Interview with Pelham (Pat) Pearce
A preview of the 2018 season at Central City Opera
Central City opera house
Today I had the great pleasure of interviewing Pelham (Pat) Pearce about the upcoming Central City Opera (CCO) season at his administrative office in Glendale. In the past we have met in the board room, but this year I was treated to an interview in Pearce’s spacious office, which overlooks the city and has a grand view of the mountains. Pearce, who has been the general/artistic director of Central City Opera for the last two decades, spoke enthusiastically about the upcoming opera season.
As reviewer for numerous front range publications, and now my blog, MARLOWE’S MUSINGS,” I have been able to revel in the delicious artistry of Central City Opera’s productions for the last two decades.
In this reviewer’s not so humble opinion the productions of Central City Opera are head and shoulders above those of every other opera company he has attended in the region. High, wide and handsome, the renown of this illustrious band of gypsies and family of techies, is one of international renown. Such magnificent evenings as the first American production of Benjamin Britten’s “GLORIANA,” and the world premier of Guo Wenjing’s “POET LI BAI,” are indelible memories!
The enchanting production of Britten’s “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” was unforgettable!
Besides the outstanding productions from the beloved Verdi and Puccini oeuvres, Central City Opera has allowed us a window into the excellence of American operas with such entries as DEAD MAN WALKING, SUSANNAH and SUMMER AND SMOKE.
Its commissions, based upon the history of Gilpin County, such as “THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE,” “GABRIEL’S DAUGHTER,” and “THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR,” have enriched the repertoire greatly. “THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE” is now one of the most frequently produced American operas in the country.
Soon followed by exhilarating productions of Broadway musicals such as “OKLAHOMA” AND “WEST SIDE STORY,” CCO’S production of Bernstein’s “CANDIDE” was an outrageous success!
The entire operation at CCO is one of class and respect for the Art of Opera, the opera audience, and yes, even the opera critics.
One can only hope that other companies aspiring to this level of artistry-and civility-will, begin to rise to the standards of excellence that are omnipresent at this venue.
This year Colorado operagoers will be treated to Mozart’s “The Magic Flute and Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.” Besides these two beloved classics, there are also some one-act operas including: Handel’s “Acis and Galatea” and Henry Mollicone’s “The Face on the Barroom Floor.”
1995 was the last time Central City Opera presented Mozart’s “THE MAGIC FLUTE.” It’s a brand new production which director Alessandro Talevi has set in the same time frame as his “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Pearce spoke rhapsodically about the director’s concept. “He’s telling the story through the eyes of the three little boys’ spirits, who identify with Tamino and his search. The Queen of the Night is basically their mother.”
It’s a fantasy world in which the costume design(Susan Kulkarni) and scenic design(Madeline Boyd) add those ingenious skills which they used for “The Marriage of Figaro.” So the look of the show is Edwardian Germany by way of Downton Abbey.
The fantastical stuff is projected into “the realm of circus.” For example, Papageno and Papagena are half-human and half-ostrich. You know, it’s that turn-of-the- last-century look of Victorian and Edwardian circus posters.
The three ladies kill a serpent and save Tamino in Act One and the Queen of the Night and her good people tell how awful Sarastro is. But in Act II Sarastro gets them into the Temple of Knowledge. Good becomes bad and bad becomes good. The director is going to ‘beef up’ Sarastro so the Queen and Sarastro come off as equals.
Director, Alessandro Talevi said “This interpretation also respects and conveys what I have already stated to be the essential meaning of Die Zauberflöte: the journey of every human being towards self-fulfillment and wholeness. The implication here is that within every little boy (and girl) there is a Tamino and a Pamina, and that their adventure is symbolic of the journey that every human being must take towards adulthood.”
David Jacques will do his usual magic with the lights.
Falling between RIGOLETTO and LA TRAVIATA in the Verdi canon, you can expect riveting melodrama, exceptional singing and the famous “Anvil Chorus” in this production of IL TROVATORE.
Pearce said: “It’s our job to tell you a story. When a director comes to me with his directorial concept I tell him that I hire stage directors to clarify the story and not obfuscate it. We should not have to have a full page in the program to tell the audience what’s going on. You have to tell a very clear story to have honest communication between the stage and the audience.”
Pearce went on to say, “Joaquim’s projections for Il Trovatore are much like the ones used for Tosca in that they are projected over a bare stage. The characters in this opera talk about what happens offstage.
Joaquim’s projections showus what’s happening offstage. The images will appear in an aperture above the action and as rear projections as well. The look of the show will be sort of neo- Mediaeval…think Game of Thrones. It’s the medieval time period through modern eyes.”
ACIS AND GALATEA
Acis and Galatea was the most popular Handel opera during the composer’s lifetime. It’s a nature-based pastoral opera. Written in English, it was intended to be performed outside and around a fountain by the singers that the lord had on staff.
Christopher Zemliauskas, who worked such magic with last year’s production of Britten’s “The Burning, Fiery Furnace,” will conduct the sixteen-piece orchestra. Ken Cazan will direct.
THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR
Commissioned by Central City Opera in 1978, it’s the 40thanniversary of this one-act opera by Henry Mollicone, who also wrote “Gabriel’s Daughter.” It couldn’t be a better time to see and hear this famous piece in its rightful setting.
There are a number of other exciting productions and events also coming up. On August 8th,9thand 11th, we can all look forward to a special musical theatre revue with maestro John Baril conducting the Central City Opera orchestra. It will feature artists from the season and some “special guests.” So keep your eyes and ears open!
Other events include Jazz weekend June8 and 9, 2018 as well as a Plein Air Festival complete with juried competition the last weekend of September. The paintings will be displayed, judged and for sale. The Jazz weekend features Dragon Smoke, the Nola Central Allstars and lots more!
Central City Opera is the fifth oldest opera company in the country and has been in operation since 1932. Besides enthralling Colorado audiences, it has attracted national and international attention with its operatic offerings.
You get to see this in the smallest professional space in North America. The opera house seats five hundred fifty people. So you get this incredible intimacy with this art form so full of emotion that can’t be found anywhere else in this country.
Coming up the hill to Central City Opera is an experience that is uniquely Colorado. Whether coming up the canyon or travelling I-70, it’s a glorious drive. The gorgeous vistas are just spectacular.
“Before air conditioning, people came to Central City because of the cool mountain air. Many bought houses up here for the summer. The Penroses and Ellie Wechbaugh owned houses here. They later donated all the houses and we can now house one hundred twenty plus each summer.”
The Central City opera house was built in 1878 by Robert Roeschlaub, the architect who also built the Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver. It’s graced by the magnificent trompe l’oeil murals by San Francisco artist John C. Massman. This venue provides an intimacy that’s hard to come by. When it first opened its doors there was no such thing as air conditioning. As a result many famous actors chose to leave the heat of New York City’s asphalt jungle to perform in plays in the fresh, cool atmosphere of Central City, Colorado.
Lillian Gish christened the newly restored opera house with “Camille”; beginning the tradition of the annual summer festivals we have today. Some of the other stars who, have played at Central City summer festivals are: Beverly Sills, Helen Hayes and Samuel Ramey. Walter Huston played Othello with his wife, Nan Sunderland as Desdemona at the opera house in 1934.
There are numerous hauntings reported in the area; so if you happen to be a ghostbuster you have a whole new world to explore when you’re not at the opera.
If you’re a history fan there’s lots to learn about this town. After gold was discovered at Gregory’s Gulch in 1859 there was a gold rush that added 10,000 people to the little town.
In 1871 the Republican convention found its way to Central City and the rowdy participants (200 of them) found themselves unceremoniously dumped into an office on the first floor. Luckily nobody was injured.
In an interview some fifteen seasons ago Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty told me that Meredith Willson got the inspiration to write “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” while having a cocktail at the Teller House right next door to the Opera House.
And don’t forget to check out Herndon Davis’ stunning 1936 painting now known as “The Face on the Barroom Floor” while having your own cocktail at The Teller House. Ever since the Gold Rush of 1859, Central City, Colorado, has been known as “the richest square mile on earth.” Now however, the mother lode is Central City Opera. The gems are its glorious productions.
There is the usual parking available in the opera company’s parking lot for a small fee as well as free parking in the garage at Century Casino.
Kevin Taylor is serving dinner upstairs next door to the opera house and there is the usual light fare at the Teller House and in the casinos. Get your rezzers early because they fill up early on opera evenings!
In closing Pearce said “there is nowhere on earth that you can get the combination of the bracing Colorado fresh air, the gorgeous scenery, the experience of the once booming mining town and the very best of world-class opera.”
The intimacy of Central City Opera provides an up close and personal delivery of the repertoire of grand opera as well as the very best gems of American opera.”
Whether you’re an opera virgin or a jaded culture vulture, it’s this reviewer’s not so humble opinion that Central City Opera is the most consistently excellent producer of operas in Colorado.
See you at the opera!
For more information regarding the specific dates and times of the operas and scheduling of the events go online to centralcityopera.org or call 303-292-6700.