Forty years ago, downtown’s Denver Performing Arts Complex welcomed the addition of Opera Colorado, the city’s first professional opera company. Helmed by Metropolitan Opera veteran Nathaniel Merrill (1983-1998), the company opened on April 4, 1983. Since then, the organization has been led by Stephen Seifert (1998-99), Peter Russell (1999-2005) and current General & Artistic Director Greg Carpenter.
Over the past four decades, it has grown from two operas a season to three and celebrated two world premieres — Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter in May 2016 and Gerald Cohen’s Steal a Pencil for Me in the 2017/18 season. Additionally, it has performed in the former Auditorium Theatre, Boettcher Concert Hall, and Ellie Caulkins Opera House, which was built within the shell of the former Auditorium Theatre and reopened in 2005 as Denver’s true opera house.
As the company rebounds from closures resulting from COVID-19, it might be logical, sensible even to scale back its offerings as so many in the performing arts industry have had to do. Instead, Carpenter and the Opera Colorado team boldly embark on a three-opera season.
“It has been such a thrill working with Music Director Ari Pelto to plan a celebratory 40th Anniversary Season,” says Greg Carpenter, General & Artistic Director. “With classic operas we all love and a rarely performed work, this season represents an artistic vision for our future.”
The 40th anniversary season opens November 5 with Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto. Led by Opera Colorado Music Director Ari Pelto and Director Christopher Mattaliano, this is a classic take on the tragic story of a court jester and his daughter. Unable to protect his young daughter from the attentions of the Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto sets out on a quest for revenge.
Rigoletto plays the Ellie Caulkins Opera House November 5, 8, 11 and 13. The cast includes Stephen Powell as Rigoletto, Sharleen Joynet as his daughter Gilda, and Matthew White as the Duke of Mantua.
In February, the company presents a new production of Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) directed by Chas Rader-Shieber with Pelto at the podium. Originally debuted in 1920 in Germany, the production is the story of the widow Paul who encounters a woman who looks eerily like his late wife. As they form a relationship, he begins to question what is real and what is only a figment of his imagination.
Sara Gartland plays both Paul’s late wife Marie and her lookalike Marietta, while Brian Hymel plays the widow Paul. Die tote Stadt plays the Ellie Caulkins Opera House Feb 25 & 28 and March 3 & 5.
Finally, the season rounds out next Spring with Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot led by Pelto and director Aria Umezawa. This beloved opera tells the story of Princess Turandot who demands that any suitor correctly answer three impossible riddles to win her hand or face death. When young Calàf accepts the challenge to win his bride, his success thaws her ice-cold heart.
Jonathan Burton returns to Opera Colorado as Calàf and is joined by Kara Shay Thompson in her company debut as Princess Turandot. The opera plays the Ellie Caulkins Opera House May 6, 9, 12 & 14).
“Our 2022/23 Season will be a special moment for the artists, crew, and staff of our company, Carpenter continued, “…an opportunity to celebrate where we have been and what we have accomplished, as well as look forward to where we intend to go.”
Tickets and subscriptions are currently on sale at operacolorado.org.