Puccini. Wagner. Verdi. Rossini. Rodgers and Hammerstein?
During the past decade, opera companies all over the U.S. have peppered their traditional repertoire with glamorous productions of Broadway musicals. Denver-based Central City Opera triumphed with "Oklahoma" last season and will hope to repeat this feat with Jerome Kern's classic "Show Boat." Closer to home, Opera Theatre of the Rockies took a half step last season with Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," more a hybrid of an opera and a musical than pure musical theater. This weekend, they jump in with both feet with Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1959 classic "The Sound of Music."
"We're so far away from the original art form as far as contemporary musical theater is concerned with these musicals that they have become . almost 'classical' in a sense," said Martile Rowland, founder and artistic director of the company. "A lot of contemporary Broadway singers have not been trained classically and they don't know how to project the voice in that sense."
The cast will be comprised of festival students and a number of professionals. Opera Theatre stalwart mezzo soprano Jennifer DeDominici, Carmen in the company's 10th anniversary production back in 2008, will play Maria, the ex-nun who becomes the Von Trapp children's governess. Baritone Peter Tuff, the Toreador in the same 2008 production, performs the role of Captain Von Trapp. Mezzo soprano Valerie Nicolosi, Papagena in Opera Theatre's 2010 production of "The Magic Flute" and frequent soloist in area churches and concerts, is Mother Abbess.
The original plan for this weekend was to perform Robert Ward's 1961 setting of Arthur Miller's emotionally-dark "The Crucible." But Rowland and the Opera Theatre board opted to hold that back and bring an audience favorite in for the return of the Vocal Arts Festival, formerly the Vocal Arts Symposium, after its three-year hiatus.
The production will be held in Armstrong Theatre on the Colorado College campus Friday through Sunday as part of the college's Summer Festival of the Arts.
"It turned out to be fortuitous because of what's happened in our community - the fires, floods and all that," said Rowland. "We could use a little break. It's going to be a happier time, a happier festival. It's probably a good summer for that."
With all their successes, "The Sound of Music" was probably composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II's greatest triumph in their distinguished collaboration. Winner of the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical, the film version went on to win the 1965 Academy Award for Best Picture. Based upon the true-life story of the Von Trapp family and their harrowing escape from Nazi Germany, it's a blend of comedy and drama that produces a high level of both entertainment and engagement.
"I like the story," Rowland says. She and her husband, James, "actually met the real Maria Von Trapp once in Stowe, Vt. I'm always a sucker for triumph of the spirit."
To make the production possible, Rowland expanded the festival to include elementary and middle school children. "I love that it takes real singers. I'm a sucker for those Von Trapp children. I love hearing women's voices singing in four parts."
"THE SOUND OF MUSIC"
Who: Opera Theatre of the Rockies' Vocal Arts Festival and the Colorado College Summer Festival of the Arts
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Armstrong Theatre, Colorado College, 14 E. Cache La Poudre St.
Tickets: $25-30, $10-15 students; 389-6606, www.operatheatreoftherockies.org/vocal-arts-festival-2013 or CC's Worner Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave.
Next: The festival concludes with free concert, "POP-era in the Quad," at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on the college's Armstrong Quad
Something else: Jerome Kern's "Showboat" will play Denver's Buell Theatre for seven performances (Tuesday-Aug. 11) as part of the Central City Opera's 2013 Festival; 1-303-292-6700, www.centralcityopera.org