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Opera Colorado Ovation


on . Posted in Opera Colorado Ovation

 What happens to a dream deferred? poet Langston Hughes asked.  Does it dry up like a raison in the sun? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?What of childhood dreams? Do you remember yours, what you wanted to be when you grew up? If you dreamed of becoming an artist and didn’t, you are in the majority; most college students graduating with a degree in the arts never pursue a career in their chosen field. Think about it. If the majority of students with medical degrees never practiced medicine, there would be a federal investigation, studies commissioned, laws passed! This then begs the question: What does it take to make it as an artist? We asked our leads in the upcoming production of Cinderella -- Daniela Mack (Angelina/Cinderella), Daniel Belcher (Dandini, the Prince’s valet) and Michele Angelini (Don Ramiro, the Prince) -- about following one’s dreams. Their insight is inspiring and just may cause you look at the child sitting next to you in a slightly different light—he or she could be the next rising star following his or her dream of opera.  Key Factor #1: EARLY EXPOSURE I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. –Ray Charles

I was exposed to classical music from a very young age. I was five or six years old when I started taking piano lessons, but my mom tells me that she took me to the symphony when I was still in diapers.” –Daniela Mack“I actually started piano lessons when I was five. My parents scrimped and scrimped to get a little money together to buy me a piano. I heard the St Joseph [Missouri] symphony many times. They gave free concerts to the schools in our community. And, when my music teacher needed kids for the Music Man, she asked if I wanted a part—I got bit by the bug. From that point on, I did musical theatre all growing up. If you asked me then what I wanted to be I would have said a stage performer.” –Daniel Belcher “I do clearly remember my first really meaningful reaction to opera. I was about seven years old and we went to see a production of Verdi’s La Traviata, and I was completely engrossed in the story, the music, the beautiful costumes, and the whole production. I remember crying because I didn’t think that Violetta should have died, and was really upset about the outcome! I also remember coming home and singing in the shower the way I thought an “opera singer” would.” –Daniela Mack“My father used to listen to classical music in the car. It was always there, in the background. I think he wanted me to be a pianist. I couldn’t tell you what the first opera was that I heard, but a turning point in my life was hearing Beethoven’s 9th—that was probably the first time I was aware of singing in a classical style. I was 6 or 7 years old. And when I heard it again, two or three years later, it became a really pivotal thing in my life.” –Michele Angelini Key Factor #2: BE INSPIRED BY SOMEONE WHO BELIEVESMusic in the soul can be heard by the universe. –Lao Tzu“In college, the reality of making it to the stage suddenly seemed out-of-reach. One day my voice teacher sat me down and asked what I wanted to do. I said teach. He said, No, what do you really want to do? I said, Be on stage. Now, I’m a really chatty guy, but when he responded, Why don’t you do it? I didn’t know what to say. For the first time in my life, I was speechless.” –Daniel Belcher“I was very shy as a child, so most of the singing I did was not in front of anyone. I was too shy to sing in public until late in my high school years, after I had started taking voice lessons. I had dreams of becoming a singer, but didn’t have a clue how to go about it until my high school voice teacher told me that I could audition for colleges to get a music degree.” –Daniela Mack“My family always gave me recordings for Christmas, and I loved singing along. I was very fortunate because from the beginning of my music career, I have had extremely knowledgeable teachers. They answered all my questions, and were always there to nurture my skills. I was able to really develop a complete musical education before college because of the teachers I had.” –Michele Angelini  Key Factor #3: HAVING THE RIGHT ATTITUDEBeware of allowing a tactless word, a rebuttal, a rejection to obliterate the whole sky. –Confucius  “When I started grad school in Boston, John Moriarty (Central City Opera creative director emeritus) was running the program there. I had very little experience with opera, but John pulled me aside and said, ‘Danny whatever you do, do it well, you’ll learn the rest.’ I figured, he’s done this a long time, I’ll trust it—and he was right. Worry about yourself, do it at a high level and it will get noticed.” –Daniel Belcher“Auditions are hard. My first year auditioning I sang for I don’t know how many people and didn’t get a one. There were plenty of points where I could have said, this is too hard. But when you get up on the stage and have a reaction from the people you are working for and from the audience, that’s the reward. That helps sustain me. It’s an exchange of energy that has to be constant and you can’t receive the energy unless you give it.” –Michele Angelini“I promised myself that I would keep going on this course as long as opportunities kept coming up. That was 20 years ago.” –Daniel Belcher Key Factor #4: LOOK TO THE FUTUREIt is essential to do everything possible to attract young people to opera so they can see that it is not some antiquated art form but a repository of the most glorious music and drama that man has created. –Bruce Beresford “In this whole country we’re having this discussion on money. For some reason, the thing that is always dispensable is the arts. Art is about opening up the realm of possibilities. If we only worry about test scores, I think we’ll be teaching machines not souls.” –Daniel Belcher “I believe that one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children is arts education. Music does not discriminate, and whether we are playing an instrument, singing, or simply listening and enjoying the sound, it touches everyone in a special and unique way. Kids have such quick and open minds, and the stimulation from an art form such as opera, with so many facets, is invaluable for their mental and emotional growth and development.” –Daniela Mack“One of the intrinsic difficulties of the art form of opera is that it came about before technology. With technology—we can have anything at the push of a button—I think people are so used to it and not as willing to forgive flaws like they once did. You have to suspend reality; opera was TV and movies for centuries before any of those things existed. I believe the art form is still able to captivate audiences, if you allow yourself to be moved by it.” –Michele Angelini Key Factor #5: DREAM LIKE CINDERELLAAll ours dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. –Walt Disney “My character gets to be prince for the day while the prince is playing the valet trying to find his love. It’s a complete joy to sing Dandini. He is showing off, he is exploding, he’s been living in the shadows but for this one day he is living life to the fullest. The story is very funny but heartwarming; it’s about seeking the heart and the beauty within. Ultimately, we find humanity.” –Daniel Belcher“This was an opera that I loved from the first time I saw it when Cecilia Bartoli came to the Met. I didn’t know at the time that I would be singing this repertoire. I initially approached singing as someone would approach a musical instrument and was quite crushed when I got to college and learned that that wasn’t the truth. But instead of letting that get me down, I started to pursue the repertoire that was meant for my voice.” –Michele Angelini “I think every girl, at one point or another has pretended she was Cinderella. Angelina is such a gem of a character in that she is all goodness and kindness, endures great suffering, forgives everything, and is rewarded with true love and happiness. She is so easy to love, and is a joy to play, she endures meanness towards her without protestation, but she is strong in mind and heart, and is more than willing to jump in to stand up for what is right. She is a woman who, despite her seemingly hopeless situation in life, knows her own heart and what she wants, and is willing to wait patiently for it. She is brave enough to dream, even without knowing if her dreams will come true.” –Daniela Mack SIDEBAR:At Opera Colorado we are proud of our multi-faceted outreach programming, which includes field trips to the Ellie to see dress rehearsals or a student matinee; backstage workshops where kids learn about sets, costumes and conducting, stage combat, and all the other building blocks of opera, and; classroom outreach, a.k.a. Opera in a Trunk, a program where young artists go out to schools to perform very brief English version of the opera, then leave the trunk with the class to support teacher curriculum. We need your support, though to keep these programs moving forward. Truly, the next Daniel Belcher or Daniela Mack or Michele Angelini may very well be sitting in our audience one day!  

Stephen Lord, conductor

on . Posted in Opera Colorado Ovation




The conductor’s role is to set the tone of a piece of music, as well as keep performers on tempo and working together. By tradition, he blends into the staging with only the occasional glint of a footlight catching his baton as he works; he leaves the musicians and vocalists to convey his artistry. After more than 30 years, conductor Stephen Lord has built a stellar reputation on the success of the performers who have done just that. “I’ve always been content to be a team player and not jump into the limelight,” he said in a recent interview with Opera Now. “I honestly believe that it’s the artists themselves that really matter in terms of the legacy we leave behind.”


Lord began his career playing the piano and coaching singers to perform under other people’s direction. It was the encouragement from stage director Colin Graham and conductors John Pritchard and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle that made him decide to take on the responsibility of the baton. Since then, he has stood at the podium for an impressive repertoire of both traditional and contemporary operatic works. Among the many who praise his performances, the Boston Globe reported, “…Lord knows how to help and challenge singers, and he caught the fever of the party scenes, and the pain and passion of the intimate ones. More than anyone else, he realized what still moved us in La Traviata.” (Boston Lyric Opera). 


This season, Stephen Lord, who is currently music director for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and music director of Boston Lyric Opera until the end of the 2007-08 season, will be conducting three of the four productions you will see at Opera Colorado, La Traviata, The Flying Dutchman, and Don Pasquale. We caught up with Lord to learn a bit more about the man Opera News listed among its 25 most influential people in American Opera.

 OC: Being named one of the most influential people in opera is huge. Has that had an impact on your career so far?


SL: I have had lots of people joke with me about this honor. But it is indeed an honor and I truly feel the warmth of those who josh me or compliment me.  I have been working in the profession for more than thirty years now and, frankly, so much of my work has been in building the careers of others and helping build and maintain institutions that I am thrilled to be included on this list equally for what I have done in the profession as with what I have done for it.  That Opera News recognizes people not just for what the public sees but for what we do for the profession’s health is indeed a tribute to them equally as it is to me.


OC: What has your longevity in the music world and the aspect of having worked your way up from the keyboard to the baton meant for you in your career?


SL: As an ad for some medicine or other says “It’s a new lease on life!” Actually, I believe all experiences aid us in whatever we do next in life. But I learned a lot of repertoire this way and because I was successful as a coach to many of the great singers in the 70’s and 80’s in the world, I had a network that was quite helpful for my confidence.


OC: It’s been said that you have the uncanny ability to find the best and brightest young stars and launch their careers. Your impressive list of protégés includes Deborah Voigt, Patricia Racette, and Paul Groves. So, how do you spot new talent? Where do you look and what are you looking for?


SL: I look in as many places as I can.  But, as with anyone else in the audience or in the profession, it is a subjective art. As a musician first, I look for people with ability to technically execute the notes in a piece reasonably easily. But I also look for people who say something – not just glorious tone (ah, but that is nice…) – but people who have a story to tell, and who can tell stories for many years, not just for a small career span. That is the trick. I also use the factor of not being from a professional music family or a family immersed in opera. I put myself in the shoes of those who simply want to be moved and entertained. These are the people we need to cultivate, and these are the people who will fill our seats and possibly bring their children to music lessons.


OC: You will be stepping down from the Boston Lyric Opera after this season. Why?


SL: It is a very long story.  I have been in Boston a very long time and I believe, given the climate in Boston at the moment, that I have done all that I could have for the institution in its present state. I am proud of what I have done and brought to the city and also for what our supporters in Boston have done for the company.


OC: What kinds of operas are you itching to work on?


SL: The Flying Dutchman, of course! I also am itching to do La Fanciulla de West and the Trittico of Puccini.


OC: What are the not so obvious ways you impact a performance?


SL: The conductor’s job is not necessarily to ‘lead’ an opera but it is equally to inspire the people who are involved to do their best. I truly believe that this is not just the performing personnel of the orchestra and chorus and principals; I have always made it a practice to know the stage crew, make-up folks and everyone else back stage, as we are all in it together and I do spend a good amount of time backstage as well as front stage.


OC: What are you planning for the operas here in Denver, and in particular, Traviata?


SL: Since La Traviata is a signature role for so many sopranos, it is done very often. In this case, Pamela Armstrong, who has sung it many times, and I have a very special musical friendship/kinship from past collaborations. So, doing this piece together with her for our first collaboration on it, will be a truly a wonderful experience.  She is wanting to restudy it together, so this isn’t simply a repeat.  And I did Garrett Sorenson’s first run in Boston two years ago, so revisiting the role with him – always a learning process – will be wonderful, as he is maturing terrifically and this time he has more experience under his belt with the role.  Scott Hendrix, the Father Germont, and I go way back to the days when Peter Russell had us together in Wolf Trap, and doing this role with him and bringing his ideas and mine together should be fun. What I meant in the repeating sense earlier was that many times artists won’t do anything other than what they know already, which oftentimes turns out to only be what is convenient for them.  With this set of principals this will not be a problem, as we all have long standing relationships.

 OC: What is it like conducting both orchestra and vocalists in the same performance?


SL: Orchestra and vocalists are never separate. In the case of Traviata, the overtures and interludes, all have theater in them that directly relates to the drama.  This is the same in every opera performance.  Everything is part of the whole, which is why opera conducting is so much more challenging.  There are very few symphonic works that have to tie together over a three hour stretch!