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Regional Opera Company of the Week: Opera Colorado

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BroadwayWorld.com, the largest theatre site on the net, continues its expansion into other areas of entertainment with our latest feature -The Regional Opera Company of the Week!

This week's featured Opera Company is Opera Colorado in Denver, CO, now celebrating its 30th anniversary!

In 1980, a group of local opera fans met at the Grant-Humphreys Mansion to discuss the need for an opera company in Denver. While there were several regional companies, the Friends of Opera wanted to establish a major Production Company that could bring opera to audiences in the area. The group soon attracted Nathaniel Merrill and Louise Sherman, two veterans of the Metropolitan Opera. Excited by the prospect of running an opera company, Merrill soon got to work: Opera Colorado's first season opened on April 4, 1983, with Otello, which ran for three performances and featured internationally-acclaimed tenor James McCracken. On April 5, the company performed La Bohème with world-renowned tenor Placido Domingo.

All of Opera Colorado's main stage productions took place in the round, in the Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver until 1992. To celebrate Opera Colorado's tenth anniversary season, Merrill added a third main stage production in the Temple Buell Theatre. The first performance at the Buell took place on November 2, 1992.

In 1998, Merrill left Opera Colorado and was succeeded by Stephen Seifert, who became the President and General Director. During his time at Opera Colorado, Seifert appointed James Robinson as Artistic Director for the company. Robinson had previously worked with Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera and many other grand opera companies.

The following year, Peter Russell became the President and General Director of Opera Colorado. Prior to joining the company, Russell had led the Lindemann Young Artist Program at the Metropolitan Opera and was director of Wolf Trap Opera. Under the leadership of Russell, Opera Colorado helped push for and win the 2002 bond issue to restore and renovate the 1908 Auditorium Theater to create the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The hall was unveiled on September 10, 2005, with a gala concert featuring a roster of famous singers, including Renée Fleming, Ben Heppner, and James Morris. The season then began in November with Denyce Graves and Beth Clayton alternating dates in the title role of Carmen.

That same season, Opera Colorado continued its commitment to bringing opera to Colorado by commissioning a new bilingual opera for the Outreach Ensemble to perform in schools and community venues. The one-act family opera La Curandera was written by Robert Xavier Rodríguez and was based off Mozart's Bastien and Bastienne. After opening on CU-Denver's Auraria Campus at the King Center, this intimate chamber opera began touring schools around the state. In 2007, Opera Colorado was honored when La Curandera received OPERA America's Diversity Award.

Opera Colorado celebrated its 25th Anniversary during the 2005-2006 season by expanding its offerings with a special concert version of The Flying Dutchman, starring premier Wagnerian bass James Morris. The 2007-2008 Season saw the appointment of a new General Director, Greg Carpenter, who had previously served as Director of Development for Opera Colorado. In June 2008, Opera Colorado presented John Adams' Nixon in China as part of the National Performing Arts Convention held in Denver with Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, subsequently released on the Naxos label.

During the 2011 season, Opera Colorado presented Dvorák's Rusalka, its first Czech language production, followed in 2012 by its first Spanish language production, the Rocky Mountain Regional Premiere of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas. The 2013 season marks Opera Colorado's 30th Anniversary and features its first Professional Premiere, Lori Laitman's The Scarlet Letter with libretto written by Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason.

As Opera Colorado looks to the future, it hopes to continue the tradition established by Nat Merrill of presenting conventional performances and innovative restagings, bringing renowned stars and emerging talent to Denver, and sharing opera with audiences through live performances and educational and cultural programs.

Opera Colorado's 30th anniversary season continues with ROMEO AND JULIET running Feb. 9-17, DON GIOVANNI from March 30 - April 7, and THE SCARLET LETTER playing May 4-12. For tickets, click here.

To learn more about Opera Colorado, click here.

Know of an opera company we should feature? Send your suggestion to Romina at romi@broadwayworld.com

Info courtesy of Opera Colorado. Photo credit: Matthew Staver

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