While there are plenty of new Broadway musicals to adore, the old classics should never be forgotten.
Colorado Springs opera singer and vocal teacher Solveig Olsen has scored a lifelong dream role in one such classic — Meredith Wilson’s 1957 show, “The Music Man.” Opera Theatre of the Rockies will present the production Saturday and Sunday at Colorado College’s Kathryn Mohrman Theatre in Armstrong Hall.
“A lot of older ones tend to be dismissed,” Olsen said. “They can be seen as sexist and not progressive.”
That’s not the fate for this Tony Award winner, though, which is currently having a moment on Broadway with stars Sutton Foster and Hugh Jackman, who was nominated for a Tony this year for the role of Harold Hill, the “Music Man” himself.
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It also helps that Olsen’s character, Marian the librarian, is no delicate flower. She’s strong and stubborn, owns all the books in the town’s library, wants everyone to read, and is a snob until she falls in love with Hill, played by James Allbritten, music director for A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Love stories never go away,” she said. “Harold is a swindler and a womanizer and those types of characters still exist in modern-day society. Even though there are love stories that happened 100 years ago, the plot never changes. Society hasn’t changed in that way.”
In the show, Harold is a shady, smooth-talking salesperson who happens upon the small town of River City, Iowa, where he convinces the residents to buy instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he’s organizing. Except there is no band, he knows zilch about music, and he’s planning to skip town with the cash. The whole scheme collapses when he meets Marian.
“All the issues in it can be taken and put into a modern-day context,” Olsen said. “Pushy moms, kids who are shy, gossip in small towns. It’s still relevant.”
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There’s a difference when it comes to a theater company doing a musical versus an opera company. The latter sings with full opera voices, while the former traditionally belts, a singing technique that produces big, powerful vocals.
“We still sing them operatically even though they’re technically Broadway musicals,” Olsen said. “A lot of opera companies have been doing musicals for years now.”
It might be a way to keep audiences interested, Olsen postulates, as opera tends to be more of an older person’s art form, and musicals are a way to draw bigger crowds.
“Opera needs to become more progressive and expand the way it’s presented,” she said. “Companies are realizing it’s not just about a big grand opera house anymore. It’s about doing smaller things in smaller venues that make it appealing to the masses.”
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Olsen’s voice teacher told her at a young age she’d be an opera singer. Her prediction proved true at college, when her voice naturally gravitated toward classical music, and she developed a love for interpreting pieces of music written hundreds of years ago.
“There’s something about the feeling of it that’s physically fulfilling,” she said. “I love the language, as well. And opera plots are just preposterous. You’re singing in Italian and French, but working on a character that is ridiculous. Operas have characters you would never act in a play or musical. You get to go overboard.”
Contact the writer: 636-0270
Contact the writer: 636-0270