Jane Thorngren and her husband, Walter MacNeil, could not have come from more different musical backgrounds. Thorngren grew up on a farm outside of Pilot Mound, Iowa, a town with a population of 200. Her mother played organ and piano at church and led the church choir. Thorngren started singing when she was 3 years old.
Meanwhile, the child that would someday become her husband was growing up backstage in Italy listening to the voice of his father, a world famous baritone.
What: Final concert of the Outstanding Artists Recital Series featuring Jane Thorngren and Walter MacNeil When: 3 p.m. Sunday Where: United Methodist Church, Eighth and Oak streets Cost: $25 for adults; $10 for students. 10 and younger get in free. Tickets are available at Off the Beaten Path bookstore, All That Jazz, in the opera's office downstairs from Wells Fargo Bank or by calling 879-1996.
The two singers met in Knoxville, Tenn., while performing in the opera La Traviata. Thorngren played Violetta, and MacNeil played Alfredo. They now live in New York City.
Thorngren is a full-time musician, but her husband performs only on occasion.
MacNeil grew up in the opera world but chose a career in computers.
"He's this amazing singer, and anytime we in the opera world can convince him to sing, we are thrilled," said Emerald City Opera founder Keri Rusthoi.
"We can get him off the bench every once in a while," Thorngren said. "We have a good time singing together."
The program they have arranged for Sunday's concert is meant to be light-hearted, featuring a broad spectrum of material from art songs to show tunes.
"We have a couple of German operetta songs that are very famous. Walter will sing, 'Danny Boy,' and I'm singing an Irish folk song," Thorngren said. "It's fun, and it gives people a good idea of the variety of literature that's out there."
Rusthoi met the singers more than a year ago in Breckenridge when she was invited to turn pages for pianist Debra Ayers.
"These guys just blew me away," Rusthoi said. "Backstage I had no idea who they were, but when they got on stage and opened their mouths, I fell at their feet.
"Of all the concerts we've done, this is the one I would choose."
While the duo is in Steamboat, they will be offering a Masterclass for aspiring singers who will sing two pieces for critique. The class will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in Room 301 of Willett Hall on the Colorado Mountain College campus for $5 per person.
"It will be a chance for them to hear helpful suggestions from a different standpoint," Thorngren said. "Sometimes you need another influence.
"It's usually fun and painless."