By Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Engagement
Good morning readers! Some people yell in their sleep.
Why did I choose to share this particular tidbit of information with you this fine day? Because the gentleman in the room next to mine exhibited this behavior during the night and into the wee hours of the morning. And I’m running on three hours of sleep so I can make no promises with today’s blog. I have had the oddest things happen while we are on tour. This one is going on the list.
Everyone is up and having breakfast on their own this morning before we meet at the vehicles to load up our stuff. We hit the road ahead of schedule today, which is great and means we can take our time on the drive. We’re headed to Gunnison where we’ll be today and tomorrow. We stop to feed The Beasty and Yeti. It’s a beautiful day; clear blue skies, but chilly. Luckily there’s not as much wind today so that should make the drive easier.
We quickly find ourselves in a canyon with some really cool rock formations. There’s much more snow than in Alamosa. The silent partners in the back are again being silent which effectively postpones the Disney extravaganza, so Parisa and I decide to listen to Anna Russel on the drive. Readers, if you don’t know who she is, look her up. Her bit on Wagner’s Ring Cycle is pure genius. We’re laughing and enjoying the scenery, which is a good thing because we’re stuck behind three semi-trucks on a 2-lane county road. The drive starts to get pretty curvy and several of us are getting headaches and not feeling so great. I look in the rearview mirror to check on Charles and Omar and see a deer jump off the hillside right onto the road in front of the Denali. Everyone is fine – including deer. Charles may be a dog lover, but he’s got cat-like reflexes.
As we come around a curve, the trucks put on their brakes and everything comes to a sudden stop. We see a car waving a red flag. Wait a minute. I’m having a major Déjà vu moment. This is strangely reminiscent of last year’s tour. But there’s no way we could have an experience like that again. Or could we? Yes, indeed – we’re in the middle of a cattle drive. We roll down the windows and listen as the cows thunder past us. Allison videotapes the moment for posterity. So does Ryan. He also moos at the cows and one moos back. Our Ryan – he’s a great conversationalist, species notwithstanding. Being caught in a cattle drive is something I highly recommend.
Cattle cleared, we finally make it to the main road leading into Gunnison and breathe a sigh of relief as we get past the trucks. In town, we stop on main street for some lunch. Danielle, Parisa and I head over to a local coffee shop and Allison, Omar, Ryan and Charles decide to make sandwiches with things they brought up and eat in the car. I take a minute to call the hotel to see when we can check in and they have our rooms ready now. Great news. We actually have time to get into our rooms and get settled before heading over to the school for this afternoon’s performance.
Soon enough it’s time to load back into the cars and get to the school. We’re performing The Barber of Seville at Gunnison Elementary. It’s a school we’ve developed a close relationship with over several years. We’ve haven’t done a performance since 2015 though, so it’s wonderful to be back doing that. We arrive and head to the office to get checked in. We’re met with smiling faces and lots of excitement. The whole school has prepared for our visit. Charles and I pull the cars around to the load in location while everyone else moves the piano to the performance location. Our contact, Nancy, who is the music teacher, is recovering from shoulder surgery so we’re happy to help out.
We get to the stage and begin to set up. While putting on their costumes and makeup, the Young Artists get creative with their roles, using accents to change up their characters. Ryan becomes Carol Channing playing the role of Bartolo and Omar does his best impersonation of Apu (think The Simpson’s) in the role of Count Almaviva. It was priceless. I pull the curtains shut as the students come in and take their seats. The principal welcomes everyone and then introduces me. I talk to the students about what they’re going to see, introduce Parisa and we open the show with a big “bravo.”
I will never get tired of hearing those little voices laugh and respond to our touring productions. On Omar’s first bit, a rose toss, I hear one little voice laugh and say, “What a goof.” As soon as they hear Charles sing the first few bars of the Largo, they get so excited because they recognize the music. When the set is opened, there are audible ooh and ahs and I hear another little voice that say, “That is so cool!” This show is full of antics and the kids are laughing like crazy at all the right places, but when we want them to listen and focus on the story, they’re quiet and attentive. People often don’t believe me when I say that a preschooler will sit through a 50-minute performance. They do. I’ve seen it time after time.
Sitting in the wings, I take notes on the performance and capture some actions shots. After bows, I go start the Q&A. No crickets today; dozens of hands go up. Questions include: “How long did it take you to put all that stuff up?” “How long did you have to practice to do this show?” And.. my personal favorite, “Do you like doing this? Is it something you would recommend?” Yes, young man, we would absolutely recommend opera! The principal thanks us for coming and bringing “real deal opera” to the school. We wave goodbye and begin the process of loading out. Omar and Charles seem especially good at spatial reasoning today and with a lot of team work, things get done fairly quickly. We head back to the hotel so everyone can take a break before we go to dinner. Nancy, the fabulous music teacher, wants to join us, so we make plans to meet up later.
I catch up on some work in my room while the others do… I actually have no idea what they’re doing at the moment. Napping, watching TV, taking a dip I the pool, working out; all are possibilities. After just completing a performance of Barber, my money is on napping. Time to meet up for dinner. I head downstairs, find the group and we hop into the cars and drive to main street. Upon arrival, we celebrate a victory for Charles. He expertly parallel parks the Yeti. You have to understand that he did this having no visibility out of the rear window, it’s impressive. I even take a picture.
We meet Nancy at the restaurant. I strategically seat myself between her and Omar. Why? I happen to know that these two have something in common. Something that’s very rare. A unique talent. They’re both writing an opera. Nancy is writing an opera based on a book dealing with a period of American history. Omar is writing an opera on a Spanish play. I thought they might want to share insights, talk about the challenges, you name it. It was fascinating to be in the middle and listen to both of them. There’s other conversation over dinner too. Allison gives us the low down on the new Disney movie. Danielle and Parisa share a very rare high five (Parisa does not high five readers – this is a major life event), Ryan and I talk about the finer points of sugar skulls and then we all discuss the fact that Charles is a chick magnet. (Georgia, if you’re reading this, he’s innocent) Seems Charles had some fans batting their eyelashes at Adams State yesterday. Honest to goodness dinner conversation, it’s a nice way to spend an evening and somewhat of a luxury when you’re on tour.
We bid Nancy goodbye – it was lovely to spend some time with her. She’s so supportive of Opera Colorado. Omar and Charles decide to head back to the hotel while the rest of us make a grocery store run. At the store I select a vanilla yogurt parfait with blueberries. I read the ingredients which say, and I quote, “May contain vanilla yogurt.” I put it back on the shelf. Everyone’s shopping complete, we return to the hotel and call it a night. We have a busy day tomorrow. There’s a master class at Western State Colorado University, then load in, set up and some rehearsals and then an evening performance of The Elixir of Love for the community. Rest is called for.
Oh – and just what did the Young Artists do on their brief break? Three hot tubbed, one went to the gym and two watched TV. At least that’s what I was told. There were no confessions of napping.
Good night readers,