Sunday, June 30, 2013

   David Marlowe interviews Pat Pearce regarding


   I got a chance to chat with Pelham (Pat) Pearce the other day regarding the upcoming season at Central City Opera. As always it was a pleasure. Central City Opera's General/Artistic Director just received the prestigious 2013 Bonfils-Stanton Award for his contributions to the field of Arts and Humanities. Pearce, who has led Central City Opera since 1996 has received critical praise locally, nationally and internationally for premiering new operas. He has also presented neglected works, as well as having traditional operas staged in innovative ways. Pearce’s reputation has brought us the best talent from the United States and around the world. His ear for excellence, passion for story-telling, and bold experiments with musical theatre have made Central City Opera a vital force on the American and international opera scenes.

     Central City Opera opens its 2013 Festival on June 29 with a brand new production of “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini that has a beautiful set which has Rosina in a two-story bird cage. She’s trapped with only her wits to get her out. Jennifer Rivera will be an amazing Rosina. Now living in New York City she’s had most of her career in Europe. Daniel Belcher who played the husband in Central City Opera’s 2011 “Les Mamelles de Tiresias” and the title character in “Gianni Schicchi” will play Figaro. The renowned Patrick Carfizzi will sing Doctor Bartolo.

             Ned Rorem’s “Our Town” will play the Central City Opera House from July 6 through the 28th. Based on Thornton Wilder’s play, Rorem’s “warmhearted music” tells the tale of the everyday lives of citizens of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire circa 1901. It depicts the landmark events in everyone’s lives: first love, marriage and death. Performed in English, “Our Town” will be directed by Ken Cazan who has directed many of the superb offerings at Central City Opera over the last ten years.  Conductor Christopher Zemliauskas will conduct. Vale Rideout will portray the stage manager. Anna Christy will play Emily Webb, William Ferguson will play George Gibbs and Sally Wolf will portray Mrs. Webb.
     Pearce said that “Rorem really understands what the human voice can and can’t do, and people will feel very comfortable with his opera.” It’s easily accessible and there’s absolutely nothing foreign. The music is superb Americana. He’s mixed in hymns and adapted folk tunes to his particular kind of writing.  There’s a kind of sparse sound to the music in the mold of Aaron Copland. Rorem, who is known for ‘a godzillion’ art songs, is extremely adept at painting pictures with words and music. There’s going to be a realistic costume design and a realistic scenic design that’s extremely minimalist. I think you’ll enjoy director Ken Cazan’s directorial concept.  Pearce laughed saying “It’s a tearjerker anyway.” The libretto by J.D. McClatchy is in our native tongue and a bit more fleshed out than those of some operas. After Wilder died the estate agreed to let Rorem and McClatchy translate the play to the opera stage. We lose some characters and a few chunks of the play and yet these two magicians still manage to keep the things that make it click.
     This is the first and only time it’s been adapted. Pearce saw the show at C.U. Boulder and says that although he enjoyed the production “this will be the first time the opera will have been performed by “artists of this caliber.” This will be the first full-fledged professional production of this show in the Rocky Mountain region and Pearce sounded extremely proud that he was bringing artists of great stature to sing the famous roles.
     The surprise for this season is that “Show Boat” will be done at The Buell Theatre. They’ve been testing the waters about the possibility of doing something down here in Denver for a while now. As wonderful and unique as the Central City Opera House is, it’s been a big loser as far as money goes. This company loses up to half a million dollars on every show they do. Twenty percent of the money comes from the box office and 80 percent comes from contributors. That’s kind of dangerous these days. Both shows of “Oklahoma” sold out at The Newman Center last season. “Show Boat” will be great in the big house. For the seven performances in the Buell they hope to net one million plus. It’ll broaden their audience and begin to move them from the 20/80 percentages to a 65/35 quota that they need so badly.
     There will be a big orchestra on stage that’s actually on the showboat. They’re going to put the musicians out there where people can see them! James Youmans, a very famous set designer from Broadway will make the show a lush treat visually. And of course the genius of lighting David Jacques will be on board with yet another stunner in the illumination department. Soloman Howard will be playing the role of Joe, the advice-giving dockworker who sings “Ol Man River.” He’s an ex football player who was homeless for a time. Placido Domingo found him at the audition and took him into the program. He’s an amazingly talented man. Angela Renee Simpson will play Queenie. This show is full of lots more incredible opera stars including Emily Pulley, Troy Cook and Curt Olds. Ray Roderick, who directed the incredibly successful “Love, Perfect, Change” at The Galleria Theatre will be great directing this one. He loves this part of the repertoire and directs a lot of these kinds of musicals back in Connecticut at the Goodspeed Theatre.
     Pearce is trying a lot of experiments to create new audiences for this spectacular art form. Opera can’t remain static. It has to adapt to survive. So at the end of July they’ll shut down Central and come down here. Pearce wants to make opera as ‘ungrandified’ as it can be. He says they’re going to be singing in a lot of unusual places in the next few years as they look at opera through the prism of story telling. The kernel of what Central City Opera is about is telling stories through song. They want to sing a story for you as an audience. Pearce ended by saying, “In some way we’ve created a lot of trappings that some find off-putting. Now we’re trying to get back to the core of it. That’s the concept of story telling. Let us sing you a story!”
Celebrating its 81st year, Central City Opera is the nation's fifth-oldest opera company, located just 35 miles west of Denver in one of Colorado's official National Landmark Historic Districts. The company continues to present artistically excellent professional opera in its annual summer festival; to offer career-entry training to young singers; to produce education and community service programs; and to preserve and maintain the Opera House and 30 other Victorian-era properties.

Central City Opera 2013 Festival
Central City Opera House - June 29 to July 28
The Barber of Seville opens the Festival in Central City on June 29 and runs through July 27. Ned Rorem's operatic adaptation of Our Town is the second offering opening July 6 and running at the Opera House through July 28.

Central City Opera Comes to Denver's Buell Theatre - August 6 to 11
Central City Opera comes to Denver for seven consecutive performances of Kern and Hammerstein II's Broadway classic musical, Show Boat at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex from Tuesday, Aug. 6 to Sunday, Aug. 11. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or call 303-292-6700.

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