For seven years, Marin Alsop has steadily led a major regional orchestra and vigorously maintained a double life as a highly sought-after guest conductor, all the while forging her own style after lingering in the shadows of her apprenticeship to one of the world's musical geniuses, the late Leonard Bernstein.
But when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's plucky maestra ascends the Central City Opera's sunken podium this Saturday night, she'll step into surprisingly unfamiliar territory. "I've done several operas," she says during a rehearsal break at the historic mining town's Festival Hall. "But either in concert or coming in at the last minute. So I've never gone through the entire process, and that's really fascinating."
In addition to adjusting her interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata to complement director Michael Ehrman's staging, Alsop says that her first-ever summer opera experience is providing her with "the same sort of interpersonal thing I love about being a conductor: watching all the people start an interaction that's comfortable and then grows into something meaningful. It's just beautiful."
Sounding more relaxed than the high-energy conductor she is (the one given to spirited mid-concert lectures), Alsop says she hopes her CCO debut will be the start of a beautiful relationship. "I seem to be working well with Michael's style. Since I don't have a lot of experience in this, maybe I'm more low-key. Generally, each rehearsal, I'll do the music for a little bit, and then he'll stage it. Then I get more insight into how he's feeling about the characters and their motivations, and then I can sort of go back and tailor the music to heighten the characterization a bit more."
Best of all, she says, "It's close to home, I know many members of the orchestra, the singers are great, and I'm having a great time. For me, it's like living on another planet for a few weeks. And I needed a vacation."