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A taste of opera 

Collaboration offers the best of music and theater combined

click to enlarge Martile Rowland
  • Martile Rowland

Opera: You either love it or you hate it. But chances are if you hate it, it's because you've never actually seen a live one. Fully costumed and staged opera is a far cry from the beleaguered plus-size Vikings stereotype. In fact, the art form combines the drama of live theater with the wonder of great music.

Two newly venerable cultural institutions (Opera Theater of the Rockies was founded in 1999; the Colorado Springs Philharmonic is currently in their inaugural season) are collaborating in an effort to bring symphonic music and opera together on Feb. 28 and 29. While vocalists often perform with symphony orchestras in requiems, masses and other choral works, this kind of full performance is unusual.

Since its inception in 1999 by beloved soprano Martile Rowland, Opera Theatre of the Rockies has infused the local area with a much-needed dose of opera, and particularly the theatrical side of opera.

When the Philharmonic approached Rowland about a possible alliance, she was thrilled. This excitement grew as she began to discuss the plan with guest conductor Christopher Wilkins, who is no stranger to local audiences -- Wilkins was the popular music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony from 1989 to 1996.

"[Wilkins] and I worked together to think of a program with the best way to show off the singers as well as the players in the Philharmonic," Rowland explained.

The agreed-upon program rivals the average awards show, featuring not one, but two operatic works. OTR and the Philharmonic will perform the second acts of Carmen and Die Fledermaus.

George Bizet's gypsy drama Carmen includes some of the most recognized melodies in the opera oeuvre, and Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus is a delightful comedy of errors, featuring a famous scene at a costume ball, always a hilarious setup (Eyes Wide Shut notwithstanding).

As a special treat, OTR founder and director Rowland will perform the adored aria "Un Bel Di Vedreno." from Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. "I've got to get the old voice out of the box," Rowland said. "It will be fun."

While the orchestral musicians will revel in their parts, a fully costumed cast will perform the parts.

"It's really important for us to show the theater side of opera," Rowland continued. "The Philharmonic will be on stage with us, but we didn't want to just stand there and sing. We get to sing with the full orchestra, which is exciting enough, but we want to make it exciting for the audience. Both Carmen and Die Fledermaus are tremendously popular, but also incredibly different -- they show the full range of opera, from full-fledged drama to lighthearted operetta."

-- Bettina Swigger

capsule

A Night at the Opera

The Colorado Springs Philharmonic with guest conductor Christopher Wilkins, featuring Martile Rowland and the Opera Theatre of the Rockies

Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.

Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 29 at 2:30 p.m.

$12-$48; 520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com

  • Collaboration offers the best of music and theater combined

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