Within minutes of leaving the heat and noise of the city, one arrives in Central City, Colorado, home of Central City Opera. Established in 1859 and built on the mining industry, the mountain town that's located 35 miles west of Denver is now also known for its many casinos. Hard times hit the town in 1874 when most of its buildings were destroyed by fire. The town was rebuilt, this time of brick and stone, and most of the buildings still stand today.
The oldest operating opera house in the Rocky Mountain Region, it has hosted scores of famous acts over the years including Buffalo Bill and the P.T. Barnum Circus. Many famous people have visited the city over the years and many movies have been filmed there including, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox portions of the TV mini-series Centennial and Dream West, as well as several Perry Mason episodes. Cowboy Tom Mix filmed movies there as well. Why should people who aren't opera fans visit Central City Opera House?
"Central City Opera is an experience you can't get anywhere else," said Valerie Hamlin, PR/Communications Director of the opera. "With a live orchestra and singers, stunning sets and costumes, and a unique, historical theater, it's a wonderful afternoon or evening of entertainment. Opera sometimes seems scary to people, but it truly is a multimedia experience for the senses and even though a story may have been written several hundred years ago, it is often still relevant today."
The opera is run by Pelham G. Pearce who
was selected in 1996 as Managing Director and then named General Director
in May of 1998. He previously held the post of General Director for Mobile
Opera in Alabama from 1986-1996. During his first year at Central City Opera,
the company produced its first CD of The Ballad of Baby Doe under the
Newport Classics label, and expanded its touring program throughout Colorado
with a new program called, Opera in the Rockies, which was honored
by OPERA America. Under his leadership, Central City Opera presented the first
American production of Benjamin Britten's Gloriana in 2001, the world
premiere of Gabriel's Daughter in 2003, and numerous other regional
The opera has a strong mission, of which there are four components. The first is to present artistically excellent, fully professional opera. This is accomplished by bringing world-class operas to the stage. This summer that translates into three operas: The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore, Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and The Coronation of Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi.
Baby Doe, which closes on August 6, is based on the true story of the lives of Colorado's historical figures Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor and her husband, Horace. The 50th anniversary production, commemorating its world premiere at Central City Opera in 1956 is one of the most popular American operas of our time. The production is directed by Michael Ehrman, conducted by Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty, and features set designs by Michael Anania.
Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opened July 1 and runs through August 5. In celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday, a new production of his revered Italian comic opera Don Giovanni is the second offering of the season. The story of a man whose notorious behavior teaches him the danger of playing with the wrong women (and especially the wrong father), this favorite is full of some of the most popular arias of the opera idiom. Don Giovanni was designed by Caleb Wertenbaker and directed by Marc Astafan. Central City Opera's Resident Conductor John Baril will be on the podium.
The third opera, a new production of L'Incoronazione di Poppea/The Coronation of Poppea runs from July 8 through Aug. 4. Monteverdi's last opera, debuting at Central City Opera this season, is set in Rome in 65 A.D. and expresses the grandeur and decadence of the Roman Empire. Ken Cazan directs the production while it is conducted by Oscar-nominated British Baroque specialist Nicholas Kraemer.
The opera's second mission is to offer career-entry training to help young singers make the transition from preparation to performance. The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program is a national model for the professional development of young singers. Created by Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty in 1978, the rigorous 10-week program integrates daily training in diction, movement, and stage combat; individual coaching; and sessions in career management with rehearsals and performance opportunities in the summer's mainstage and surround productions.
The program selects 30-32 participants from nearly 1,000 applicants each year and provides valuable training for many young opera professionals.
The training is divided into two distinct programs. The Studio Artist Program is intended for singers between the ages of 21 and 25 who demonstrate outstanding potential and who are seeking pre-apprentice experience. The Apprentice Artist Program is a career-entry program which is intended mainly for singers between the ages of 24 and 30.
The third goal of the opera is to maintain education, outreach and community programs year-round. This is accomplished through Central City Opera's Education and Community Programs that bring opera, music, theater, and magic to thousands of students, families, and adults each year.
The opera offers programs not only for students, but also for educators. Support is available so educators can meet the ever-increasing demands of students, administration, and government. To this end a free educator's workshop Music!, Words!, Opera! is provided by the opera. All of the youth education programs relate to Colorado model content standards and come with study guides to aid educators in the classroom. Opera is a great teaching tool, combining literature, storytelling, language, history, music, dance, theater, and visual arts. Even math and science play a part; music is math and singing or playing an instrument addresses the physics of sound.
Lastly, the opera seeks the historic preservation of its own building and the 30 other vintage properties in the Central City/Black Hawk National Landmark Historic District. The distinctive Opera House, the charming Teller House hotel, several former commercial and industrial buildings, and more than two dozen houses are maintained as performance, training, and residence facilities for the Summer Opera Festival.
The 2007 Festival season will celebrate
the 75th anniversary of the company. Next year, for the first time in the
history of the company, four operas will be presented in one festival. The
first offering will be the world premiere of a new Chinese opera Poet Li
Bai, which will be presented in collaboration with the Asian Performing
Arts of Colorado. New productions of Verdi's La Traviata, commemorating
the opening of the company in 1932, will be performed as well as Massenet's
melodious Cinderella. Rounding out the season will be, The Saint
of Bleecker Street, a piece about a young woman who is blessed with seeing
visions of angels and the ability to perform miracles.
The opera will also be publishing a special coffee table book highlighting its 75 year history which will be available to the public in the spring of 2007. Copies can be reserved now by calling the box office at 303-292-6700.
For tickets or for more information on the programs the opera offers, visit: