Emerald City Opera, New York singers join in Steamboat for ‘Carmen’
Collaboration opens Steamboat All Arts Festival
August 18, 2010
Steamboat Springs — For almost eight years, Keri Rusthoi longed for a way to perform the extravagant, dramatic French opera "Carmen."
The Emerald City Opera founder and artistic director couldn't find a venue in which to perform triumphant Spanish bullfight scenes or provide the space for elaborate gypsy costume changes.
But Tuesday morning at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, as a silky operatic voice floated from a nearby window, Rusthoi admitted, with a smile, the truth she had always known.
"There's no denying Carmen," she said.
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Rusthoi, a soprano, will play Micaela in a concert version of "Carmen" at 7 p.m. Thursday at Strings Music Pavilion. Tickets are $30. The performance will kick off the second annual Steamboat All Arts Festival, a comprehensive weekend event highlighting local and national artists and a variety of art forms.
A concert version means there will be no sets or costumes. The men will be dressed in tuxedos and the women in gowns as they act out the story in French arias and spoken word. English subtitles will be projected on a nearby screen.
Although the performers won't be costumed as they would be at the New York Metropolitan Opera, the artistic standards are no less, Emerald City Opera President Jack Dysart said.
In fact, many of the principal performers have graced the Met's world-famous stage in the same production.
"We're not just a community opera," Dysart said. "We still have a dedication to artistic excellence."
David Malis, of Steamboat Springs, was a lead baritone on the Met stage for several years and will play Escamillo on Thursday. He also is the director of the Opera Artist Institute production of "La Boheme," and "Suor Angelica," which takes place Sunday at Perry-Mansfield's Julie Harris Theatre.
Steven Goldstein, who directed the performance, using minimal blocking to tell the story of the fiery gypsy temptress, also stars in the show as El Remendado, one of Carmen's smuggler friends.
However, Malis, Goldstein and Rusthoi were quick to steer conversation away from their own talents and multifaceted roles in the production. They only wanted to praise the talents of mezzo soprano Sandra Piques Eddy, who will play Carmen.
Eddy previously played Micaela on the Met stage but has been working on the principal role at smaller operas.
Thursday, she will add the castanets to her rich, velvet singing, a prop most Carmen performers use.
Rusthoi said the Strings stage would be the perfect venue for Eddy to smooth out the edges of her performance, which has garnered rave reviews in other cities.
"She was very interested in coming here because it was the chance to try out this role in a safe environment," Rusthoi said. "It was perfect for her."
Goldstein was confident that Eddy soon would return to the Met and fill the principal role in the famous opera house.
"She really is a rising star at the Met," Goldstein said.
"She has a tremendous voice, and she is just gorgeous," Malis added.
The story is set in 19th century Seville, Spain, and follows Don José, a soldier played by tenor Jason Baldwin, who is seduced by the salacious gypsy Carmen. He leaves his girlfriend, Micaela, for her, but Carmen soon is swept away by Escamillo, a bullfighter. It is one of the most popular operas of its genre in the world.
Rusthoi said she thinks many people will be thrilled at how many tunes they recognize coming from the 27-piece orchestra.
She said she hopes the production will bring a significant level of talent to the faction of the Steamboat audience that already has high expectations, all while providing an accessible performance to opera novices.
"Our job is to build a larger section of the community that loves opera," Rusthoi said. "And I personally believe that anyone who doesn't love opera really hasn't heard good opera."
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