Opera comes to Carbondale | PostIndependent.com

Opera comes to Carbondale

Brett Sprague (Romeo) and Leah Bobbey (Juliet) star in Opera Colorado Young Artists' production of Charles Gounod's opera, "Romeo & Juliet," which is coming to the Third Street Center on Thursday, courtesy of the CCAH.
Courtesy of Cherity Koepke |

If You Go...

Who: Opera Colorado Young Artists, Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities

What: ‘Romeo & Juliet’

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 14

Where: Third Street Center gym

How Much: $18 CCAH members, $22 nonmembers, $10 youth, $125 patron tickets (includes front row seating for two and a reception with the artists following the performance), free for volunteers (call 970-963-1680 to sign up)

A rare opportunity to experience opera midvalley is coming this week, courtesy of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH), when Opera Colorado’s Young Artists perform a shortened, accessible version of Charles Gounod’s “Romeo & Juliet” at the Third Street Center.

The French opera, first performed in 1867, has been translated to English, making this performance perfect for audiences new to opera and those who already have an appreciation for the art form.

“I think our touring production of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ is highly accessible; it’s awesome, actually,” said Cherity Koepke, director of education and community engagement for Opera Colorado Young Artists. “I’ve updated the setting to modern day, and I combined portions of Gounod’s opera with some of Shakespeare’s original text. I’ve translated the opera from the original French to English as another way to make it more accessible, but I’ve left portions in French so the audience can experience it in the language it was written in.

“Because this story is so well-known, I’ve tried to give it a fresh feel,” Koepke said. “I’ve highlighted some of the more comedic and joyful moments in the story, and I think this makes the ending all the more impactful. The themes are all still relevant and incredibly powerful.”

This is the second year the CCAH has hosted Opera Colorado’s Young Artists, which is a residency program composed of young professional opera singers who perform in Opera Colorado’s mainstage productions as well as touring pieces. Last year, the CCAH set up a successful performance of “The Barber of Seville.”

“Amy Kimberly contacted me and asked if we’d be interested in making Carbondale one of the stops on our Greater Colorado Tour,” Koepke said. “I jumped at the chance to connect with a new community. The partnership was fabulous; the response we received was overwhelming. People immediately asked us to come back, so we started making plans for a stop on our 2015 tour.”

Deb Colley, operations manager at the CCAH, said the organization provided a unique opportunity last year for the Young Artists tour by turning the performance into a bigger event.

“I think [Opera Colorado] thought it was going to be something very small,” Colley said of last year’s opera. “They’re used to touring at schools, and we were like, ‘No, we want to actually host it like it’s the opera in an auditorium with a reception afterward.’ So we did that, they had a blast, and we had a great time. We had a great turnout, and we’re doing it again this year.”

Colley said she believes it’s important for Carbondale to host opera because there isn’t much opportunity to experience it in the valley aside from in Aspen, and the productions that come there aren’t always affordable or accessible for audiences new to opera.

“I think it’s just fun being connected to this really long history of music meeting performing arts that goes back so long,” she said. “It’s so dramatic, so colorful — in some ways it’s really a bombastic art form. There’s nothing small about opera; the voices are big, the people tend to be big, the theatrics are big, and I just think it’s a really special piece of culture to be exposed to.”

Colley said the CCAH is still looking for volunteers to help with setup and tear-down, and anyone who helps out will be able to see the performance for free. She also said any school groups who want to come but can’t afford to spend $10 per student should call the CCAH at 970-963-1680 so they can work out a price that feels good for everyone.

“Opera usually speaks to pretty classic stories that students are exposed to in literature, like ‘Romeo & Juliet,’” Colley said. “So I think that’s another piece of it that’s important to why people should come to an opera. Other than that, it’s fun, it’s novel, it’s different, it’s unique, it’s an hour long, so why not come try it out?”

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