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Opera for everyman 

Unwashed masses welcome at Hansel and Gretel

click to enlarge Tighten your kiddie leashes, parents: - Those arent coffee stains on this witchs teeth.
  • Tighten your kiddie leashes, parents: Those arent coffee stains on this witchs teeth.

Riverdance sells out every show, and we can't sell out just one performance," laments David Sckolnik, head of public relations for this year's Opera Theatre of the Rockies production of Hansel and Gretel.

But, as Sckolnik acknowledges, that problem might be changing, as neophyte opera-goers are shedding their training wheels in record numbers. Groups like Il Divo a classically trained foursome that uses operatic voices to sing American pop songs in Spanish are showing the "American Idol"-viewing public that opera can be entertaining. And each day, more lowbrows are questioning their misguided belief that all opera attendees must wear powdered wigs.

"Opera is such an interestingly beautiful art," says Opera Theatre founder Martile Rowland.

Rowland, Hansel and Gretel's director, believes the production has all the elements of fabulous opera theater.

"The music is spectacular, and the singers sound gorgeous."

It can't be easy to sound "gorgeous" while you're jumping around stage, running from a witch or hungrily chasing children. And to do it without microphones.

"Opera singers are physical freaks," Sckolnik says. "The amount of volume they're able to put out the sheer physical sound isn't supposed to come from a human being."

click to enlarge c9a4_sevendays-23868.gif

But these actors are more than capable. All but one of the performers study classical singing with Rowland, who is something of a local legend.

When she and her late husband James moved to the Springs in 1980, she considered herself retired from the stage, having left New York to focus on teaching others to sing. But her retirement didn't last long. In 1988, Don Jenkins asked Rowland to play the female lead, Violetta, in the Colorado Opera Festival's production of La Traviata.

For the next 15 years, Rowland performed in the biggest opera houses in the world, including New York City Opera, France's Opera de Nice, Mexico's Palacio de Bellas Artes, Rio de Janeiro's National Theatre and all over Europe.

"When I got away from New York and was calm in trying to pursue excellence instead of jobs, that was when I got good and was able to have a career in singing," says Rowland.

The songstress recently retired permanently from singing to focus on Opera Theatre of the Rockies, which became Colorado Springs' only opera company after financial difficulties silenced the Colorado Opera Festival.

Hansel and Gretel promises to garner support from the American "everyman," a cultural freak who guzzles Budweiser and is familiar with German opera. The highbrow-lowbrow hybrid (a midbrid?) should enjoy this work of art, a beautiful creation marked by that whole primal-fear-of-being-eaten thing.


Hansel and Gretel

Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.

Saturday, March 3, 2:30 and 7:30 pm.

Tickets: $18-$75; call 520-SHOW (7469) or visit ticketswest.com.

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