Departure Q&A with the Director


 The 2023-24 Season Artists in Residence pose standing in a line.

Departure is a musical journey that offers a departure from the classic repertoire on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and a departure for our 2023-24 Artists in Residence. Delight in this expertly crafted program featuring pieces you know, and others you’ll discover in this exploration of opera, art song, musical theatre, and more.

Fans of our annual American Song program, which debuted ten years ago, will love this next iteration. The first half of the program features the one-act opera The Companion by Robert Paterson. The second half of the program will explore relationships through pieces by composers including Alan Menken, Cole Porter, and Stephen Sondheim.

Headshot for Cherity Koepke in a red shirt and black jacketBefore you see the live performance, hear from the Director, Cherity Koepke, in a Q&A about how Departure came to be and get a glimpse into the most exciting moments of the program!

Get tickets for Departure here>>

American Song has evolved into Departure. How did this transition come about?

A woman speaking into a handheld microphone stands on a stage with a black curtain behind her to speak in front of an audience.
Cherity Koepke addresses the audience for American Song (2019)
Photo: Opera Colorado/Jamie Kraus

We used to have two separate events: American Song, which focused on works by exclusively American composers, and an end-of-year celebration for the season’s Artists in Residence. After some consideration, the Ellie Caulkins General & Artistic Director, Greg Carpenter, and I wanted to do something more substantial for the Artists’ in Residence final performance. This year marks the tenth anniversary of American Song, so we knew we were at a pivotal point. American Song has always been a program that was designed to progress, to grow and change, while connecting our audiences to new repertoire. To continue that spirit of growth, we knew it was time to embrace another vision of the program to keep it vibrant. We liked this idea of a “departure from the norm,” and wanted to expand on it.

What is Departure and what makes it special?

Each year, Departure will have full scenes from an opera, or a one-act opera combined with complimentary individual pieces. Like American Song, Departure will continue to focus on repertoire sung in English. However, we are no longer limiting ourselves to American composers so we can explore more diverse repertoire. When creating the program, I reach out to composers and pick their brains on their work to understand exactly what they intended. This opportunity is rare in opera since so many composers of classic repertoire have long passed. Departure will feature pieces that may not have been performed before. The composers are so excited when I tell them Opera Colorado is performing their work.

As a company, we have a responsibility to keep this art form alive and showcase pieces by new composers. The operas we put on at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House are incredible, and we do have opportunities to premiere works or create new productions on the mainstage. Departure is an additional way of presenting opera to keep people curious and engaged.

What is the theme this year?

This year’s theme is relationships and much of the repertoire will take you through the stages of being involved with another person. There are many stages in a relationship to explore: finding new love, making a commitment, facing challenges, and discovering the impacts that these relationships have on your own life.

The idea began with a desire to do something more comedic. Opera Colorado filled the 2023-24 Season with dramatic stories, so we wanted to give our audiences something lighter. Greg Carpenter suggested a GRAMMY-award-winning trio of one-act operas called Three Way by Robert Paterson, and from there, I chose The Companion. This one-act opera is a dark, satirical take on how relationships could evolve with the influence of technology. The story involves a love triangle between a woman, a robot, and the technician who comes to fix the robot. I had never heard anything like it. Once I selected The Companion, I chose individual pieces to add to the program to complement it.

In the programming, I want to highlight several pieces that have been forgotten and pieces that most audiences don’t know. There was a musical from 1989 called Closer Than Ever which has largely been left in the last century. However, I guarantee audiences will identify with the piece we’re performing called “Fandango” and have it stuck in their heads. I am also very excited to feature a lesser-known work of a well-known composer, Claude-Michel Schonberg, the composer of the global sensation Les Miserables. The piece I selected for Departure, an excerpt from his musical revue titled Personals, is hilariously funny. As this piece is not performed in the United States, we have a chance to bring it to our audience and show them a different side of this renowned composer.

What will Departure sound like?

Departure will sound modern with flairs of the classics. Many think of modern opera as jarring, but it incorporates more familiar elements from musical theater. In The Companion, you will find the best of both worlds. Some pieces will feel very modern and others are more traditional arias with gorgeous composition.

Through this type of intimate performance experience, the audience will connect first and foremost with the text and the emotions of the story. The audience is part of the experience and the art in terms of the energy they give the artists. I am most excited to create this evening of comedic programming. Shared laughter is an incredible gift and enhances the performance for everyone.

Departure is a wonderful way to experience opera like never before and witness the growth of the Artists in Residence over the past season. The director chooses these pieces specifically for the Artists after an entire season of learning about their voices. It will truly be a performance for the ages!

Join us on May 30 at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for Departure. Get tickets here>>

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