Behind the Curtain: New Opera in Our Past and Future

An imposing and monochromatic set with the full chorus of The Scarlet Letter performing.
Opera Colorado’s 2016 production of The Scarlet Letter.
Photo: Opera Colorado/Matthew Staver

By: Greg Carpenter

As I reflect upon the challenges of the past year and the exciting, innovative opportunities we have embraced, I’m reminded that five years ago this month, Opera Colorado presented its first world premiere with Lori Laitman and David Mason’s The Scarlet Letter. Not unlike embracing the digital world in our recent programs of Josephine & The Promise of Living or April in Paris, taking on a world premiere is no small task. You are creating an entirely new musical, dramatic experience from the ground up.

How A New Opera Is Created

Like all great operas that have stood the test of time, you begin with a compelling story. The story is placed in the hands of a superb librettist, who can transfer it into verse without losing the intensity of the drama or the integrity of the characters. Then, the creative musical genius of the composer brings the story to life in music, both vocal and instrumental. The music heightens our emotional connection to the story and helps us connect with the characters and their relationship to one another. Once the score is complete, the design and directorial team take the words and music and create a dramatic landscape that gives us a sense of time, place, and action. This process can occur over many months or even years before a cast is hired and rehearsals begin.

Over the past ten years, Opera Colorado has presented two world premieres, The Scarlet Letter (2016), and Gerald Cohen and Deborah Brevoort’s Steal A Pencil for Me (2018), along with four new productions of contemporary operas, Daniel Catan and Marcela Fuentes-Berain’s Florencia en el Amazonas (2012), Laura Kaminsky, Kimberly Reed, and Mark Campbell’s As One (2017), Tom Cipullo’s Josephine (2019), and Tom Cipullo and David Mason’s After Life (2019).

Check out this video of soprano Laura Claycomb performing Hester’s aria, “Beyond All Price,” and get a taste of our 2016 production of The Scarlet Letter. WATCH NOW>>

A Look Into Our Future

As we approach our thirty-ninth season this fall, we continue our commitment to presenting new works alongside the classics with Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s The Shining. This new work was premiered at Minnesota Opera on the exact same night in 2016 as we premiered The Scarlet Letter, and features set and lighting design by the exact same team we used for our premiere. It is interesting how these two contemporary works share a commonality within the history of new work at Opera Colorado.

I am thrilled to broaden Opera Colorado’s artistic vision by presenting new works and rarely produced works. Our fortieth anniversary is just around the corner (2022-2023 Season), and we have some exciting programming that perfectly reflects our artistic vision. I look forward to sharing it with you when we announce our fortieth season in January of 2022.

The Creation of The Scarlet Letter:



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