Central City Opera Showcases Young Artists with “Death by Aria”

Editor’s Note: Here’s our first blog post for the 2014 Festival from Marketing/Public Relations Assistant Billy McEntee. You’ll be seeing many blogs from Billy “on the Hill” over the next few months. 

“Death by Aria.” Truly, it’s not so different from death by chocolate. It’s a bit of a marathon, but ultimately both are savory and filling. Central City Opera kicked off its 2014 Festival with this unique event that successfully showcased the talented performers of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program under the direction of Michael Ehrman. These performers will be seen and heard at the Opera House and the Denver Performing Arts Complex later this summer, giving audience members a promising forecast of what’s to come.

Studio Artist Michael Kuhn closes Act I with an aria from The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten with Michael Baitzer at the piano during Central City Opera’s “Death by Aria”

Gilman Hall, with its rich acoustics yet intimate setting, played host to the 31 Studio Artists and Apprentice Artists, all of whom comprise the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program and perform in the chorus or in bit roles for Central City Opera’s 2014 Festival. These well-dressed and well-rehearsed singers each performed an aria of choice (all accompanied by the skilled and tireless Michael Baitzer). Opera selections were as diverse as the mishmash of chairs in Gilman Hall. The pieces ranged from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) to Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge while the audience sat in seats from similarly varying time periods – tubular Thonet chairs meshed with pastel painted wooden ones. The haphazard mix of songs and setting highlights one of Central City Opera’s strengths: creating a diverse composition of artists and performances.

Despite only a handful of English pieces, the “Death by Aria” singers masterfully communicated sentiments of rage, longing and bliss in their foreign songs. Isaac Bray justly received a rousing ovation for his Handel aria in which he sang fleeting grace notes with exquisite clarity. Following Bray, Karina Brazas crafted a wonderful marriage of shyness and yearning in her aria from Donizetti’s L’eliser d’amore (The Elixir of Love). These changes in character were perfectly mirrored in Brazas’ morphing dynamics. Shortly after, Evan L. Johnson showed off his high notes with his piece from Gounod’s Faust. Johnson’s suave voice coasted comfortably on Gounod’s melody.

While “Death by Aria” let audience members hear individual singers outside of their main duty as chorus performers, the singers certainly showed little pressure to impress as they performed solo for each other. In fact, there was more camaraderie than competition in Gilman Hall. As a singer exited after his bow another made his way to the stage, patting his peer on the back. When Chanáe Curtis accidentally performed during Tim Bruno’s slot, he patiently waited his turn and then sarcastically quipped, “I’ve got my eye on you, Chanáe” before performing his piece.

Toward the end of Act I, Maya Kherani elicited laughter with her selection from Handel’s Alcina. Kherani shined with her elongated and mellifluous ah’s during which she easily shifted from timid to coquettish. In Act II, Kelsey Park used diction as her weapon of choice for her Mozart aria. She effectively maintained her articulation while still playing a flustered, exasperated character.

With their unwavering talent and professionalism, these young performers certainly set the bar high for the Principal Artists who play leading roles. The nearly two-and-a-half hours of performances certainly satiated the audience’s musical appetite, but most importantly “Death by Aria” gave a taste of how versatile these 31 young artists are. The audience left Gilman Hall happily craving more, which may have not been the case with a chocolate buffet.

Want to see more of Central City Opera’s talented young singers? In addition to our mainstage productions, check out Short Works or Lunch & A Song. They’re also featured in our sold-out production Trouble in Tahiti.

One response to “Central City Opera Showcases Young Artists with “Death by Aria””

  1. Wonderful article!! Way to go, Maya!!

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