May Tour Blog – Day 8

The Opera Colorado Young Artists, pianist Jordan Ortman, and Cherity Koepke, Director of the Young Artist Program and Director of Education & Community Programs, after their final performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella.” Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

By Cherity Koepke

Happy Thursday readers and welcome to the final blog of our 2018 Greater Colorado Tour! Do you remember when I said in the first blog that we were doing 14 engagements in 10 days? Well, that was actually inaccurate because two of those days were scheduled as travel days, so by the end of today we will have actually done 8 performances and 2 workshops in 8 days, not 10. No wonder we’re feeling a bit tired…

It’s up with the rooster’s crow this morning. Literally. There is a rooster who lives behind the motel where we spent the night. He’s a happy guy this morning. We had to be up any way so it wasn’t obnoxious. We leave on time, but I know how tight our schedule is this morning. We stop at the golden arches for a very quick breakfast and ample supply of coffee, then it’s back on the road. Heath asks Jordan and Nick if they want to play a car game called “camping” or something like that. It involves the game maker secretly making a rule and then listing things that they will take camping that fall within that rule. Then the other players offer up words that they think fall into the secret rule. They played two rounds. I drove.

Our car navigation system suddenly decides to reroute us mid-drive. It decides were going to Grand Junction instead of Parachute. Nathan calls to ask us if we are aware we’re going the wrong way. Oh, I’m aware alright. After going about two miles out of our way we get back to the correct route. Between the breakfast stop, the GPS betrayal, and a few areas of construction, we get to the school at 9:20 AM. Our first performance of the day starts at 10:00 AM. With everyone, and I do mean everyone, pitching in, we manage to load in, set up, do a sound check and get into costumes and makeup. It was not a relaxed morning. (Nicole actually curled her hair in the car because it has an outlet. Ah, technology.)

The Opera Colorado Young Artists Take their final bows at their final performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella.” Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

We performed at the elementary school in Parachute for the first time last year. The school was so excited about our performances of The Barber of Seville, they immediately booked us to come back this season. The kids and the staff were wonderful. So, today we’re back and it’s a double bill of Cinderella— our final two performances this season of this show. I talk to the music teacher and the students come in and take their seats. I open with the preshow talk where I tell the students about the difference between the Cinderella story they’re familiar with and this one and I remind them that it’s a comedy, so it’s OK to laugh if they see something funny. We start with a group “Bravo” and Jordan plays the first notes. We’re off—right on time.

The kids love the show. There’s lots of laughter. The show has good energy but a few of the Young Artists are clearly tired after our early morning. Andrew manages to work his sentiments about our dawn drive into some of his off stage chatter. They all decided to get together after dinner and I heard talk of doing face masks on each other—so my guess is they got less sleep than they probably needed to. We get to the kissing part and the kids gross out. It’s a pretty typical reaction from elementary school students. Let’s remember that at this age, people still have cooties. I’ve heard the “eww!” many, many times and it always makes me laugh. After bows we do a Q&A and the last question is one we’ve never gotten before.  “Did you write your lines or just you just say stuff?” I get to talk about Rossini and how I abridge the touring productions, which I don’t usually get to do. We’re down to one more performance. Time for lunch.

Most of the group wants to try a local Mexican food restaurant, but Vanessa isn’t feeling it. I don’t want her to have to eat alone, so we have a lunch with just the two of us. The place we intended to go results in another GPS fail. I am now divorcing our vehicle’s navigation system. So, we head to another restaurant that I know of and get salads that are the size of meat platters. Vanessa has gone out of her way this year to make sure she spends time with each person in the group—myself included. Getting a chance to visit with her and talk about her future plans is lovely. She’s engaged and will be busy planning a wedding among many other things. After lunch we meet up with the rest of the group and get ready for the second performance.

The chaos left backstage after a performance. Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

I talk with the students as they come in. The front row informs me that they made their reservations early so they could get the best seats. This should be a fun group. Katie is getting emotional. It’s understandable. This is their final performance of Cinderella. Backstage Nathan tells me that I’m going to miss them all, which is good because he feels like they deserve to be missed. Time to start the show! The teacher comes out and talks to the students about expectations and then I go out and give the preshow talk. With the first chords and the antics of the stepsisters, the students are already laughing. They applaud after each scene. The Young Artists take some liberties with the text and staging—but that’s what I expected with this being the final show. At the exact moment that I’m supposed to play the midnight chimes on my phone over the speaker, my phone rings so the students heard a little bit of my “laughing chipmunk” ring tone instead of a clock chimes. As they take their bows, I snap a photo of the carnage backstage and then get one of them taking their final Cinderella bow.

I start the Q&A and find out that not only is this our last Cinderella, it’s the student’s last day of school for the year. What a way to end the season! We get questions about the set design, why we were inspired to sing opera, how long it took us to put the show together, and if Nathan and Katie are really dating. When they answer, no, we’re just friends, the students look aghast. “But, they kissed!” I decide not to explain further—that’s their parent’s job. Then, one of the most priceless moments I’ve had while working with kids happens. One of the girls who was sitting in the front row comes up to me and tells me, “If I was Cinderella, I would have married him.” She points and I look in that direction. Who do I see? Not Nathan, who plays the prince. It’s Nick; who sings the role of Dandini, the prince’s servant. Turns out the servant won the day. It was precious. She waves at him all the way to the door. Well… he is very charming, our Nick.

The final strike and load out of tour commences, but not before we get a group shot of everyone—all nine of us—in front of the set. Once we’re loaded out, we head to the hotel and check in. The manager gives us a warm welcome and offers us one complimentary drink in the lounge. You know this group is tired when you only get polite thank yous. As we wait for the keys, we chat and Andrew pops my thumb (I asked him to). Once we have our room keys, everyone has some down time to use as they choose before we meet up later for dinner. Katie, Nick, and Jordan decide to go for a hike. I head back to the school to meet with the teachers—they want to talk about next year and asked for some advice about their curriculum. I have no idea what the others are doing, but Andrew mentioned a nap and I see Nicole and Nathan walking into the hotel with a cooler and a six-pack, so methinks they have some sort of a plan.

Backstage antics during their final in-school performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella.” Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

My meeting with the teachers goes well. They tell me that the day Opera Colorado comes to their school is the only culture their students have access to all year. They talk about the fundraisers they did to help with expenses. They’re passionate about their student’s education and it’s an honor to try and help. I talk to them about a few things they can bring into their lessons that are free or inexpensive and connect the arts to 21st Century Skill Development. I show them how to access some music specific things online that can support what they’re already doing. We look at the calendar and I’ll be taking dates back to the office. Parisa and I will contact them when we begin planning tour for next season. We’ll do whatever we can to continue to support them. I say goodbye, thank them for having us at the school and head back to the hotel to rest a bit myself.

A couple of hours later, we all meet up for dinner. I’ve made reservations at a restaurant in Rifle, about 20 minutes away. It’s supposed to be really good. It’s clear on the drive that a little bit of free time is a surefire pick-me-up. The group is positively chipper. At dinner, it just continues. It would take another five pages of blogging for me to tell you everything readers, so for the sake of time, I’ll provide a few highlights:

Heath can do several fine accents. Southern, Australian, and Scottish specifically. Katie and Nick cannot do a Scottish accent. Well, they can, but it’s not something fit for proper dinner conversation. Andrew speaks in movie quotes and can drink you under the table—when soda is consumed. Nicole, when dared, will not eat a fork full of sour cream with chives on it. Heath however, will. Nicole also has the ability to turn any spoken word into something sung. For example, the word “amazing.” In Nicole-speak, it’s “AHHH-maz-ing.” Nathan dislikes neon light signs and finds them to be distracting and repugnant. He also has strong feelings about Cross Fit dudes in snug t-shirts who call him “my man.” Katie and Nathan have figured out the perfect way to offend someone when proposing marriage, in a passive-aggressive sort of way. Jordan has plans to open up his own food truck. It will be an oatmeal bar and offer several interesting options. One will be called “The Heath.” No one will order “The Heath.” Jordan also consumes more food at this meal than everyday humans eat in a 24-hour period; his meal consists of an appetizer and an entrée. Not so strange you think, right? His appetizer was soup and a sandwich and his entrée was a steak with two sides. He also had chips and salsa before we got here, his entrée came with two sides, and he had cookies in the car on the way back to the hotel. Nick and Andrew will debate each other until the rest of us cry. And Vanessa? Why no little fun note about Vanessa? Because Vanessa is the fun note. Her laugh is one of the most amazing things on earth. She doesn’t have to say a word, just laugh, and the rest of us laugh too. It’s the laugh of a soprano, high and tittering. But it’s got some grit to it as well and an amazing amount of resonance.

The Opera Colorado Young Artists, pianist Jordan Ortman, and Cherity Koepke, Director of the Young Artist Program and Director of Education & Community Programs, after their final performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella.” Photo: Opera Colorado/Cherity Koepke

There were more antics on the way home, but honestly, it’s best if you aren’t fully clued in. Heath and Nick had a conversation about eagle masks and Nick was the owner of a thrift store trying to sell said masks to Heath, who was a southern gentleman. There was something about a field where people would stand in silence, wearing these masks… I have no idea. Vanessa managed to tune them out, Jordan laughed until he just wheezed and I…? I drove. They were still laughing when we got back to the hotel. To bring our merry little band back to earth, I talk about the plans for tomorrow morning. Then I bid everyone goodnight and turn in to finish the blog, respond to some emails, and finally call it a day. I have no doubt that the rest of the group will not be doing the same. They’re too riled up. Vanessa asked me at dinner if their antics ever made me uncomfortable. I told her no. I’m glad they have so much fun together. That and I just tune them out when people start staring.

We’ve come to the end of the tour blogs for the season. Thanks for reading. We’re so glad that you all joined us. I hope you’ll stay connected with Opera Colorado. We have a lot more to say. I’ll be blogging as we go on tour for the 2018-19 season; we’ll be taking opera on the road and there’s sure to be more tales to tell. It will be a new crew—well, all except one. Nick will be back with us for a second season. It’s been a wonderful year and next season promises to be wonderful as well. Eagle masks and all.

Have a great night readers.


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.

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