When you say “Central City” these days it tends to conjure up images of gambling. Back in the day, though, Central City was called the “richest square mile on Earth” due to the money coming out of the hills and not the slot machines. So rich and vibrant was it that the Welsh and Cornish miners built an opera house… which still stands. This summer, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Colorado’s gold rush, you could do a lot worse than the Central City Opera, America’s fifth oldest opera company.

The six-week summer festival has recently begun to include “progressive works” in addition to traditional fare. Progressive works = musicals. This year’s non-opera offering is Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” which is almost entirely sung, so you can discuss amongst yourselves what is and is not an opera. (It also features the hit song, “Send In The Clowns.”)

The other shows are Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”– melodies from which play on Jack Nicholson’s cell phone in the film “The Departed”– and Handel’s “Rinaldo” which is set during the First Crusade and was written for castrati (the parts are now sung by women dressed as men).

Finally, there are several Opera traditions to keep an eye out for, including the annual Yellow Rose Ball, Colorado’s oldest debutante ceremony, on opening day, and the Ushers Song, sung by the marching Usher Corps (interns from various deparments of the Opera house) who troop up the street to open the theater for each performance.

Culture Central City Opera 2009