from Foundations and the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Thompson has received further accolades for her performances with orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa singing such roles as Mimi in La Boheme, Bess in Porgy and Bess, Liu in Turandot, Leonora in Il Trovatore, Violetta in La Traviata, and Marguerite in Faust. She made her European debut as Aida in Franco Zeffirelli’s new production of Aida in Milan Piccolo Teatro a La Scala.
Ta’u Pupu’a as Radamès, is unique in the opera world. He was an outstanding NFL Defensive End with the Cleveland Browns when a career-ending injury changed his life and led him to a new career — opera. A graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, he has been hailed as having “limitless power…and a voice of real gold”, Mr. Pupu’a has been described as having a “ravishing, glorious, and meaty voice.” His experience encompasses oratorio and concert work in addition to many operatic roles worldwide, including performances as Cavaradossi in Tosca, Pollione in Norma, Cassio in Otello, Dr. Caius in Falstaff, the Duke in Rigoletto, and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.
Katherine Goeldner as Amneris, has a “rich vocal tone…and sings excitingly with radiance and agility.” She has performed in two world premieres and debuted her role as Amneris in Aida with Utah Opera. Her starring roles have taken her all over the world from her Marcellina in Le nozze de Figaro with Lyric Opera of Chicago to her debut as Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Hawaii Opera Theater; from southern France in the title role of Der Rosenkavalier in Toulouse and Lyon, to sing her signature role of The Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Madrid, Paris and Salzburg, where she makes her home.
Brian Major as Amonasro, has been praised for his “velvet voice and commanding stage presence.” This season marked his debut as Amonasro with a joint production of Aida with Opera Columbus and the Columbus Symphony. Besides his recent roles as Escamillo in Carmen, the title role of Don Giovanni, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Mr. Major is an accomplished recitalist and concert artist having sung a French opera concert in Montpellier, France and several works with the Siena Chamber Orchestra in Italy.
Ashraf Sewailam as Ramfis, is not new to Colorado Springs, having sung several roles with Opera Theatre of the Rockies. Last season throughout the U.S., he performed the roles of Mustafa in L’italiana in Algieri, Alidoro in La Cenerentola and Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. In addition, roles in Colorado include Balthazar in Amahl and the Night Visitors in Central City, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Count Ceprano in Rigoletto, and Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Colorado. Mr. Sewailem has performed in operas and concerts across the U.S. and worldwide, from New Zealand and Queensland, and from Beirut to Cairo.
Erik Kroncke as The King, returns to his home town of Colorado Springs to sing once again with Opera Theatre. Described as “engaging…with a bass of astounding depth and warmth,” Mr. Kroncke has been in demand across the U.S. to sing Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra, Philip in Don Carlo, Mephistopheles in Faust, and Enrico VIII in Anna Bolena. He has won numerous first place awards, and is accomplished in symphonic and oratorio music. He performs annually in summer opera concerts in Oderzo and Feltre, Italy.
Humberto Borboa as The Messenger has also sung with Opera Theatre of the Rockies for the past few years. He is a former Apprentice Artist from Tulsa and Central City Operas, and recently made his debut as Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute with the Arapahoe Philharmonic. He is an accomplished recitalist with engagements in Austria, Guatemala, Czech Republic, Italy, and Mexico. In 2017, Mr. Borboa sang with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus for their recent production of Puccini’s Turandot and in 2016, made his NYC debut with Martha Cardona Opera in their production of Pagliacci.
Carolyn Hoehle as the High Priestess and Aida Cover, is also no stranger to Colorado Springs, having performed opera scenes in Opera Theatre’s summer Vocal Arts Festival for two summers. Debuting with Opera Theatre of the Rockies, the emerging soprano added several new roles to her repertoire, covering Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos and Micaela in Carmen for Austin Opera. A Master of Music graduate of CSU in Ft. Collins and previously having attended the Royal Academy of Music in London, Ms. Hoehle is an active recitalist.
Steven LaCosse, Director of the Fletcher Opera Institute at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, is the Stage Director, and James Albritten, Conductor and Artistic Director and General Director of Piedmont Opera in North Carolina, is Aida’s Conductor. Deborah Jenkins Teske is Director of the Colorado Springs Chorale and Aida Chorus Master, and Daniel S. Brink is Music Director and Coach.
Aida is the 36th different opera production presented by Opera Theatre of the Rockies in its 20-year history.
Artistic Director and Founder, Martile Rowland, is proud to collaborate with the Colorado Springs Chorale and the Bee Vradenburg Opera Orchestra, bringing this production to the Shockley-Zalabak Theater at the Ent Center for the Arts, the first main-stage opera performance offered in the new Theater.
Aida will be performed on Thursday, May 10 and Saturday, May 12 at 7:00 pm, and on Sunday, May 13 at 3:00 pm. There will be a 20th Anniversary Champagne Gala Celebration on May 10 at 5 – 6:30 pm on May 10 in the Murray and Betty Ross Ent Center Lobby. Tickets for the May 10 Gala Celebration are $50 per person. Aida tickets range from $24 – $65. Both tickets are on sale at the Ent Center Box Office or by calling 719-255-3232, or online at UCCSpresents.org. For more detailed information about Opera Theatre of the Rockies, go to their website at www.operatheatreoftherockies.org.