Easy access opera | SteamboatToday.com

Easy access opera

Emerald City expands offerings, programs for a broader audience

Margaret Hair

who plays Lt. Pinkerton

— “Cosi fan tutte” could be a romantic comedy screenplay, and it could have been written yesterday.

There are two guys. They’re madly in love with their girlfriends, and they’re bragging about how much their ladies love them back. A creepy old man intervenes, and tells them they have no idea what they’re talking about. They put their loves to the test, and it goes from there.

One of two operas on the bill this summer for Steamboat’s Emerald City Opera company, “Cosi fan tutte” is as pertinent now as it was when Mozart composed its arias, said ECO Founder and Artistic Director Keri Rusthoi.

“It was written 400 years ago, and the theme of ‘Cosi’ is still completely relevant today. And that’s what makes great art so important to our daily lives, is that it touches us and it speaks to our daily life right now,” Rusthoi said.

Emerald City Opera will expand to two productions for the first time this season, adding a training program for up-and-coming opera singers, a set of master classes and a host of community concerts.

It’s part of the company’s mission to bring opera to everyone. Ticket prices for “Cosi” will be drastically reduced, with modern-day costumes and a simple set cutting down on production costs.

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“We want to be able to make opera totally accessible,” Rusthoi said. Although tickets to the company’s mainstage production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” are cheaper than any other opera group in the state, prices ranging from $19 to $69 can still be steep, she said.

“The whole point of that is that there is no barrier for anyone – it’s in English, and it’s brought to your town, and it’s affordable. We want the whole world to be able to enjoy it,” Rusthoi said.

Performing “Cosi” will be the 14 artists in ECO’s new Opera Artist Institute for Emerging Singers, a three-week training program for rising stage talents from across the country. Participants auditioned in Denver and New York City for the program, which gives them a chance to sing in the “La Traviata” chorus and perform at community events.

“The whole idea is to give them as many performing opportunities as possible, and also let Steamboat know we have these great kids in town,” said Valerie Davia, program director for the institute.

In their production of “Cosi,” Opera Artist Institute students will play ranchers instead of officers – a change in setting that falls in line with Rusthoi’s description of opera as universal art.

“I think singing speaks to everyone, and opera is like the Olympics of singing. If you can sing opera, you’re performing at an Olympic level. And anytime you’re doing anything at an incredibly high level, it’s exciting,” Rusthoi said.

“It can still cause you to have some sort of epiphany or moment today, 400 years later. I think that’s what’s so powerful about it, on every level.”

Emerald City Opera season schedule, summer 2008

– July 6: Resident Artist Spotlight Series Concert with Keri Rusthoi – Rusthoi will perform mostly early 20th century works at United Methodist Church; 5 p.m.; $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students.

– July 29: Emerald City Opera Artist Institute Arias Concert – Opera Artist Institute attendees, ranging in age from 19 to 27, perform favorites from “Carmen,” “West Side Story” and more at the Steamboat Christian Center; 7 p.m.; $12 for adults, $7 for seniors and students.

– July 31: Master class with former Denver Bronco and Metropolitan Opera singer Keith Miller – Held at Whiteman School Theater; 1 p.m.; Free.

– Aug. 6: Master class with New York City Opera singer Steven Goldstein – Held at Whiteman School Theater; 10 a.m.; Free.

– Aug. 7: Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” in Walden – The Opera Artist Institute presents a scaled-down version of this classic story of love and possible betrayal; 4 p.m.; Free.

– Aug. 8: Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” in Craig – Presented at Moffat County High School; 3 p.m.; $15 for adults, $5 for seniors and students.

– Aug. 9: Master class with Metropolitan Opera singer David Malis – Held at Whiteman School Theater; 10 a.m.; Free.

– Aug. 10: Opera Encounter – The stars of “La Traviata” discuss the opera; 2 p.m.; Free.

– Aug. 14: Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” in Saratoga, Wyo. – Presented at the North Platte Community Center; 3 p.m.; $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students.

– Aug. 15: Opening night of the mainstage production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” – Emerald City Opera brings in an all-star cast for the tragic love story in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium; 7 p.m.; $19 to $69.

– Aug. 16: Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” in Steamboat – Presented at Steamboat Springs High School; 2 p.m.; $15 for adults, $5 for seniors and students.

– Aug. 17: Matinee performance of the mainstage production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” – Presented at Steamboat Springs High School; 3 p.m.; $19 to $69.