Story: Homegrown talents thrive in Rimrock Opera Company

Homegrown talents thrive in Rimrock Opera Company

JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2007 11:00 pm
In the second act of the Rimrock Opera Company’s production of “Cosi fan tutte,” a Butte native and a Lander, Wyo., veterinarian’s assistant, croon the loveliest of Mozart duets.

It’s a treat for opera fans because it’s one of the sweetest moments in the opera and these two fine vocalists nailed every note in a rehearsal earlier this week. But what makes the scene even more amazing is something we’ve all come to expect from the ROC – its knack for showcasing international vocalists as well as local performers. And, in some instances, they are one in the same.

Baritone Curt Olds, who grew up in Butte, is playing Guglielmo, one of the leading roles in the Italian opera “Cosi fan tutte,” which roughly translates to “Women are Fickle.” He is one of the rare vocalists who successfully performs in both opera and stage musicals. He has toured with the New York City Opera and performed on Broadway in “Riverdance” during his career. Yet every time he prepares for a role, he said it’s different because of the vocalists he is paired with.

“No matter what your experience level is, you have to find a balance,” Olds said.
A bus-load of friends, family and opera fans will travel from Butte to see Olds perform next week at the Alberta Bair Theater.

“This is a good opera to see because Mozart achieves perfection in writing,” Olds said.
Soprano Diedra Walker makes her stage debut as a leading lady in her role as Dorabella, the woman Guglielmo falls for in the second act. The two of them have some stage chemistry despite the fact that they met just days ago when they started full-cast rehearsals at West Park Plaza.

Walker, who works as a veterinary assistant in Lander, Wyo., has studied under her famous opera-singing father, John Walker. After being a guest soloist in last spring’s ROC production of “Die Fledermaus,” Walker landed a role in “The Night Harry Stopped Smoking,” performing in more than 90 shows of the touring school production.

The entire cast has been rehearsing their music on their own – some, like Billings native Lisa Lombardy for 10 months – to prepare for this production. It’s up to artistic director Douglas Nagel and music director and conductor Timm Rolek to find vocalists who not only fit the physical description of their roles, but who will sound good together.
Rolek, who has been involved in two previous ROC operas, said the duet shows the two are perfect together for their roles. And, he said, the music, specifically their duet, is some of the most beautiful ever written by Mozart.

“And the comedy in the music is just infectious,” said Rolek, who is artistic director of the Sacramento Opera.

Nagel starts looking for vocalists sometimes years before they actually perform with the ROC. And, many times, as in the case of bass Dennis Rupp, who plays Don Alfonso, once they perform with the ROC in Billings, they keep coming back.

Rupp has performed in several ROC operas, including the world premiere of “Nosferatu.”
“They asked me to come for ‘Nosferatu,’ now they can’t get rid of me,” Rupp said.
Tenor Adam Flowers is making his debut with the ROC as Ferrando, a role he performed six years ago with Opera San Jose. He said the role is challenging because of its high tenor notes, but once he’s in it, it makes all the extra effort worthwhile.

Soprano Amy Logan, who teaches choir at Skyview High School and directs Rimrock Opera Chorus for Kids, plays the role of Despina, a cunning maid in “Cosi fan tutte.” Logan first got involved with ROC in 2002, when she played clarinet in the orchestra, and is now making her main stage debut as a lead vocalist with ROC.
The camaraderie of the cast is half the fun of being in a big production, performers say.

“It’s amazing coming together as a cast,” Lombardy said. “We’ve all been working on our parts for so long, but separately. It’s fun to see how it all comes together.”