OC Stories: Q & A with Katie Preissner

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As part of our OC Stories blog series, we’re introducing you to the people that make Opera Colorado work. We recently got a chance to catch up with Katie Preissner, Director of Production and Artistic Services, to see what her job and life have been like during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tell us what your job entails in a typical season.

As Director of Production and Artistic Services, I oversee every production-related aspect of an opera, from preliminary season planning to after the show closes and the final invoices are paid.  I also provide administrative support to the Artistic Department.

I have a wide variety of administrative duties including (but definitely not limited to!) budget creation and tracking; negotiation of Collective Bargaining Agreements; general contract administration; hiring seasonal employees and independent contractors for each production; arranging the housing, travel, and parking for artists and staff; and show-specific preparations such as renting orchestra scores and creating chorus scores.

I also act as the point-person for visiting artists and local staff during rehearsal and performance weeks, coordinate our Opera House schedule with colleagues at Denver Arts & Venues, and research production options for titles under consideration in our five-year programming plan.

How has the pandemic changed that? What is the most surprising thing you have had to learn?

The pandemic has completely changed the focus of my work with Opera Colorado.  My job normally centers around the successful execution of our productions at the Opera House and in the community. As shutdowns began in March, my focus shifted to communications with employees and contractors regarding the postponement of Tosca, along with scenario planning as we explored next steps.

Next came a deep dive into everything COVID-19 and PPE-related, as I took on the role of Opera Colorado’s Health and Safety Officer.  This has required me to keep up with the latest data and headlines about the pandemic, as well as researching and ordering PPE and cleaning supplies to keep our office staff safe upon their return to the Opera Center.  More recently, I have been learning about creating digital content, including the ins and outs of performance licenses.

What are you most looking forward to regarding our new OC Amplified programming?

Each of the 2021 OC Amplified productions are unique.  I love that we are exploring multiculturalism and the rich artistic history of subsets of the American population that are not normally given a spotlight.  I am also beyond thrilled with the roster of artists who are joining us for these projects, which, for me, is a mix of reunions with talented, wonderful friends from past productions and introductions to artists making their debut with Opera Colorado.

What are you most looking forward to next season?

Overall, being able to produce grand opera at the Ellie, and presenting the amazing line-up of Tosca, The Shining, and Carmen. At the heart of my excitement is reuniting with my “work family.”

Rehearsal for The Barber of Seville – from the crew’s point of view

Opera Colorado has a full-time administrative staff of 12 individuals, but during an average production period, our ranks swell to easily over 200 with the addition of the seasonal and contract positions that it takes to bring an opera to the stage.  We welcome visiting artists and directors, along with the musicians of the Opera Colorado Orchestra and the local members of our chorus. The production staff is made up of dedicated and talented people in costumes and wardrobe, wigs and make-up, and stage management, as well as designers and assistants and the stagehands who make the onstage magic happen.  Putting an opera on its feet requires so many people working together towards a common goal, and I look forward to having my entire OC family back together doing what it does best.

What has life been like in general during the pandemic?

To be perfectly blunt, it has been incredibly stressful.  Like me, my husband has also made a career in the arts.  He has spent over 20 years as a stagehand with DCPA Theatre and works for Central City Opera in the summer. With Covid-19 causing season cancellations for both companies, he has been out of work since mid-March.  The 50% drop in our household income has caused many nights of insomnia, and my husband misses his work.

Katie and her son Matthew backstage at Pagliacci

Like most parents, we have been dealing with the challenges of remote learning for our second grader.  He had a wonderful experience being at school with his friends before remote learning started in December; we hope it becomes safe for him to head back to in-person learning in 2021.  We also lost one of our beloved basset hounds, Samson, to cancer in mid-March.

Not that everything has been negative!  Our younger son has not had any interruption in daycare/Pre-K, which has been a godsend.  In late June, we brought home two basset hound puppies, Fred and George, to join our old girl, Delilah; the three of them make us laugh every day and provide much-needed cuddles for the whole family. I am also incredibly grateful that our older son was able to be onstage as a super child in Opera Colorado’s production of Pagliacci last season – he still talks about how much fun he had and will randomly start singing the Act 1 chorus numbers around the house.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Katie! For more details on Opera Colorado Amplified, click here. Are there other jobs at Opera Colorado you would like to know more about? Tell us in the comments below.

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