Friday, January 18, 2019
Sun Valley Opera Opens a New Chapter, Hiccup Aside
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Carolyn Benson and Kit Wright share cocktails with Jill and David Hitchin prior to the gala show and dinner Friday night.
 
Monday, December 31, 2018
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

It had the glam as 151 men and women attired in tuxedos and evening gowns sipped champagne in the new Argyros Performing Arts Center.

The prime rib that caterer Judith McQueen set out in a silver buffet featured a wine demi-glace. And the red-covered tablecloths strewn with pearls and candles as theater lighting cast a warm blue and maroon glow on a stage bedecked with chandeliers.

There was just one little hiccup to Sun Valley Opera’s long-anticipated Sparkling Winter Gala—Met Opera singer Kate Aldrich  had bronchitis and couldn’t sing any of her famous opera numbers such as “Habanera” from “Carmen.”

 
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Attendees enjoyed a buffet of salmon and prime rib before taking to the dance floor.
 

Aldrich, who has been hailed as “the Carmen of this Generation,” likened it to a pianist trying to play after his piano had been axed to bits.

“Some call it bronchitis; others, walking pneumonia. I call it an unfortunate coughing event,” she told the opera patrons.

The show did go on, albeit in different fashion than Sun Valley Opera’s board had envisioned  when they inked the contract with Aldrich months ago.

The late Ann Sothern’s granddaughter Heidi Hogan, who had already been slated to perform with dance band All Night Dinner following dinner, stepped in with three hours’ notice to do a handful of numbers, including George Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

 
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Kate Albright soldiered through a few songs despite being ill.
 

 Pianist Sean Rogers, a concert pianist and conductor of the Treasure Valley Symphony, played a couple extra numbers.

And Aldrich did manage to do four numbers, including Leonard Bernstein’s “I Can Cook Too” from “On the Town” and “Cry Me a River,” which she noted was the first jazz standard she’d ever sung.

“I promise I’ll come back when my voice is back and sing opera,” she told the audience as she finished “Not a Day Goes By” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along.”

Despite the disappointment of not getting to see an acclaimed singer at her best, the evening marked a new chapter in the story of the Sun Valley Opera.

 
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Roger DeBard and Frank Meyer praised the Argyros as “a wonderful addition” to Sun Valley’s cultural scene.
 

“The board after 17 years decided it’s time for an opera gala,” said Sun Valley Opera Co-Founder Frank Meyer. “Operas around world have galas where everyone dresses up. We used to have the boutonniere party so we hope this ends up being the new black tie party. This is the most fabulous use of the performing arts center I can imagine.  It’s a new chapter not only for the Sun Valley Opera but for performing arts here.”

Mary Jo Helmeke, Sun Valley Opera’s executive director, agreed: “When the Argyros was being built, they told us, ‘We want you to do something special.’ We took it seriously, and here we are.”

Jan Lassetter Mead, chair of Sun Valley Opera’s Diva Committee, said the new performing arts center gives the opera a special place to hold performances that it did not have before.

And Edwin Outwater, the opera’s chairman, noted that the Argyros would expand the opera’s capabilities while elevating the performing arts in the community “to an entirely new plateau.”

 
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Jan Lassetter Mead and Phebe Thorne serve on the Sun Valley Opera board, in addition to organizing intimate Diva Parties in people’s homes.
 

Board member Phebe Thorne agreed as she recalled the opera’s beginnings.

“I came from New York, and Frank said he wanted more music during winter. I said, ‘Just get a good singer out of Juilliard School of Music and sit round the piano.’ ”

In fact, the first concerts featured 30 to 40 guests sitting around the piano in Ketchum resident Marsha Ingham’s home as budding opera singers sang a menu of hits from opera and Broadway.

As audiences grew, the opera staged performances at the Church of the Big Wood, Sun Valley’s Limelight Room, nexStage Theatre and even the Sun Valley Club. 

The opera snagged English tenor Alfie Boe just as he got hot with his performance as Jean Valjean in the musical “Les Miserables.” It commissioned a Temptations tribute show that took the stage of the Sun Valley Pavilion last summer. And it showed just how far it had come when it brought Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn to offer a Salute to Broadway with the help of Craig Jessop and the American Festival Orchestra and producer Tom Perakos.

It will bring Michael Fabiano and Emmett O’Hanlon, who sang with Celtic Thunder, in February.

For David and Jill Hitchin the evening offered the holiday glamour that Sun Valley used to enjoy with the hospital ball followed by the Winter Solstice black tie affair that the Hitchins held until the Lodge Dining Room was closed.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Jill Hitchin. “I love how you can turn that main theater into a room for dining and dancing. I sat in the retractable theater seats watching the ‘Messiah’ the other evening, and now here we are sitting here on the floor having dinner.”

 “This is just wonderful,” added Connie Hoffman. “And it’s amazing how well you can hear people talk with the sound reduction they have in the theater.”

COMING UP:

The Sun Valley Opera will screen “The King and I” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum.

The lavish musical stars Kelli O’Hara, Ken Watanabe and Ruthie Ann Miles at the  London Palladium.

“We had Kelli O’Hara with Nathan Gunn, then she left us to go to London to do this,” said Mary Jo Helmeke. “Someone got the rights to do a video and we got it from them.”

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 or children 12 and under, available at www.theargyros.org or by calling 208-726-7872.

 

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