Join the Central City Opera for a trip through story and song during its 2019 Summer Festival. The intimate 550-seat jewel-box theater will feature the works of Giacomo Puccini, Benjamin Britten and many more. Most shows are performed in Italian, but those have English subtitles so the audience can follow the story accompanied by the original music. This festival exemplifies the Central City Opera’s commitment to bring the cultural beauty of opera to the mountain gambling town.
“Central City Opera’s mission is to sing extraordinary stories to spark imagination, inspire creativity and open minds to the breadth of human experience,” marketing director Gail Bransteitter says.
The first summer show, “Madama Butterfly” (Saturday-Aug. 4), is about a young geisha who learns honor through her marriage to a Navy lieutenant at age 15 and her raising of his child, all along finding herself and her values. This Puccini opera examines a culture that can be poisonous in its dedication to honor and the heartbreaking turns of fate that life can take.
“We always like to do a show that’s more well known in the opera repertoire. Something like “Madama Butterfly” is a perfect example of that. It’s something that people love to see, and we try to keep it in the rotation every few years,” says Bransteitter. “This year, we were able to also bring in “Billy Budd,” which is a new production for us. It gives people something more traditional, something they’re familiar with, and then we also have something new and exciting.”
“Billy Budd” (July 12-Aug. 2), a Benjamin Britten show, examines morality through memory and sexuality on stage, based on the unfinished novel by Herman Melville. Budd is forced to enlist in the British Navy, serving on the ship Indomitable during the Napoleonic wars. Ever an idealist, he questions his own moral compass when forced to commit a crime in self-defense. It’s billed as providing “rambunctious seafaring charm and stark reflection on class, privilege and power.”
“We have over 50 cast members for “Billy Budd.” It’s one of the largest productions we’ve ever done on the Central City Opera stage ... To have a production that large, the sound and everything is going to be incredible. There’s not really a bad seat in the house,” says Bransteitter.
Third comes a double bill (July 23, 24, 31, Aug. 1) of rare French works: “The Blessed Damozel” by Claude Debussy, and “Litanies to the Black Virgin” by Francis Poulenc.
“It’s glorious music, and all you’re going to have to do is walk in, sit down and be immersed in the sound,” says general/artistic director Pelham “Pat” Pearce. The “Blessed Damozel” tells of a love so strong that even death can’t end it. “Litanies to the Black Virgin,” a piece based on liturgical texts, is meant to honor the blessed saint.
“These two rarely performed works are being paired together for a double bill to be performed at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church. This production will showcase the women of our acclaimed Bonfils-Stanton Artists Training Program.” says Bransteitter.
Finally, check out “Encore: A Musical Revue.” This Central City Opera tradition showcases the best of Broadway music and runs Aug. 3-6 only.
Throughout the season, take advantage of various bus pickups, short works, backstage glimpses and food and drink specials. As the Central City Opera motto says: “You won’t know until you go.”
MADAMA BUTTERFLY — 2:30 and 8 p.m. July 6-Aug. 4, Central City Opera House, 124 Eureka St., Central City, $85-$126; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org.
BILLY BUDD — July 12-Aug. 2, also at Central City Opera House, $31-$120; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org.
DOUBLE BILL: THE BLESSED DAMOZEL AND LITANIES TO THE BLACK VIRGIN — 2:30 and 8 p.m. July 23, 24, 31 and Aug. 1, at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 135 Pine St., Central City, $30; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org.
LUNCH AND A SONG — 11:45 a.m. July 20-28, Teller House, 120 Eureka St., Central City, $30; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org.
ENCORE: A MUSICAL REVUE — 2:30 and 8 p.m. Aug. 3 and 6, Central City Opera House, 124 Eureka St., Central City, $55-$75; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org.
THE MOZART REQUIEM — 3 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-16, Antonia Brico Stage at Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St., Denver, $33-$38; 303-292-6700, centralcityopera.org.
By Kate Powell