Korliss Uecker, center, kneeling, stars as terminally ill, love-stricken courtesan Violetta in a production of "La Traviata," presented by Emerald City Opera.

Courtesy Photo

Korliss Uecker, center, kneeling, stars as terminally ill, love-stricken courtesan Violetta in a production of "La Traviata," presented by Emerald City Opera.

Local opera hits its stride

'La Traviata' opens today with ambitious cast, set

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If you go

What: Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata," presented by Emerald City Opera (sung in Italian with English supertitles)

When: 7 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Steamboat Springs High School auditorium

Cost: $19 to $69

Call: 879-1996 or buy tickets online at www.steamboatoper...>

What: W.A. Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" presented by Emerald City Opera's Institute for Emerging Singers (sung in English)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steamboat Christian Center

Cost: $15 for adults, $5 for students and seniors

Call: 879-1996 or buy tickets online at www.steamboatoper...>

Abridged program notes, 'La Traviata'

Act I: Violetta Valery, a courtesan, hosts a party in her Paris salon. Violetta has a terminal illness, and Alfredo Germont, one of her guests, has been admiring her from afar. By the end of the act, Violetta's fallen for him.

Act II: Alfredo and Violetta have been living together happily in the country. They end up back in Paris, where Alfredo's father makes strides to break them up. They split, Violetta is devastated, and Alfredo suspects she's going to a party to meet another man. Violetta shows up at the party with the baron she was with before Alfredo, and asks Alfredo to leave, hoping he won't upset the baron. Alfredo misunderstands this, and the baron challenges him to a duel.

Act III: Violetta's terminal illness - consumption, an opera favorite - is back. Alfredo has figured out that Violetta never stopped loving him, and gets to her moments before she dies.

— Ten minutes before the first note drops for the first full dress rehearsal of Emerald City Opera's production of "La Traviata," the all-professional, widely experienced pit orchestra and stage crew are holding on during a whirlwind of practicing and planning.

Musicians from the Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and others play scales and bits of Giuseppe Verdi's opera score. The stage manager dims the house lights, and members of the tech crew pace the stage, checking that every period-style lamp and cloth-draped chaise is in place. Members of the chorus appear every minute or so from the stage wings, wearing tuxedos or sequined dresses and donning full makeup.

The orchestra hits a noisy high before the principal oboist delivers a tuning note. A minute or so later, conductor Adam Flatt drops the first beat of the overture, and the well-tuned Emerald City Opera company spills out onto the stage, drumming up the revelry that opens "La Traviata."

For its sixth full-scale opera production, the company has pulled in singers from Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Utah Opera, New England Conservatory and Austin Lyric Opera, among others. Its production crew boasts credits with the Met, "Disney on Ice," The Dallas Opera and The Los Angeles Opera.

Grand in its scale, "La Traviata" - a story about a terminally ill courtesan who finds true love - possibly is the Steamboat Springs company's most ambitious undertaking to date.

"The biggest thing for me is that everything about this show, and there are so many aspects, is that everything is at a higher level than it has been before," said Keri Rusthoi, ECO founder and artistic director. Although the opera is staged in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium, Rusthoi said the company has drawn an increasingly established set of performers and production crew.

"When you have this kind of quality overall, the ball rolls," Rusthoi said, adding that she prefers opera in an intimate setting anyway, rather than a large concert hall.

"People are lucky to see this kind of quality of singer in their hometown," said stage director Sarah Meyers, who has worked previously as an assistant on a Metropolitan Opera production of "La Traviata." There certainly are obstacles - namely the size of the performance space and the limited production and rehearsal schedule - but Meyers said she's been pleased with the quality and pace of the project.

"The unique challenges of the space are kind of a new challenge. I've worked on this opera many times, and this space and these time constraints have been very interesting," Meyers said.

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