Wednesday evening, patrons in Colorado Springs saw the premiere of Penrose: A Colorado Legacy and Other Tales of Love. This evening of opera, theatre scenes by Sam Shephard and a few musical theatre pieces, is the culmination of 11 days of hard work by the talented teenagers of our Summer Performing Arts Intensive. This is the 9th year that Central City Opera has collaborated with the Colorado Springs Conservatory, and as the Education & Community Programs Department Stage Manager, I've been privileged to be a part of this awesome experience for six of those years.
For the first week and a half, the students live in residence in Colorado Springs with instructors assisting them in all aspects of performance. They also spend time researching a topic; this year focuses on Colorado philanthropists Julie and Spencer Penrose. The students researched the couples' lives, visiting the Pioneer Museum, El Pomar, the Carriage Museum and the Shrine of the Sun, and even met a friend of Julie's for some insider anecdotes. With the help of composer Roger Ames and librettist Jeff Gilden, the teenagers combined all they've learned, took liberties with their own new characters and a bit of the chronology, ultimately creating an opera that we believe Julie and Spencer would agree honors the spirit of their lives and legacies.
Oh, wait! Did I mention they also work on opera and theatre scenes too? Wednesday evening began with a love-themed scenes program including musical theatre (Candide and Wicked), opera (including La Boheme, The Coronation of Poppea, The Merry Widow, The Bartered Bride, Carmen and four of Mozart's operas) and dialogue from Sam Shepard's Savage/Love.
For me, one of the most touching moments was a duet (later turning into an ensemble piece) from Wicked. I know the history of many of these kids and certainly how quickly they become close friends during this short time. You could see the love and joy in all of their eyes as they sang, "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
The world premiere of their brand-new Penrose opera followed. It included fun numbers like a "Boys Being Boys" song about Spencer's bachelor life followed by the girls trying to gain the rich bachelor's attention. There's also a charming "I'm the Greatest" type song sung by Spencer, and the opera ends with a touching piece about the Penrose's true legacy, having touched so many people's lives in Colorado and beyond.
The Intensive continues through this weekend with the students in residence in Central City through Sunday. They will attend all five main stage operas, observe classes of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program and also receive their own master classes in movement, stage combat and vocal work with Festival company members. In the short time in between, they'll finesse their scenes program. There will be two public performances of their work in Williams Stables (across from the Opera House). For just $5 you can enjoy the AMAZING scenes program these students have prepared during this Performing Arts Intensive: on Saturday July 30th at 2:30 PM and Sunday July 31st at 10:00 AM. Please join us! Tickets are available online.
Auditions for the Performing Arts Intensive are generally in the Fall. For more information, visit our Performing Arts Intensive page or contact the Colorado Springs Conservatory at (719) 577-4556.