By Cherity Koepke
Good morning readers! Yesterday, Opera Colorado closed our production of Falstaff—and today we leave on tour. I’ll just leave that there for a minute… We’re hitting the road on our annual Greater Colorado Tour. This will be a busy one. We have 14 bookings over the next 10 days.
Today we’re headed to Fairplay for a performance at the Edith Teter Elementary. The mountains are so green and while we do run into a bit of rain and snow, it’s pretty light and nothing compared to what I’ve encountered on past tours. Talk in my car is ample but I can’t provide a commentary, I’m afraid. It’s not that Heath, Jordan, and Nick aren’t blog-worthy—but I needed to be on a phone meeting, so I just wasn’t listening. Just as my meeting neared its end, I lost cell reception, so I did hear the comments my crew made about the scenery. It’s beautiful up here. On the course of our drive, we saw a bald eagle, deer, elk, antelope, goats, geese, and what was either a dive-bombing hawk or a drone with a poorly-planned flight path. We darn-near hit the thing and me yelling at it from the driver’s seat did absolutely no good.
Our lunch stop is special. We get to meet Joyce DeRoos at her cabin in Jefferson. Joyce is one of Katie’s sponsors and we love having the chance to spend some time with her. We can’t stop long because we have to get to our performance location, but we have time to enjoy a homemade lunch and some wonderful company. The Young Artists even have a few minutes to ride on the ATVs. It’s chilly up here and several of the group haven’t packed jackets, so Joyce takes the moment to outfit them in warm garb. Nathan and Nicole wear matching sweaters and Vanessa says they look like newlyweds. Perhaps, but when Katie appears she looks like a feminine version of Daniel Boone. At least they’ll all be toasty. Jordan and I stay back to visit with Joyce and we watch as Heath, driving one of the ATVs, does wheelies. I’m not sure who screamed louder, the girls or Nick. Just kidding; Nick didn’t scream, he giggled. Everyone returns and we have to say goodbye to Joyce, but she’s decided to come see our performance, so it’s just for a bit.
We pile into the cars and get back on the road. It’s a relatively short drive to Fairplay and we reach the school right on time. As the Young Artists set up, I have another phone meeting, this one also interrupted by no cell service, but I’m able to dial back in and we make it work. Today’s performance is sponsored by the Breckenridge Music in the Schools Foundation. We’ve been working with them for years and we’re glad that our partnership continues. I meet the arts teacher and welcome Joyce, who’s arrived, and we get set. Today’s show will be the highest altitude the Young Artists have performed at yet and I know from experience that they’re going to feel it. I give them some suggestions on how to manage it and then the students begin to come in and take their seats. We have preschool through 5th grade for this show and they are excited; it takes me several tries to get them quiet so we can begin. I do the preshow speech, introduce Jordan who will be playing a piano that is in serious need of a tuning, and we start the performance.
The kids love Cinderella. They are very vocal with their reactions, which can be distracting, but the Young Artists handle it well. They also manage the altitude but they are feeling it. Andrew even finds a way to work the fact that they’re singing at over 9,000 feet into an ad lib response in the show. Bows are met with cheers and applause and I go out to wrap things up. We don’t have time to do a Q&A today because the preschool and kindergarten classes have to leave, so I wave goodbye and the students filter out as everyone sucks down some water or oxygen, based on their needs. We miss saying goodbye to Joyce before she leaves, but we’re so glad she came and grateful for a fabulous lunch and wonderful hospitality.
As load out commences, I get flagged down by the custodian. He says the door to the rental car is wide open and has been since the show started. I rush out and check—but everything seems fine. Turns out that someone just left it open when they were getting things out of the car before the show. Thank heavens small towns still exist; nothing was touched. With a quick caution to everyone to make sure that doesn’t happen again, we finish load out.
Time to get back on the road and head to Salida where we’ll spend the night. It’s another beautiful drive—something that’s sure to be repeated daily on tour. We see hundreds of baby cows and learn that Heath doesn’t like veal. Jordan and I discuss the finer points of fence building and Nick, being Nick, times wry comments when most appropriate. We make it to Salida, reach our hotel, and I get us checked in. While they’re waiting, the Young Artists look around the lobby or engage each other in conversation. Nick says that he’s surprised by the number of hotels or motels in this town. Others take that to mean that Nick doesn’t like this town very much. This is a topic that we will return to for the rest of the evening. The teasing that happens in this group is something to see.
We unload our bags and then head to dinner. It’s the first chance we’ve had to really just sit and talk. Falstaff comes up and, not for the first time, we comment on how wonderful our cast was. Later in the meal, people pretend to be animals: Vanessa an ostrich, Andrew a panda, and Heath a sloth (I don’t recall the others). I admit, I didn’t really get this game and since I never became an animal, I’m pretty confident I didn’t play it correctly. Nathan does impressions of Nick and Heath. Nick does an impression of Nathan. We watch a video that Andrew took on this phone of Jordan yawning (which is spectacular) and we all admire the view. The restaurant is right on the river. It’s now that we all just take a deep breath. We’re in the last stretch—the final 3 weeks of their contract. It’s hard to believe.
After dinner, some decide to walk along the river while others head back to the hotel. We have an afternoon show tomorrow, so we don’t have to be up early, which is a rarity on tour so we’re going to take advantage of it if we can.
That, readers, is a quick snapshot of Day 1. I’ll be sharing more stories from the road as we go. Thanks for joining us—we’re happy to have you along for the journey.
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.