Opera in Southern Utah? St. George Opera finds a voice at new theater in Kayenta

Guests line up to attend a performance of the St. George Opera at the Center for the Arts at Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 30, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

IVINS — Is there a place for opera in Southern Utah? Judging by Monday evening’s full house in the newly opened Lorraine Boccardo Theater in the Center for the Arts at Kayenta, the answer is yes.

Adults and children alike filled the new theater for the St. George Opera’s season-opening production of “Magic, Mystery and Macabre in Opera and Musical Theater.” The Halloween-themed performance featured musical numbers and scenes from opera, musical theater and movies and included a little something to please everyone’s palate.

St. George Opera director Amy Nielsen performs the Poison Aria from “Romeo and Juliet” in the Lorraine Boccardo Theater in the Center for the Arts at Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 30, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The St. George Opera company began in 2012 but took a few years hiatus while its first director and one of its board members pursued higher education.

The revived company is now under the direction of former board member Amy Nielsen, who is all but her dissertation shy of earning her doctorate degree in vocal performance and opera directing. With Nielsen at the helm, the opera company has had three prior performances: one in October 2016 and again in February and June of this year.

Monday’s performance marked the beginning of their second season.

While the St. George Opera has been revived for a solid year, they have not had a home for their productions, said Jan Broberg, the executive director of the Center for the Arts at Kayenta.

“We invited them to partner with us at this new venue because we believe in what they are doing,” Broberg said. “We believe that St. George is ready for some opera.”

Review of “Magic, Mystery and Macabre in Opera and Musical Theater”

I was invited to attend the production and learn a little bit more about the young company as they entertained the audience with a mixture of pieces ranging from well-known opera’s to more modern musical theater and movies.

Opera can be a difficult art form to love. Many opera’s are written in foreign languages, making them inherently difficult to understand. I applaud the St. George Opera and Nielsen for being bold enough to bring their passion for opera to the masses.

The performance was perhaps over ambitious in its desire to please everyone in the audience, but for the most part I found the production charming and engaging.

The talent is definitely there. What the opera company needs now is a little fine tuning of the details and proper funding so they are able to have a good stage manager to keep the transitions smooth and all the behind-the-scenes nuances running smoothly. Nielsen was trying to fill too many roles at once which led to longer lag time between numbers and minor set confusions and microphone issues.

The addition of children to the performance brought the magic of Halloween to the stage like only children can. The opening number, “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” from Harry Potter, was particularly engaging. Knowing there is another generation that appreciates musical art forms like opera is encouraging for both the future of opera and the arts in general.

The St. George Opera performs in the Lorraine Boccardo Theater in the Center for the Arts at Kayenta, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 30, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The choreography by Sherlynn Davis was well done and used the theater space well. The addition of Stan Poole, aka “Max the Magician,” in the final number was a delight for both adults and kids.

Although there were many powerful vocalists, the stand out performer of the evening for me was Nielsen herself who did a stirring rendition of the Poison Aria from “Romeo and Juliet.” It was very powerful and such a good example of how opera can really reach into the soul and evoke emotion despite the language barrier.

I am excited about opera in St. George and look forward to watching this company grow. I hope they continue to bring opera to the masses and reach out to new audiences. That being said, I would really love to see them do a full opera without worrying about whether the audience will accept it or not. I think the community is ready for it.

Lorraine Boccardo Theater

As Southern Utah diversifies its arts offerings, Broberg said she hopes that the Center for the Arts at Kayenta will become a hub for artists looking to share their unique talents and ideas.

“When you have people that are looking for something new or something different, something that maybe hasn’t been done before,” Broberg said, “you can be sure that we will definitely want to hear your ideas and that we would like to produce them for that greater public.”

Broberg hopes the center for the arts and its new theater will be a home for storytelling events, poetry slams, lectures, never before seen musicals and much more.

The center has a belief, Broberg said, that diversifying really means inclusion, and the center hopes to include all art forms and provide a home for things like the opera.

The St. George Opera’s next production, “Moonlight Romance,” will take place in February 2018.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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