Traditionally, Central City Opera Festival has presented all of its performances in the opera house on Eureka Street built in 1878 during in the heyday of the old mining town. Since the theatre’s restoration in 1932, patrons have flocked to the historic hamlet to enjoy performing arts in the intimate 550-seat theatre in the cool Colorado mountains. For many, a trip to Central City for the opera has been a favorite summer custom.
Beginning in 2011, the company sought to reach a larger audience and began staging some of its performances elsewhere. That year Carmen played at Greenwood Village in the suburbs of Denver; in 2012, two performances of Oklahoma! went on tour at the Newman Center in Denver. In 2013, Der Kaiser von Atlantis was presented at the Newman Center and Show Boat traveled to Denver, and last year Denver Center for Performing Arts got The Sound of Music, and Amahl & the Night Visitors played at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, and Colorado Springs audiences got How Green Was My Valley. But though it gained followers, performing in the larger venues was costly for the opera company.
“A lot of positive things came from this”, said CCO’s General/Artistic Director Pat Pearce. “We started a relationship with more than 4,000 new households, but there were built-in costs above production costs.”
This year, the company is doing something different again. It will hold its first two productions, La Traviata (July 11-August 8) and Man of La Mancha (July 18-August 9) at the opera house. But the last two shows of the festival Don Quixote and the Duchess (July 28; August 1 & 6) and The Prodigal Son (July 29 & 30; August 5) will be mobile.
The first two one-hour shows of Don Quixote will be at the Martin Foundry at 212 Eureka Street, just up the street a short way from the opera house in Central City. The August 6 production will be at the First United Methodist Church at 1005 Stover Street in Fort Collins.
Also running one hour, The Prodigal Son will be performed on July 29 and August 5 at St. James United Methodist Church also on Eureka Street across from the opera house and on July 30 in Colorado Springs at the First Christian Church at 16 East Platte Ave. All off-site shows are matinees and will be performed in English by artists of the artists-in-training program. General admission tickets are $25.
The performances in the small venues in Central City will be immersive, where the audience is seated around the action and feels part of it.
“It’s about creating something that’s different and feels different,” said Pearce. “We know the thing that makes us special is what we do in the house in Central City. It’s our priority. But since the crash in 2008, the economy is still a factor in how people buy entertainment, and the next generation has not stepped up like their parents and grandparents. We’ve been trying various things to attract new and different audiences. It has nothing to do with the art. We’re very happy with the art we create, but that’s not enough. We are swimming in a stream that we don’t know where it’s going, but we will keep swimming and delivering products in a different way.”
And hoping those 4,000 new patrons will swim along with them.
For more information on the upcoming season and to buy tickets, visit https://centralcityopera.org.