REVIEW: 'Boheme and 'Oklahoma' ignite Central City's 80th season
What: Central City Opera 80th Summer Festival
Where: The Central City Opera House, 4 Eureka St., Central City
Tickets: $20-$100 Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; $30-$110 Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org
"Oklahoma:" 8 p.m. July 19, 21, 27, Aug. 3; 2:30 p.m. Friday and July 31, Aug. 10, 11
"La Bohème:" 8 p.m. Friday and July 26, 28; 2:30 p.m. Saturday and July 17, 20, 22, 24, Aug. 1, 4, 8, 9, 12;
"Turn of the Screw:" Opens 8 p.m. Saturday, and runs 8 p.m. Aug. 4; 2:30 p.m. July 18, 21, 25, 29
One more thing: A full stage and orchestra performance of "Oklahoma" plays Aug. 5 and 7 at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 East Iliff Ave. Tickets are $23-$78.
The Central City Opera is ready to lift us out of the post-Waldo Canyon Fire blues with stunning productions of arguably the greatest works from opera and musical theater.
Puccini's "La Bohème" opened on Saturday night in the company's historic opera house with some extraordinary results. Although stage director Kevin Newbury made some questionable production choices (it's set in the 1930s, for instance), the principal voices and orchestral sounds from this timeless tale of love and loss were glorious.
Leading the way was soprano Elizabeth Caballero, who produced a show-stopping Micaëla for the company's 2011 "Carmen". While physically not the prototypical Mimi, she captured both the nuance and glory of Puccini's sublime creation with a voice that I could never imagine tiring of. After some awkwardness trying to fit into the character during Acts I and II, she owned Mimi as the opera proceeded. Most importantly, she grabbed our hearts and "died beautifully."
Her Rodolfo (tenor Eric Margiore) was oddly costumed in GQ fashion. Margiore rarely brought dramatic flesh and blood to this tragic poet, although his focused and sweet vocal lyricism proved a good match for Caballero. Best of the men was Troy Cook, whose Marcello ripped through the house with a manly baritone and a maniacal presence.
Everyone was beautifully supported by the John Baril-led pit orchestra.
At its best, this was a Bohème that projected a relentless musical and theatrical energy. The other side of the coin? There was too much sound for this small house. The music could have filled a hall three times the size. And Newbury's insistence upon bright lighting and front and center theatricality ran roughshod over the gentleness of this piece.
Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma" was terrific.
When Central City brings its operatic sensibilities and trademark theatrical intensity to classic American musical theater, the results have the potential to surpass conventional productions. After numerous inspired attempts in past years, the company finally scored a rousing success.
This is, after all, a work that forever changed the art form: By blending a dramatically balanced script with a tuneful, well-conceived score and ballet-inspired dance episodes, its debut elevated the musical to heights from which it never need descend.
Director Ken Cazan took his cast and the show over the top. His singing actors fully-inhabited their iconic roles. Matthew Worth (Curly) and Maureen McKay (Laurey) naturally rendered the voices and countenance of their characters, while still leaving Will Parker (Curt Olds), Ado Annie (Kaitlyn Costello) and Ali Hakim (Gene Scheer) to steal the lion's share of the laughs. It was also a treat to see longtime company great Joyce Castle score big as the show's matriarch, Aunt Eller.
Choreographer Daniel Pelzig filled the whole stage with the energy and beauty, in no small part due to stalwart performances by a quartet of dancers from Colorado's Ballet Nouveau. The simple set looked and worked great, using wood scaffolding and map projections of the Oklahoma Territory to frame both the 1906 setting and the 1943 original production. One hardly took note of the flawless pit orchestra, an appropriate tribute to the fine work of conductor Christopher Zemliauskas.
The company opens its third and final summer festival mainstage production, Benjamin Britten's ghostly "The Turn of the Screw" on Saturday and all three productions continue in rotation through Aug. 12.