By Cherity Koepke
It’s Wednesday readers! Two more days of our 2018 Greater Colorado Tour before we head back to Denver. Today’s blog will be a bit less text and more photos. Not because I have nothing to write about, but because we had an early morning, a drive, a double bill at a brand new school, a dinner with Steve Dilts, and then trying to get some rest before an even earlier morning tomorrow.
We leave Lake City just after the sun comes up. We stop for gas on the way out of town and Jordan takes the opportunity to practice his window washing skills. He wants a good view for today’s drive. We’re going on the North Rim of Black Canyon. We get on the road and skirt several deer on the way and two elk who did not obey the crossing sign. We think we’re in the clear, but then a truck coming from the opposite way flashes their lights at us, which always means, “Heads up.” So we drive on in watchful mode. After a bit, we see what the warning was all about. Cows. A heard of cattle, what look to be yearlings, are making a break for it and are literally on the road to freedom. Katie leans out of her window to ask them what they’re doing and to tell them to “Git!” It worked because they got off the road and started walking on the shoulder. Vanessa documents from the backseat and Jordan watches from his now clean window. A little further ahead we see the sheriff who is trying to get the cows to go up the hill into a corral. He waves at us and we cheer him on. We can’t quite tell from the scene who is winning, the law or the cows.
This is the third year in a row on tour that we’ve had our drive interrupted by cows. Two cattle drives and now an escape attempt. We make a quick pit stop as the coffee has kicked in and then make our way to the canyon drive. It’s stunning. Well done, Colorado. Katie, Vanessa, and I talk about nature, music, the appeal of dogs, cats, and other manner of pets and… America. Jordan chirps in now and then; he can be a man of few words, but he times them well. I pull off at the scenic overlook and everyone snaps pics and selfies. I get one of the group. We then make our way down into the valley and head towards our performance location of Hotchkiss.
This is a new school for us—and that’s always exciting. Our first show will be for the middle school and the second will be K-5. After some initial confusion about where we’re supposed to set up, we get rolling. Today’s performances mark the countdown of the final performances of Cinderella this season. Two today and two tomorrow and then that’s it. I capture a backstage shot that is pretty precious. Nicole does Nathan’s hair as he puts on her shoe. It might seem like I was just at the right place at the right time and this was an isolated moment, but not really. Being someone that others want to work with, being good a colleague, is so important. You take care of each other so they can be at their best, which, in turn, allows you to be at your best too. This was just one time I happened to catch it on camera.
The middle school audience is wonderful and, though they’re quiet, they love the show. The principal tells us afterward that he was surprised that they were that into it. We even get two 8th grade boys who come to see us after the performance and ask for everyone’s autographs. The school provides us lunch during the break between shows and we only have about 40 minutes, so it’s quick. But there are cookies, so it’s OK. We talk about movies and books and Nicole snoozes on the floor. Pretty soon it’s time to get ready for the second performance and costumes are donned just as the kids come in to take their seats. This time we have grades K-5 and, though they are wiggly, they are so much fun. Their laughter and their reactions to the kissing are so genuine. By the end, the room is full of little voices shouting, “Bravo.” We do a Q&A after both shows, but get an especially appropriate question from a 3rd grader. She asks what is our favorite thing about doing opera? The answers are personal and sincere. The music, the people, the experience. I wrap things up and yet another strike and load out begins. I head out to the car to call the office to talk with two of my colleagues.
Once the set, props, and costumes are packed up we drive the short distance to our motel. We have just under two hours to rest, work, or whatever, before we meet Steve for dinner. The motel we’re staying in is something you would have seen a lot of when Route 66 was in its heyday. It’s quaint, with chairs outside of the rooms so you can enjoy the outdoors and visit with your neighbors. When I check us in, the woman at the front desk tells me that we are the first opera singers she’s ever met. Her daughter is a student at the school where we just performed and she walks in while I’m filling out paperwork. I hear her whisper to her mom, “That’s the Cinderella lady!” I’ll take it.
After a bit of down time, we meet Steve for dinner. He’s the Young Artist Liaison and Nathan’s sponsor, and this is the Young Artists’ last opportunity to spend time with him before their contracts end, and it’s time well spent. The food is good; the company is great. Vanessa gets steak, so she’s happy. Steve tells the Young Artists to be sure to keep in touch and a wave of quiet goes around the group. I don’t think they realized until that moment that this dinner would be a goodbye to Steve. I like to say—until next time. We wave and shout our thinks for dinner and then it’s back to the hotel and bed. Tomorrow we’re off to Parachute and another double bill of Cinderella. The last two Cinderellas of the season.
To round out today’s blog we’re sharing some additional pictures of the last two days. They’ll give you a sense of what we’re up to, both work and play (or both at once sometimes), that Vanessa and I have been busy documenting!
Cherity Koepke is Opera Colorado’s Director of Education & Community Programs and the Director of the Young Artist Program. To learn more about some of Opera Colorado’s many education and community opportunities, click here. To learn more about this year’s Young Artists, click here.