Emerging opera performers were handpicked from a nationwide audition to study with the Emerald City Opera in Steamboat Springs. The young singers will perform a smaller-scale version of "Elixir of Love," an Italian opera, at 7 p.m. today at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Craig.

Keri Rusthoi/Courtesy Photo

Emerging opera performers were handpicked from a nationwide audition to study with the Emerald City Opera in Steamboat Springs. The young singers will perform a smaller-scale version of "Elixir of Love," an Italian opera, at 7 p.m. today at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Craig.

Emerald City Opera to perform Italian opera set in the Old West

If you go

What: "Elixir of Love," an Italian opera written by Gaetano Donizetti

Who: Emerald City Opera Institute

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1295 W. Ninth St., in Craig

Cost: Free

Operas, cowboys and steer wrestling don't usually go hand in hand.

But tonight, the heart of the Old West will shine through with a famous Italian opera, performed by the Emerald City Opera Artist Institute for Emerging Singers, of Steamboat Springs.

The performance of "Elixir of Love," by Gaetano Donizetti, will take place at 7 p.m. in the cultural center at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1295 W. Ninth St.

The event is free and open to the public, sponsored by Colorado Northwestern Community College's student government.

Mary Karen Solomon, CNCC chair of arts and sciences, said she hopes the performance will act as an introduction to operatic arts in Craig.

"I've always loved opera, and we need more of an introduction to it here," she said. "Sometimes it's kind of expensive and people might not be able to afford to go. We want it to be accessible."

To make the show easily received by the Craig and Steamboat Springs audiences, the traditional Italian story - usually set in a small village in the 1700s - was planted in a typical Old West town in the late 1800s.

"It has a saloon, ranchers and cowboys," said Keri Rusthoi, Emerald City Opera artistic director. "There's lassos and steer wrestling involved. It's a great comedy."

Rusthoi said the romantic farce is a story of unrequited love and a magic love potion.

The male lead, Nemorino, falls in love with the girl next door, and a series of confusing events surround the eventual pairing of the two lovers.

Solomon said the translation into a western setting makes the performance more entertaining and accessible.

"A lot of people think opera connotes bad things," Solomon said. "People think of it as being stuffy and pompous, hard to understand or enjoy. But, it's really just highly developed theater. It's belle canto, which means beautiful singing. The music is just gorgeous. "

Solomon said last year, the first year Emerald City performed in Craig, the audience was small but thoroughly entertained.

"We had a really mixed audience," she said. "It was small, but there were teenagers, families, some older people, and everyone loved it."

The main stage production, performed by an international cast, opened Saturday in Steamboat Springs to a standing ovation. Tickets still are available for a Thursday performance with the main cast.

The Craig performance will involve a number of hand-picked emerging singing professionals.

Young opera singers from New York, Miami and Denver auditioned for the chance to be a part of the Emerald City's Emerging Singers program and the chance to perform a famous opera.

The 15 students of college age and older traveled to Steamboat Springs for a month of studying with the professional cast.

As the Emerald City Opera practiced and rehearsed with director Sarah Meyer, of the Metropolitan Opera, the young singers took it all in and developed their own version of the show for smaller stages around the region.

Although the younger cast knew their parts when they arrived in Steamboat Springs, the emerging artists staged the show and it was ready for the stage in a week, a staggering achievement for those familiar with theater production, Rusthoi said.

The Craig performance will be their final one, and Rusthoi wants to send them off on a good note.

"We really want to give young artists an opportunity to perform," Rusthoi said. "But more importantly, we want to have the opportunity to develop an audience."

Valerie Davia, the education and community outreach director for Emerald City Opera, said while the Emerging Singers are students, they don't perform that way.

"It's a very high-caliber performance," Davia said. "It's not to be missed. Even people who think they don't like opera will love it."

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