Hitting a high note | PostIndependent.com

Hitting a high note

Anne-Marie Kelley
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

Heidi Paul has always loved to sing. Her first performance, captured on a cassette tape by her mother, was “You Are My Sunshine,” which she sang with her younger sister when Paul was 5. Today, she sings again. But this time, it’s an opera, in front of an audience … and it’s in Italian.

“There’s something about singing opera that is so relaxing,” Paul said. “There’s a release in it for me.”

Her love of song is what prompted Paul, and her husband, Steve, to organize “Mozart Madness” – an afternoon of opera to raise money for the Sunrise Rotary’s local scholarship fund. This is the third year the couple has organized the event. The fundraising is important, but so is Paul’s desire to teach people about opera.

“I think it’s losing its appeal to younger generations,” she said. “It’s unfortunate because it can be so exciting.”

Paul became interested in opera when she was a sophomore at Glenwood Springs High School – her family had just moved to Glenwood from Woodland Park. She started voice lessons with Jeannie Miller, a former long-time music teacher in the valley. It was Miller, the namesake of the theater Paul performs in today, who first introduced her to opera.

“It [opera] fit,” Paul said. “My voice, my sound.”

After high school, Paul received a Bachelor of Arts, specializing in voice, from Southern Oregon State College. She then went to Paris for six months where she studied opera under Hazel Wood and then Peter Gellhorn, the man responsible for re-starting London’s Covent Gardens – also known as the Royal Opera House – after World War II. When she returned to the States, Paul attended Denver University, where she received her masters in music and voice. Her voice coach from DU, Kevin Kennedy, will accompany Paul in Saturday’s performance.

“Heidi has a lovely voice,” Kennedy said from his home in Denver. “It’s a pleasure to play for her and an opportunity for the audience to appreciate the quality of music that composers have created.”

Nikki Boxer, the host of the Classical Music from Aspen show on Aspen Public Radio, will also sing in Saturday’s performance. She has performed opera worldwide and shares Paul’s concerns about opera as an art form.

“It [opera] is by nature an obscure art form,” Boxer said.

After college, Boxer traveled the country auditioning for opera singing jobs. She was encouraged that there were so many young singers competing for the positions. Boxer points to the Metropolitan Opera’s successful run of sold-out high-definition operas at movie houses as an indicator that it’s not a dying art form. She hopes that shows like the one on Saturday expose new audiences to opera and help those with preconceived notions lose their prejudice.

“I hope they come and enjoy and the music because the most important thing is the music,” Boxer said. “You hope you give the audience something they haven’t heard before.”

Boxer is no longer on the professional opera circuit. Paul said she occasionally sings in concert and, according to her husband, performs lot of impromptu arias when they’re out to dinner. She has chosen not to pursue a full-time professional opera career because for her the price is too high.

“It’s a lot of work finding jobs,” she said. “I need to have something stable in my life and to be with my husband.”

Paul works as an aesthetician, nail tech and massage therapist at A Sanctuary Spa. She also plays on a tennis team, on softball teams and in a local volleyball league.

Her husband knew very little about opera when he started dating his future wife, but he supports his wife’s passion because he knows how much he has gained by being exposed to her art.

“It’s been fun for me to learn about something that I might not have done on my own,” Steve Paul said.

Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century. It’s an art form in which singers have to dance, act and follow the conductor. Opera singers do not use a microphone; their voices have to be strong enough to be heard over an orchestra. In addition, opera singers have to perform in many different languages. Paul sings in Italian, Czechoslovakian, German, French, English, Spanish and Latin.

“When I’m singing in Italian, I don’t know what I’m saying until I look it up,” she confessed.

Paul explained that opera singers use the International Phonetic Alphabet to help them translate a piece.

Saturday’s performance at the Jeannie Miller Auditorium at the Glenwood Springs High School starts at 4 p.m. Ticket price is $10 and includes food and refreshments after the performance.

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