In-person productions are starting to slowly resurface and for Boulder Opera Company that means the kickoff of a new season on Sunday. Although it may not provide as many scheduled dates as previous years, it is guaranteed to offer powerhouse vocals, comedic wit and fully-costumed productions for audiences of all ages.
“We are thrilled to be able to perform our whole limited season at The Spark opening with ‘Le Nozze di Figaro,’” said Dianela Acosta, founder, artistic director and executive director of Boulder Opera. “It has been a difficult process to figure out if Boulder Opera could continue our season, but with the help of the National Endowment of the Arts and the Boulder Community Foundation, we feel encouraged to continue bringing live and virtual opera to our community.”
The Spark, at 4847 Pearl St., suite B4, is a 4,600-square-foot venue space with an open-air theater that is truly ideal for the times. Up to 55 seats will be filled for the upcoming productions.
“The Spark has adapted to the times of health crisis and is a great venue for Boulder Opera to offer live and virtual shows following all the safety guidelines,” Acosta said. “The Spark is in a warehouse and we will keep the garage doors open, with heating lamps to keep everyone warm. We keep monitoring the weather and it looks like opening night is a great day to see an opera. We had to make budget cuts to our limited season, but we feel it’s important to support our creatives and uplift our audiences.”
While so much entertainment seems to be of a virtual nature, Boulder Opera is excited to be offering the community chances to break away from the screen.
“Just being one of the very few companies able to offer live events is a blessing,” said Michael Travis Risner, stage director of Boulder Opera. “The Spark is an excellent space and we are able to comply with all COVID-related mandates and offer great live theater to an audience.”
Boulder Opera is known for providing productions that bring famous operatic pieces of yesteryear into today with intriguing sets, dramatic wardrobes and talented casts with exceptional vocal ranges and abilities.
“Le Nozze di Figaro” (The Marriage of Figaro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is no different, as it centers around a dramatic story of mix-ups and features some of the most popular music by the prolific composer.
While the opera’s libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte in 1786 and adapted from the 1784 stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, its themes could easily surface in a modern telenovela.
The production centers on Figaro and Susanna, servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva, preparing for their upcoming nuptials. Figaro becomes enraged when he learns from his bride that the Count has tried to seduce her and begins to plot revenge on his master.
“I mean, the music for him alone is enough to fall in love with the role of Figaro,” said Zeky Nadji, who plays the lead. “But, it’s exciting playing a character that has such a large range in emotions. At times, he’s elated while singing and dancing around with his fiancée Susanna, in others he’s plotting with Cherubino and the Countess and other times he is absolutely heartbroken over the mistaken loss of his wife to the Count. He’s so down to earth and just an absolute joy to perform.”
Beaumarchais’s original stage play — that included a climactic speech by Figaro against inherited nobility — was at first banned in Vienna by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II.
Nadji is excited to step into this live-action role, as much of his gigs throughout the pandemic were prerecorded for later viewing.
“For me, what I’m most looking forward to is being able to perform in front of people again,” Nadji said. “Making music in your own apartment and over video calls is fine and something we needed to do in order to adapt during the pandemic. But, none of those compare to performing in front of a live audience where you can actually see and hear how they’re reacting to you and your colleagues’ performances.”
Music from “Le Nozze di Figaro” has been used in the hit series “Mad Men,” 2009’s “Zombieland” and 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption.”
In the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” Wonka plays the overture from the opera to unlock the famous factory doors. In the scene, Mrs. Teevee, one of the children’s mothers, incorrectly claims the music is composed by Rachmaninoff, giving no credit to Mozart.
“The entire opera is loaded with musical gems,” Risner said. “Mozart wrote so well for the voice — which isn’t always true, even of great opera composers — and to hear our singers bring the score to life is just magical. I never get tired of it.”
Throughout the pandemic, the local nonprofit has creatively found ways to deliver socially distanced live events to folks. From performing in the lobby of the Dairy Arts Center on Valentine’s Day weekend to crafting virtual singing telegrams upon request, Boulder Opera remains dedicated to sharing the art of song in unique ways.
“We are supporting the livelihoods of so many musicians in the area and hopefully bringing a little relief to our audiences,” Acosta said. “From Opera in the Park at the Bandshell last summer, to our opera dinner production of ‘La Boheme’ to recently our Valentine’s program at the Dairy Arts Center, we have received positive feedback from our audiences on how much live music is needed in these times.”
After “Le Nozze di Figaro” wraps, Boulder Opera will be presenting two productions as part of its Family Series at The Spark. The revival of the much-adored “Puss in Boots”/ “Gato con Botas” is set for April 2 and 3 during Boulder Arts Week and “L’enfant et les sortilèges” by Maurice Ravel is scheduled for May 7, 8 and 9.
“We still need funding support through ticket sales and a fundraising campaign in the spring, but we are hopeful that as the pandemic eases that people will start venturing out,” Acosta said.
There is also a possibility of Opera in the Park returning to the Boulder Bandshell on Aug. 14, but for now fans of the arts can revel in an opera that brings to light issues of class, jealousy and the danger and hilarity of jumping to conclusions.
Someone even leaps out of a window amid the mayhem of this not-so-typical day in Spain.
“We have a superb cast of local professional singers led by our music director Steven Aguiló-Arbues and stage director Michael Travis Risner,” Acosta said. “Easy laughs and beautiful music, I recommend this opera for the whole family.”
Showtimes are 1 p.m. Sunday and March 14 and 3 p.m. March 13. Tickets range from $30 to $35.
For $19 fans can access the livestream.
“My biggest hope is that attendees leave feeling happy,” Risner said. “Opera kind of has a bad reputation of being a stilted art form, something that is typically associated with snobbery and privilege — which, incidentally, is one of the main plotlines of this particular opera, the deconstruction of privilege. I hope our audience finds the characters and setting relatable, as well as finding the music well-played, well-sung and well-acted.”