Michael Mayes on Dead Man Walking, Cut and Shoot, Texas, and social-justice opera

Courtesy of Michael Mayes
Michael Mayes plays Joseph de Rocher in Central City Opera's production of Dead Man Walking.
Growing up in an East Texas trailer park gave Michael Mayes an edge on the other singers trying out for the role of Joseph De Rocher, the convicted murderer and rapist in Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie's opera Dead Man Walking. It's a part Mayes knows well; he grew up with guys like De Rocher, in a town called Cut and Shoot, Texas.

In advance of Central City Opera's production of Dead Man Walking, Westword spoke with Mayes about his role and the social justice work he does through opera.

See also: Sister Helen Prejean fights the death penalty with opera

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Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Eve Orenstein

Eve Orenstein in Cinderella, performing with the Opera Colorado Outreach Ensemble.
#99: Eve Orenstein

New Jersey-born mezzo soprano Eve Orenstein was born into alternative culture: Her mother is a composer and her father an artist and designer who's known for creating the first inflatable furniture back in the '60s. But her own cultural love in life turned out to be opera, a classical genre she champions as a living art that's still growing and changing in the 21st century. To that end, she spearheaded Colorado's chapter of Opera on Tap, wherein opera singers let loose monthly for casual audiences in bars, breweries and other beer-friendly performance spaces, but she still also performs in the real thing, both here and back on the East Coast.

In her spare time? Orenstein addresses her other love -- local foodie culture -- through her other project, the food-swap club Mile High Swappers. We're amazed that a woman this busy even had time to sit down with the 100CC questionnaire, but she did, and her insights follow, with gusto.

See also: Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Chris Coleman

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Sister Helen Prejean fights the death penalty with opera

Categories: Activism, Opera

Courtesy of Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking.
Standing outside the Angola State Penitentiary after witnessing the execution of Patrick Sonnier, Sister Helen Prejean struggled to wrap her head around what she had just seen. After all, in the United States, executions are hidden from the public, and few people ever witness the state killing a person -- much less deal with the complexity of advocating for a murderer who's about to be executed at the same time they're trying to support the victims' families. As one of the nation's leading advocates in the fight to abolish the death penalty, Sister Prejean faces these tensions daily and uses the power of story to advance a nationwide dialogue about the immorality of capital punishment. The memoir of her work on death row, Dead Man Walking, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film and, most recently, an opera, written by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. Sister Prejean will be in Denver for a screening and book signing on Wednesday, March 12, and a death-penalty symposium on Thursday, March 13, as part of Central City Opera's Prisons, Compassion and Redemption Project, a series of public events leading up to the July performance of Dead Man Walking. In advance of those appearances, Westword spoke with Sister Prejean about the opera, the death penalty and the role of art in addressing social issues.

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Cabaret Otaku and the NDK anime con community join forces to help one of their own

Inoli Shiba Costumes
The Cabaret Otaku company in rehearsal for The Medium.
When Nan Desu Kan staff member Becca Cressler collapsed on stage during the Cosplay contest at this year's anime convention, everyone in the building stepped in to help. After two grand mal seizures and an extended hospital stay, the uninsured Cressler was left with mounting medical bills -- but again, her community was there to support her.

This Friday, October 18, Cabaret Otaku -- a troupe that brings traditional opera to the stage through the anime and cosplay community -- will be performing Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium, and donating the entirety of the evening's proceeds to the Cresslers.

See also: Nan Desu Kan 2013: Twenty unforgettable cosplay costumes

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Nancy Stohlman on flash novels and The Monster Opera, debuting as an opera Friday

From Nancy Stohlman
Nancy Stohlman can do it all. She can create new genres of literature, write operas and teach you how to do both. Someday she hopes to become a pirate, but in the meantime her new flash novel The Monster Opera will be transformed into an opera on Friday, October 4 at the Mercury Cafe. In the novel, a writer travels to Mexico to find inspiration to write -- but there are monsters everywhere waiting for her. It turns into a "gothic literary noir, a genre-bending novel-meets-libretto that combines recitative with dialogue, aria with prose, and ultimately asks the question: Who owns a story?," explains Stohlman. In advance of the opera's debut, we talked with her about being a revolutionary in her craft, some childhood memories and finding the confidence to produce authentic work.

See also: Kinky Mink Loves the '80s

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Grammy winner Libby Larsen will work with CU Opera on A Wrinkle in Time

Categories: Opera, Performance

The work of composer Libby Larsen is some of the most performed in American history. She created more than 500 pieces of music -- and more than fifty CDs -- spanning every major genre, from opera and chorus, to orchestral and classical. USA Today referred to her as "the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively."

This weekend, Larsen will make her way to Boulder to present the first act of her operatic adaption of the timeless classic, A Wrinkle in Time. Shows will take place tonight and Saturday, June 15, at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, June 16, at 2 p.m.

See also:
- The 2013 Westword Music Showcase schedule
- CU's Leigh Holman pays tribute to American opera with Susannah
- Free Negativland Shows at CU's Old Main Theatre

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An opera's survival of the Holocaust inspired A Journey of the Human Spirit

Categories: Dance, Opera

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Running two nights only -- tonight and tomorrow at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts -- A Journey of the Human Spirit is an incredible three-part look at life before, during and after the Holocaust. Based on composer Viktor Ullmann and librettist Peter Kien's fifty-minute opera The Emperor of Atlantis, the piece has been painstakingly set to klezmer music by Hal Aqua and the Lost Tribe and the newly created "From Darkness to Light," composed by Ofer Ben-Amots and choreographed by Garrett Ammon for Ballet Nouveau Colorado.

This work resulted from over a year of brainstorming and collaboration between Ballet Nouveau Colorado, Central City Opera, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, the Jewish Community Center. In advance of these two special showings, Stuart Raynor, CEO of the Jewish Community Center, gave Westword some insight into just how persistent Ullmann and Kien were to make sure their work survived the Holocaust -- even as both artists lost their lives.

See also:
- West Side Stories shines a light on Denver's colorful Jewish history
- Ballet Nouveau Colorado is headed for Five Points -- and Wonderbound
- Reach for the stars at the Mizel Museum with artists Monica Aiello and Martin Mendelsberg

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Titans of Italian Grand Opera at Boettcher Concert Hall this weekend

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Do you love opera, operatic television commercials or even opera-themed cartoons? This weekend's Titans of Italian Grand Opera, a show tailor-made for theater newbies and aficionados alike, is sure to be scores of fun. Conducted by world-renowned Chilean maestro Maximiano Valdes, the show will have plenty of international flavor, but local flair as well, with instrumentation by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and its affiliated chorus.

See also:
- Ben Dicke on the emo rock opera Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

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Luminous Thread Productions brings dreampunk theater to Denver

Categories: Opera, Theater

Mixing steampunk with the surreal and combining opera, theater, dance and circus arts, Luminous Thread Productions wants to give Denver a kind of show that the city has never seen before. That's what Mary Lin and Ben Sargent had in mind when they began dreaming up their unique production company four years ago. Now their dream is becoming tangible, with the first season of what they've named dreampunk, which will open October 28. And in the meantime, they're reaching out to arts lovers for donations to their Kickstarter campaign.

See also:
- Help Luminous Thread Productions kickstart their dream in Denver
- Luminous Thread: Dreampunk 2012 - 2013
- Now Showing: A Westword guide to the arts in Denver

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Cabaret Otaku cancels Così: The Series

Categories: Opera

The curse has struck again.

"It is cursed. It is the Così curse. You can call it that," says Cabaret Otaku's Christina Marzano Haystead. For the second time in a year, the alternative opera troupe is cancelling its planned update of Mozart's famous Così Fan Tutte called Così: The Series, which was supposed to start October 7 at the Mercury Cafe.

See also:
- A Night at the Opera
- Alamo Drafthouse partners with International Film Series
- GI Joe Fest 2012 canceled

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