Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Opera Colorado: "Madama Butterfly"—November 2014

Xiu Ying Li (r) and Dinyar Vania
©Matthew Staver for Opera Colorado

Opera Colorado opened its current season with Madama Butterfly, set in early 20th century Japan and one of Giacomo Puccini's most enduring and often-performed operas.  This is the fourth time the company has staged the tale of the doomed relationship between 15-year-old Cio-Cio San and American naval officer B.F. Pinkerton, whose 999-year-lease (with a month-to-month option to cancel) extends both to his possession of the house in Nagasaki as well as to the “bride” chosen for him to live there.

It is a rare opera where the title character is not also the star, and Madama Butterfly is no exception.  Opera Colorado endlessly publicized its signing of Chinese soprano Xiu Ying Li (”Shuying Li”) to play Cio-Cio San, especially since Ms. Li performed the role to considerable acclaim some years back with New York City Opera—a performance whose PBS telecast earned her an Emmy® award.  While a suspension of disbelief is clearly required for any soprano who tackles this role—no teenager could ever hope to meet its vocal demands—the most accomplished Cio-Cio Sans have managed to capture her sweetness of voice despite being decades older than the young woman being portrayed onstage.  Ms. Li’s powerful and occasionally penetrating voice—especially in its upper register—and her decision to show the title character as someone fully in command of her destiny, while much in line with modern-day interpretations of the role, seemed to run counter to the characterization intended by Puccini and librettists Illica and Giacosa.

Tenor Dinyar Vania was Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, the young naval lieutenant oftentimes portrayed as a cad, a villain, and the personification of the Ugly American.  The duet between Pinkerton and Butterfly that follows their exchange of wedding vows clearly illustrates the vast differences between their respective cultures and the way they see their impending life together.  The soprano sings of romantic love, while the tenor is clearly more focused on the carnal pleasures that await him.  Great tenors are exceedingly rare, and good ones are hard to come by.  As Pinkerton, Mr. Vania was adequate; he hit all the notes and played the role with more dignity than caricature.  When it comes to a company that possesses a limited budget for top singers, sometimes that is sufficient.

As has been the case with Opera Colorado the past few years, the best voices in this production were found among the supporting roles.  The character of Sharpless is constructed to echo the East-versus-West conflict inherent in the plot.  As the U.S. consul he is responsible for encouraging Pinkerton to accept Cio-Cio San as his concubine, while becoming ever more aware of the seriousness with which the girl views what is obviously a temporary arrangement.  Baritone John Hancock sang the role with masterful intonation and just the right amount of passion, his onstage presence carefully balanced between his authority as a consul and his humanity as Pinkerton’s conscience.  Mezzo-soprano Erica Brookhyser was marvelous as Suzuki, Cio-Cio San’s servant and confidante.  Puccini elected not to provide this character with her own aria, but for a supporting role she has some beautifully moving music.  Ms. Brookhyser’s duet with Li (“Flower Duet”) that concludes Act Two was the vocal highlight of the performance.  As one of the few singers not making his Opera Colorado debut in this production, baritone Jared Guest was yet another welcome addition to the cast.  He was Prince Yamadori, the prospective suitor who is turned away because Cio-Cio San is convinced Pinkerton will return to her after a three-year absence (and the birth of her son, Trouble).

There are relatively few directorial challenges to Butterfly, especially since the entire opera takes place in a single setting—Cio-Cio San’s house.  There is also only one intermission, with Acts Two and Three separated by the famous “Humming Chorus” and an absence of stage action, as the two women quietly await Pinkerton’s arrival.  The opera’s closing scene is Puccini at his best, a composer who knew how to twist an audience’s emotions toward tragedy (Mimi’s demise in La boheme; the title character’s leap of death in Tosca) or triumph (Minnie and Dick riding off into the sunset in La fanciulla del West; Calaf’s successful wooing in Turandor).  But as directed by Keturah Stickann, the opera concludes on a flat and relatively emotionless note.  Even though most operagoers know what’s coming, the depth of musical drama and the action that culminates in Cio-Cio San’s suicide—she would rather die than survive after surrendering her son to Pinkerton and his American wife—has been done with greater passion in previous productions.

It was an unnecessarily disappointing ending.  On a much brighter note, the orchestra performed to its standard level of excellence.  Under maestro Ari Pelto’s baton they played with balance and sensitivity, in general doing a much better job of contrasting crescendos and pianissimos than some of the principal singers managed to achieve.  In his Opera Colorado debut, chorus master Andres Cladera should be proud of the cohesiveness shown by his small cadre of performers, both in their onstage and offstage singing.
The final two performances of Madama Butterfly are Friday evening (November 21) and Sunday afternoon (November 23).  Limited tickets remain for both performances.  The company concludes its two-production season in May 2015 with four performances of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) by W.A. Mozart, sung in German with English and Spanish subtitles.
For further information, please visit

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flobots, One Republic and Devotchka to bowl at's Bowling Ball Oct 8th

Bowling Ball banner


ians, including hip-hop artists Molina and Bianca Mikahn. The indie-roots band Churchill will lead a hootenanny style-jam session before the final round. With so many musicians in the house, who knows what will happen? Expect some once-in-a-lifetime performances from some of Colorado's finest artists.

One Republic Joins Flobots, Devotchka, Colorado Rapids, Air Dubai, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls and more at Bowling Ball 3, Sponsored by Microsoft Store

Saturday, October 8, Lucky Strike Lanes Belmar, 6 pm

One Republic will be among the celebrity bowlers at's annual fundraiser for youth empowerment programs, presented by Microsoft Store, on Saturday, October 8. Led by songwriter and producer Ryan Tedder, the Denver-based band has sold more than two million albums and been nominated for multiple Grammy awards. As a producer, Tedder has crafted hit songs with Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and and Leona Lewis, whose "Bleeding Love" which was ranked by Billboard as one of the most played songs in the history of radio.

Hosted by Channel 93.3 KTCL's morning jock Goodman, Bowling Ball 3 is a knock-down, drag-out celebrity bowl-off that will pair hometown heroes Flobots against One Republic and other Denver luminaries while raising money for music-based empowerment programs for youth. Teams representing community groups and Colorado businesses compete for a chance to bowl with the celebs in a final round.

one republicNew this year, Bowling Ball 3 will feature appearances from some of Denver's most beloved music

Now in its third year, the Bowling Ball 3 supports's music and empowerment programs for youth in Colorado public scools and in youth residential treatment centers Previous participants include the Fray, Rise Against, Matt Morris, the Denver Nuggets and he Colorado Rapids. Last year's winners, the Epilogues, return this year as celebrity judges.

Tickets include beer, wine, cocktails and all-you-can eat tasty bites from Wahoo's Fish Taco. This event sells out! Community members are encouraged to register their teams today.


Founded in 2007 by the internationally known Denver hip-hop collective Flobots, connects underserved youth across Metro Denver with music and empowerment education. Led by a network of professional musicians, artists and educators, programs are designed to harness the power and those who love it.

Our partners include Denver Public Schools, the Mayor's Office of Education and Children, Denver Children's Home and a network of residential treatment centers for youth.

For more information, visit

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Solitaire Movie Premiere at the Gothic Theatre

By Brandy Cordova

First off, I would like to give a big thank you to The Gothic Theatre for the shows they book. I’m always impressed with the performances, whether it is a local music show, national act, or a film/movie premiere. The capacity it holds is an amazing site to see when the house is packed. The Gothic Theatre was named best live music venue in Denver by 5280 Magazine's Top of the Town 2011, and it’s easy to see why.

Not only is the ambiance outstanding, so are the familiar staff faces. I’m always intrigued by the artistic cuts and lines of the architecture, the rounded walls and wonderful recessed coves, and the mural paintings on the ceiling, all mixed with a dedicated staff. It is truly one of a kind.

In 1998, the Gothic was reborn to its glorious state which it is now, when two friends with love music and dreams, purchased the building out of bankruptcy and saved it from the wrecking ball. The new owners remodeled and rebuilt the theatre from the foundation to the roof, retaining the Art deco accents, created a wrap-around balcony, refurbished original marquee, and added a brand-new state of the art sound and light system; transforming the theatre into one of the premier music venues in the world.

Once again, I was able to revel in the ambiance of the Gothic Theatre Thursday, September 15, 2011 for the film debut of Solitaire; a back country skiing, snowboarding, and telemark film from Sweetgrass Productions. The house was packed, sold-out to be exact, and once again I was greeted by some of the familiar faces at the door and bar.

Narrated in Spanish with English subtitles, Solitaire follows an anonymous team of back country skiers and snowboarders across the rugged South American landscape of the Andes Mountains. The stunning imagery was broken by the movie's minimalist narration, a moody and amplifying Spanish reading of Joseph Conrad's novella, "Heart of Darkness." This seemed to draw the audience in deeper to the story that was unfolding before their eyes. As the title implies, Solitaire illustrates the truth that adventure lays not just in the destination, but through the journey of each individual as well.

Though surrounded by 999 fellow snow enthusiasts, I felt secluded and felt the solitary treks of the individuals in the film resonate through me as I silently watched each scene play into the next. The audience held court in silence as they watched the breath-taking footage from the remote areas of the Andes Mountains. The only sounds from the audience were of exalted cheers as they let loose as an awe-inspiring shot of a skier flying over a cornice and landing deep in powder played upon the screen; or when a snowboarder cut fresh, tight lines between rocks on super steep mountains that jut up from Mother Earth.

With the minimal narration, I was left in suspense throughout the entirety of the film. The imagery was spectacular. The length was great. And the music blended beautifully with everything else. I truly can say I was impressed! I can’t wait to watch the film again. The one critique that I, along with others that were standing in front of me, was that the subtitles were a little small and did not stay on the screen long enough to read all of it, especially when having to bob and weave to look over others shoulders and hair.

All in all, Solitaire was a beautiful, breath-taking film, for lack of better words. Most ski and snowboard premieres are packed full of music covered “segments” portraying energetic skiing and riding that amps you up for the new season. Solitaire managed to amp me up, but in a whole new way. It has made me think deeper into why else I snowboard, and a lot of that is solitary confinement in the beauty that Mother Nature holds for us. The Gothic Theatre was the best venue to premiere this film, and I am glad to have been a part of it.

Colin Wilson of Australian Pink Floyd Interview

By Groovey

Often called “The best tribute band in the world” Aussie Pink Floyd has in their 20 year history sold over 3 million concert tickets in 35 countries, been internationally recognized as the definitive Pink Floyd tribute experience, and on top of all that they have had the honor of playing David Gilmour’s 50th birthday party. Aussie Pink Floyd is bringing their massive high tech live show to to the United States with the first concert of the tour being at the Paramount Theater in Denver on October 7th. I spoke with Colin Wilson (bass/vocals) about what it takes to be in an internationally successful tribute band.

How close are you guys sonically to Pink Floyd?

Colin Wilson: Well we like to think that we are pretty close. We have spent a lot of time trying to get the sounds as accurate as possible so not only playing the notes correctly and the chords and the arrangements but also getting the individual instrument sounds sonically as accurate as possible. With multi-track recording software you can run the original recording back to back with a live recording of ours and kind of follow where things are falling in perfectly and where they are not. We use all that kind of stuff to really analyze what we are doing and where we are doing things well and where we are doing things that need improvement. We certainly didn’t learn the songs 20 years ago and stopped learning. Every year we are analyzing and every year we discover new things about Pink Floyd music. It keeps it exciting for us because we are discovering new things all the time.

Do you use the same instruments?

Colin Wilson: We try and it’s a good place to start to look at what equipment and instruments they used definitely. We use the same guitars for the most part that they used; did and do. Things like what was used in the recording studio we always try and find that stuff out. If it’s possible to get that stuff and use it then we do but often, especially when you are going back to the older material, it may be available but it’s pretty expensive to maintain and it’s not very reliable. With playing so many concerts every year we need gear that’s gonna power up and work perfectly every time. So we tend to use some newer gear that replicates the sound of the older stuff.

What are some of the harder songs to play?

Colin Wilson: They fall into different categories. Some songs are difficult for different reasons. A song like “Echoes” or a song like “Dogs” off of the Animals album are difficult in the sense that they are long, the arrangements are quite complex, the different feel during the song is sometimes hard to really nail but then there are other things that may seem on the surface to be very very simple but they are actually not and some of the early Syd Barrett stuff is like that. The songs are pretty simple songs, they have three or four chords and the arrangements are fairly standard pop music arrangements but the sounds they used, because it’s going back so old now, and there were things that happened in the studio, there were mistakes that were made in the studio and it’s some of those that are very very hard to replicate. For an example if Syd Barrett’s guitar wasn’t perfectly 100% in tune then you try and play that song with a guitar that is - you’re never going to sound like his chords. Figuring out to what degree Syd’s guitar was out of tune is almost impossible. Little things like that are really really difficult to get down, some of the newer stuff is easier in that respect because it was recorded digitally. Everything is perfectly in tune, so in some respects even though they sound more complicated they are easier to recreate.

How do you yourself adapt your playing to the different styles over their whole catalogue of music?

Colin Wilson: We kind of do it song by song. I just sit back and try to listen to it with fresh ears and analyze what was being played at the time, on what instrument and what kind of sound and do it a song at a time. It’s certainly challenging in a certain sense. We did a festival show in Switzerland just a couple of days ago. The set that we played there was no breaks in it and there was one part of the set where I played “Arnold Layne” from the The Piper at the Gates of Dawn album and then straight off that we played “Careful With That Axe Eugene” which is a real cryptic 70’s Roger Waters kind of thing and then straight after that we did “What Do You Want From Me?” from The Division Bell. So bass playing wise you have Roger Waters playing a Rickenbacker in 1967, then he’s playing a Precision bass in the 70’s and it’s all very trippy, and straight off of that I’m into the Guy Pratt era 1990’s bass playing. It struck me at the time that there is no time to adjust between songs. Bang bang bang you’re playing different styles. We’ve been at it for several years now and we’re experienced at doing that and we can do it but years ago it would definitely have been harder to do it flawlessly.

There’s a brand new stage show for the upcoming tour correct?

Colin Wilson: It’s the biggest live show we have ever had. There’s more lights than ever before there’s new video that is projected in 3D. The audience actually gets 3D glasses when they come in and take their seats. In the second half of the show we have these films that are shown in 3D and it’s like being in the movie theater. So that’s all brand new. It really is the biggest and most ambitious thing we have ever done. We’ve toured it already through Europe and the UK. We cannot wait to bring it to the States now and see what you guys make of it. The Paramount in Denver is actually the first show of the U.S. tour so you guys get to see it first.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

FREE concert 09/24/2011 @ Parker Library

Enjoy a performance by Highlands Ranch-based indie artist Danny Huber @ 2pm on Saturday, Sept. 24, in Room A at Parker Library as part of the library's Live Local Music Series.

Here's our two-part interview with Danny ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Switchpin Interview

Groovey interviews Switchpin about all things Neeto:

Talkdemonic, Reviving Cecilia and Ankylosaurus to play Moe's BBQ on 8/29!

Monday August 29 local groups Ankylosaurus (members of PaperBird) and Reviving Cecillia (formerly Consider the Raven) will team up with Oregon based band Talkdemonic. This duo just got off tour with Modest Mouse and are now hitting the road before their release of their album Ruins, due out October 4, 2011.


Reviving Cecilia

Talk Demonic

Tickets are $8 presale, and $10 the same of the show.

Moe's BBQ is located at 3295 s Broadway, next to the Gothic Theatre.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Steve Miller Band , Red Rocks 7/23/11 : Photo Recap

Please Feel free to share with the CMB team what you thought of the show if you were there!

Photos by: CMB team member Stu Kennedy

Buddy Guy His Band w/ special guest Quinn Sullivan: Red Rocks 7/23/11

Buddy Guy opened For Steve Miller @ Red Rocks this las week. He brought smile to everyones face even while he playing the Blues! His guest to play along side the band was a 12 year old guitar phenom by the name of Quinn Sullivan. Quinn gave the crowd a taste of classic blues guitar legends, it was a very fun way to enjoy the sun going down at Red Rocks before the Steve miller Band took the stage! ...

Enjoy the Photos

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thursday, July 28: Fathom Presents Israel Philharmonic at Local Movie Houses

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic, Greenwood Village-based Fathom Events will cinecast a one-night-only concert featuring two prominent opera singers, soprano Renee Fleming and tenor Joseph Calleja. Music director Zubin Mehta (pictured above) will conduct the performance, which is being billed as a "delayed live broadcast" from the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. Check local movie listings or the Fathom Web site to locate a screen near you. The performance begins promptly at 7:00 p.m. this Thursday.

Fleming has earned a reputation as one of opera's top sopranos, and she has been featured on many [New York] Metropolitan Opera "Live in HD" cinecasts over the past five years. Fathom Events was the driving force behind bringing live opera to local movie theaters, and their close relationship with the most prominent opera house in the world is the envy of many in the theater business. In recent years, Fleming has appeared in starring roles in Met productions of "Eugene Onegin" [Tchaikovsky], "Armida" [Rossini], and "Capriccio" [R. Strauss], to name but three. Calleja offers a strong, clear tenor voice that has made him one of the most sought-after singers in the past half-decade. Theater-goers would have seen him, most notably, in the Met HD productions of "Tales of Hoffmann" [Offenbach], where he sang the title role, and this past season in the Met's revival of "Lucia di Lammermoor" [Donizetti], performing as Edgardo opposite Natalie Dessay as Lucia.

Zubin Mehta has forged relationships with many of the world's most prestigious orchestras, having made his conducting debut in Vienna in 1958 at the age of 22. His longest tenure, however, rests with the Israel Philharmonic, which appointed him music advisor in 1969, music director in 1977, and Music Director for Life in 1981. He has led the ensemble in both war and peace, famously conducting the Philharmonic in a concert during the first Gulf War where the audience reportedly came to the concert hall with gas masks at hand.

The predecessor to the Israel Philharmonic was the Palestine Orchestra, formed in the 1930s as a haven for Jewish musicians fleeing Europe in advance of the spread of Nazism. Arturo Toscanini conducted the orchestra's first performance on December 26, 1936, and 75 years later the ensemble continues to attract top soloists and singers from across the globe. Attendance at classical music concerts in Israel is high, far beyond the numbers one might expect to see in a nation with such a small population. The orchestra has close to 30,000 annual subscribers to its string of concert series, oftentimes finding it necessary to repeat the same program five or six times in various venues throughout the country.

Given the identity of the soloists, it should be no surprise that this gala performance is heavily populated with operatic arias and duets. The program will open with the overture to one of Verdi's most dramatic works, "La forza del destino" (The Force of Destiny) and goes on to feature Fleming in arias from Gounod's "Faust," Puccini's "Tosca," and Verdi's "La traviata." Calleja will join Fleming in the Act I duet from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," as well as singing solo pieces from "Tosca" and Verdi's "Rigoletto."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Havok and Revocation at The Marquis

So I've often wondered what would happen if you threw in a bunch of '80's thrash metal with a pinch of progressive metal into a still and bottled it up, how would it turn out? Well it's like putting Havok and Revocation on the same stage. You get a show of mind melting leads broken up by some face smashing rhythms that's guaranteed to get you moving.

Lets start off with Havok. It was a grand welcome home show for one of Denver's best metal bands in years. They put on a show packed with killer thrash metal that I haven't seen the likes of in a while. With it being a show at the Marquis Theater, the crowd was up close and personal feeding the band with tons of energy making for a show worthy of greatness. If you are from or live in Denver and into metal check these guys out, they won't let you down.

Now for Revocation. There's a reason Metal Sucks named David Davidson “Best Modern Metal Guitarist”. You can listen to their albums and not fully understand the talent this band puts out until you see them live. Once you see Davids hands flying up and down the fretboard and all the little technical bits of genius in their songs you understand why he beat out the likes of John Petrucci from Dream Theater, Jeff Loomis from Nevermore, and Tosin Abasi from Animals As Leaders. These guys are in a league of their own with a style nobody can lay a finger on somewhere in the realm of progressive thrash metal.

I have to say this is the best show I've seen all year. If anybody out there gets a chance to see either of these bands, do it, you won't be let down. Till next time, keep up the path of destruction.

Andrew McGowen
Pics by Matthew Zinke