Story by Lauren Scott
The Charles & Reta Ralph Opera Center presents a new take on Mozart’s Idomeneo from Thursday, March 26, through Saturday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 29, at 2 p.m. in the Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts, located at 1400 Remington St.
The Ralph Opera Center takes on a futuristic performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo. Considered the first of Mozart’s “great operas,” Idomeneo follows the story of the King of Crete on his journey to save his son while appeasing the gods for saving his life. The opera includes appearances by the Greek god Neptune as well as a vengeful sea monster.
CSU’s production puts a different spin on this classic opera. The piece is set in an undefined time period and includes elements of Ancient Greece alongside edgier futuristic/post-apocalyptic elements shown through projections, costuming, and set design. This is a unique performance, as it marks the first use of projections in a CSU opera production, designed by CSU’s Price Johnston and Andy Killion.
“I was drawn to Idomeneo because it is seldom performed, has beautiful music, and gave our production team the opportunity to explore some very intriguing design ideas,” said Tiffany Blake, director of the Ralph Opera Center.
The set design is one area that explores new techniques. Inspired by the work of Swiss architect, stage designer, and theorist of stage lighting and décor Adolph Appia, the intent was not to achieve pictorial realism, but to create a believable mood for each scene.
To accomplish this, the production team faced three major challenges: controlling stray light, keeping the floor as shiny as possible, and utilizing a short props list. The design team was extremely inventive in their solutions to these challenges. Scenic artist Lauren Coghlan came up with this solution.
“After a base coat, Lauren is using a marine paint that takes three days to dry but is very strong and very shiny once it does,” scenic designer Roger Hanna said. “There are also two very special props used in the show; busts of two of the characters that are cast from dental alginate [an elastic impression material that is used to make dental impressions].”
Also contributing to this scenic mood, the costume department, led by Janelle Sutton, will unveil never-before-seen designs. Idomeneo is the first opera at CSU to showcase a futuristic/cyberpunk approach to costume design. Such design requires both an imaginative and historical flair that include fabric manipulation, fantastical wig building and design, and, of course, those acid wash jean techniques coupled with and fabric painting and distressing – all the things you’d expect in a cyber-punk world.
“It is fun to be a part of a design team to create a product that is revolutionary to this opera program,” said Sutton.
Idomeneo was created by Mozart and librettist Giambattista Varesco to be used in a court carnival for the Elector of Bavania in 1781. It is described as an “opera seria,” which refers to the noble and serious styling of Italian opera. However, Idomeneo differs slightly from the traditional opera seria style, incorporating more musical continuity and ensemble writing, creating a nice blend between the Italian and French styles of opera.
About the Ralph Opera Center
The Ralph Opera Center, housed at the state-of-the-art University Center for the Arts, is named in honor of Charles and Reta Ralph in recognition of their generous and continuing support of opera at Colorado State University. The Ralphs’ benevolence provides programmatic support and professional development opportunities, as well as a broad scholarship support system for students studying vocal performance. Auditions for the Ralph Opera Center are held at the beginning of each semester and are open to all CSU students.
The Ralph Opera Center performs two fully staged productions with orchestra each semester, as well as multiple opera scenes programs, spanning the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras. Past presentations include: Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Verdi’s Falstaff, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Mozart’s Magic Flute, Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Domenico Cimarosa’s Il segreto matrimonio, Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience, Massenet’s Cendrillon, and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica.
Tiffany Blake, Stage Director
Praised by Opera News Online for her “truly virtuoso performance … immaculate tone, good support and breath to spare,” soprano Tiffany Blake received her DMA in vocal performance with a minor in opera stage direction from the Eastman School of Music, where she also earned her MM and was awarded the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. She received her B.A. from Sonoma State University in Northern California. In 2009 Dr. Blake was one of 12 interns chosen from applicants across the U.S. and Canada to participate in the prestigious NATS Internship Program. She currently serves as director of the Ralph Opera Center at CSU.
Wes Kenney, Conductor
The 2007 Grand Prize Winner of the Varna (Bulgaria) International Conducting Competition, Wes Kenney is now in his 10th season as music director of the Fort Collins Symphony. Named in 2004 to an additional post as music director of Opera Fort Collins, he currently conducts three professional operatic productions as well as numerous orchestra concerts and dance performances each season throughout Northern Colorado.
Steven Aguiló-Arbues, Conductor
Steven Aguiló-Arbues enjoys his various roles as a vocal coach, recitalist, répétiteur and conductor. He has performed as a solo and collaborative pianist throughout Spain, Italy, Peru and the United States, and has worked on many opera productions, including Die Zauberflöte, Madama Butterfly, Don Giovanni, Dialogues des Carmélites, Rigoletto, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Carmen, and others. He has coached singers who have won regional and national finalist titles in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and have been hired by opera companies throughout the world.
Noelle Bauman, Conductor
Noelle Bauman is a graduate student at Colorado State University, earning her master’s degree in conducting with Maestro Wes Kenney. She received her undergraduate degree in music education from CSU in 2012. Noelle taught elementary music in Fruita, where she began an elementary percussion ensemble dedicated to the community through service learning. Currently, she is the graduate assistant conductor of the CSU Symphony Orchestra. The communities of Fort Collins and the CSU Music Department have been an integral aspect of Bauman’s development and progression as a musician.
The University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University provides an enriched venue in which the study and practice of art, dance, music, and theatre are nurtured and sustained by building the skills and knowledge needed by future generations of arts professionals to become contributors to the essential vitality of our culture and society.
Tickets are $10 for CSU students, $1 for youth (under 18), and $20 for the public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at 970-491-ARTS (2787), or online at www.CSUArtsTickets.com. Youth tickets must be purchased in person at the Ticket Office. All tickets are subject to a $1 ticket fee for both online and at-the-door purchases. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended to avoid lines and further at-the-door fees.
For more information, visit UCA.Colostate.edu.