Friday 11 September 2009

Central City Opera

Whilst in the USA, we visited Central City and took a trip round the opera house there. Central City is a Colorado gold rush town and dates from around 1859. Remarkably it is mostly preserved, with whole streets untouched since the town was built. Though nowadays most of the buildings are devoted to gambling. A small theatre (opera house) was built by a group of Welsh and Cornish miners. Initially successful, it was overtaken by another building in Denver. The theatre was re-born in the 1930's when it was restored and seasons of opera and plays given each summer. Since the 1980's they have given only operas in a 3 week season. The season is quite short because the theatre is without heating (it originally had two huge stoves in the auditorium) and Central City is high in the mountains so that it gets quite cold.

The theatre is a charming small box, with just one balcony; an elaborate plaster ceiling has been replaced by a painted copy since the original fell down and the remainder is decorated with trompe l'oeuil paintings.

This summer the company gave three operas, Lucia di Lammermoor, A Little Night Music and Rinaldo (I know, the middle one isn't strictly an opera). They usually manage to balance interesting programming with more mainstream pieces but the people we talked to in Central City seemed to imply that it was only the mainstream pieces that did well. Next season they are doing Madama Butterfly, Orpheus in the Underworld, plus Jake Heggie's Three Decembers. Whilst I would regard Orpheus as standard fare, evidently it is less well known in Colorado and our informant worried that the season was a little to adventurous. Jake Heggie's piece is, on the face of it, a safe choice for a contemporary piece. It only uses a small band and three singers, but I was less then enthusiastic about hearing it on disc so wonder how it will come over in the theatre.

So if you are anywhere near Denver next year in July do give Central City Opera your support.

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