The Ballad of Baby Doe
Central City Opera: July 9 through August 6
L-R: Susanne Mentzer, Grant Youngblood and Anna Christy (Photo Credit: Kira Horvath, provided by Central City Opera)
In 1956 Central City Opera premiered an opera which it had commissioned entitled “The Ballad of Baby Doe.” That opera, composed by Douglas Moore and with libretto by John Larouche, is being revived this summer in repertory with Giacomo Puccini’s "Tosca."
It’s the 60th anniversary of its premiere and this season’s production is visually magnificent! Peppered with American folk tunes, Mr. Moore’s composition is one of the best liked in the repertoire of the American opera. It’s the quintessential riches to rags scenario set at the height of the Colorado mining boom.
Lighting maestro David Martin Jacques has headed up the technical end of this production in which projections of the actual locations are seen as backdrop for the singers. These not only include the colorful mining town exteriors, but also vistas featuring Colorado’s skies. One must be aware of the happiness of those backstage. Having seen them have to drag the gargantuan set piece describing The Clarendon Hotel on and offstage in the last productions, they must be doing cartwheels and hand stands knowing that this is all taken care of by Mr. Jacques. The few pieces of furniture required for this production are whisked on and off with true professional alacrity.
Anna Christy’s ribbon of silk soprano soars magnificently as Baby Doe. Grant Youngblood’s resonant baritone delivers a strong and arrogant Horace. Susan Mentzer was effective in the role of Augusta, but had not yet achieved the fire provided by Joyce Castle, her predecessor in the role. Ms. Mentzer, who has sung in the Met’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” will, one is certain, deliver her own firebrand reading by next weekend. In supporting roles Donald Hartmann sang with exceptional brio as William Jennings Bryan. Sarah Barber’s mezzo soprano is most memorable as Mama McCourt.
Ken Cazan’s direction, which has us viewing the story as scenes flashing before the eyes of the dying Baby Doe, conveys a truly haunting vision of the opera. Conductor Timothy Myers paced the proceedings in such a way that the orchestra below and the singers onstage were in perfect alignment. Sara Jean Tosetti’s costumes are eye-poppers.
Locations: Central City Opera House, Central City, Colorado
For tickets call 303-292-6500 or go online at www.centralcityopera.org