Ken Cazan has been an integral force in Central City Opera’s project to mount every work by 20th century composer Benjamin Britten. After directing this summer’s production of Billy Budd, there will be only two works by the prolific British composer that Ken has not yet directed throughout his career. It’s an impressive accomplishment for the Los Angeles-based director who is in his 18th season with Central City Opera and one that he connects to on a visceral level.
“I have an emotional relationship to Britten and have since I started to direct,” says Ken. “There’s something about his music that I find so theatrical and challenging in its complexity, simplicity and honesty. I can’t think of any other composer who destroys me emotionally like Britten.”
Growing up in Ohio, Ken got his start in musical theater as a child and was the first in his family to attend college. At Syracuse University, he absorbed acting and directing methods and took his craft to New York City, where he coached actors and singers. The thrill of hearing opera for the first time remains as fresh to him today as it did then, even after an award-winning career spanning several continents, over 160 productions, a professorship at University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and countless world premieres.
In 2017, Ken was inducted into the Grove Dictionary of Music — the first time in 25 years that the esteemed musical dictionary had been edited. The dictionary cited Ken Cazan as an expert in the works of Benjamin Britten and praised his skill in working with singer-actors on characters and relationships.
“My goal is to bring humanity to everything I do theatrically and to make it identifiable and accessible. All good theater is cathartic — we reach people and open up something inside of them, to make them think and feel and talk and maybe heal.” Even with his abundance of accolades and experiences, Ken still considers Central City Opera essential in cultivating his future endeavors. “This is a place to ply your craft. At 8,500 feet, it’s idyllic: physically, spiritually and artistically. That’s why I keep coming back summer after summer.”
See Ken’s work live on the Central City Opera House stage, July 13 - August 2. Purchase tickets to the Colorado premiere of Billy Budd HERE!
Interview excerpts come from the Central City Opera Podcast.