Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A starry night at the opera

A starry night at the opera

Soprano Joohee Choi

Listening to a soprano's voice is a sonic experience like no other. Unearthly, ethereal and at times slightly scary, it is, for many, a rare treat to hear such angelic notes in person. Here in the Wood River Valley, however, thanks to Floyd McCracken, Marsha Ingham and Frank Meyer, co-founders of the Sun Valley Opera, we have ample opportunity to delight in such sonorous experiences.

Sun Valley Opera's goal is to bring top-quality opera music to the Wood River Valley at affordable prices. The nonprofit organization puts on three to five concerts per year at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.

Unable to stage full-blown operatic productions, the opera's committee flies in talent from across the globe to entertain in this unique and intimate environment, a rare treat for opera and Broadway aficionados. The primary format of their performances is a series titled "From the Met to Broadway." Featuring singers who are as comfortable in the world of musical theater as they are in opera, the series features half an evening of opera selections and half an evening of hit Broadway songs.

The Sun Valley Opera's 2005 season ends this Friday, July 1, with a performance titled "Star Spangled Voices." Five top-class artists are flying in from Los Angeles to sing from such musical hits as "A Little Night Music," "West Side Story" and "Carousel," and from classic operas such as "Romeo and Juliette," "Barber of Seville," and "La Traviata."

Ingham said, "This performance is the perfect way to begin July Fourth celebrations. While moving from the Friday night Gallery Walk to beautiful voices, a most scrumptious Sun Valley evening."

Performing in Sun Valley for the first time is soprano Joohee Choi. Trained as a classical singer at New York's Julliard, Choi's professional career began on Broadway. Nominated for the Broadway Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her part of Tuptim in "The King and I," she also appeared in "West Side Story," "Cats" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" before returning to her true love, opera. Since the transition she has sung in New York, Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea, and this year she performed the role of Barbarina in "The Marriage of Figaro" for the Los Angeles Opera, where she is an artist in residence. "I prefer opera, I love opera. It's more challenging, more demanding, more serious—I love that."

Choi will be joined on stage this weekend by tenor Peter Nathan Foltz, mezzo-soprano Cynthia Jansen and baritone Gregorio Gonzalezho. Accomplished concert pianist Vivien Liu will accompany the singers.

Meyer said of this weekend's show, "Everyone, no matter what their musical preferences, will be in awe of these voices, harmonizing together. The famous quartet from "Rigoletto" is considered one of the most melodic quartets, be it pop or classical, ever written. It will bring the house down."

"Star Spangled Voices" takes place at 8 p.m. Friday, July 1, at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 725-5494 or at Chapter One Bookstore. General admission is $30 for adults and $15 for students under 18. Diva Tickets are $100 and include the Around the Piano Party at a private residence on June 30 and program acknowledgement.

For families, Sun Valley Opera Bravo!Club holds its annual pre-concert family barbecue at a private home on July 1. The cost for this evening of enrichment is $40 per adult and $15 for students, which includes the barbecue and performance. For information, phone 725 5494.

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