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Zachary James and Bonnie Montgomery to Serve Up Potpourri of Opera, Country and More
Thursday, January 26, 2023


“Anything you can do I can do better.”

That refrain from Irving Berlin’s classic song is the theme of the evening as opera/country star Bonnie Montgomery and Broadway/opera star Zachary James team up to kick off Sun Valley Opera’s Winterfest 23.

The two will teasingly try to outdo one another—and they’ll join hands at moments, as well—as they present an evening of opera, country, pop and show tunes on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at The Argyros. The evening will feature a Diva Party with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 p.m., followed by the concert at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets start at $75, available at https://www.sunvalleyopera.com/store/p/diva-party-and-concert-starring-zachary-james-and-bonnie-montgomery-

The concert is the first of three in the Winterfest series.

“Each of the three Winterfest concerts has its own uniqueness,” said Sun Valley Opera Co-Founder Frank Meyer. “The first one on Jan. 31 showcases the versatility of world-class voices. Mr. James, classically trained  for opera, has performed on Broadway and was recently one of the principal stars at Phillip Glass’s new opera “Aknahten.”

“Bonnie Montgomery is likewise a classically trained vocalist and the winner of the Entertainer of the Year award at the Arkansas Country Music Awards. With this versatility we will have something for everyone, including “Habanera” from “Carmen” and “Shallow” from Lady Gaga” and “Crazy” from Willie Nelson or Patsy Cline.”

In fact, those attending Tuesday’s concert can expect Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business like Show Business,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved you,” Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” among others.

Montgomery said she is excited to perform favorite American and Broadway standards, along with the aria from “Carmen” where she played the title role, along with some country classics she performs all the time with her band in country venues.

“As Wanda Jackson told me, ‘We’re in the fun business,’ and both opera and country are part of show business with the same components, even though they might look very different. From venue to audience to show times to improvisation, the two genres can vary greatly, but I find the basics of performing are exactly the same,” she said.

“Plus, the subject matter of opera and country is strangely similar—love, sex, murder, heartbreak, drunkenness, drama infidelity, unrequited love… Most people don’t realize that the subject matter of opera is pretty trashy, even though that’s a widely known fact about country music.”

Montgomery is a creative nomad lauded as much for classical opera arias, and polished parlor songs as for her lawless country barnburners. Having grown up in Arkansas, she loves everything from high romantic ballads swaddled in violins to spaghetti western-inspired vignettes.

In addition to winning 2020 Entertainer of the Year with the Arkansas Country Music Awards, she has won such titles as 2019 Americana/Roots Artist of the Year, 2016 Outlaw Female at the Ameripolitan Awards and Best Americana Artist and Best Female Vocalist at the 2018 Arkansas Country Music  Awards.

She even wrote a 2016 opera about President Bill Clinton’s youth as a 14-year-old in Hot Springs, Ark., that won accolades from The New Yorker and Huffington Post.

“It’s named ‘Billy Blythe’ because that was his given name until he changed it at age 15, his father William Blythe having passed away before he was born,” she said. “It’s based on his autobiography and his mother’s, as well, and all the events depicted in the opera are factual event. He had a very dramatic upbringing with plenty of colorful, vibrant, southern characters. In many ways, it’s a portrait of Arkansas in the 1950s, as much as it is about Clinton. And it’s an uplifting story about hope and the courage to dream.”

It was none other than Zachary James who facilitated the premiere of the opera at Opera Ithaca before it was performed by colleges around the country and at workshops in New York.

“He’s been an angel in my life all these years. But, although we’ve collaborated and recorded remotely, this will be our first time singing together and I am thrilled,” Montgomery said.

Zachary James is a Grammy Award winner, the Broadway World Vocalist and Performer of the Decade and a TV actor. He’s been applauded as “a true stage animal” with a huge robust bass with “oomph and range,” according to reviewers for Opera News and others.

He created the role of Lurch on Broadway’s “The Addams Family” and the role of Abraham Lincoln in Philip Glass’s opera “The Perfect American at the Teatro Real in Madrid.”

He performed in The Metropolitan Opera’s “Akhnaten” and “Wozzeck” and he’s performed at London’s English National Opera, Spain’s Teatro Real and the LA Opera, as well as on HBO’s “Succession,” the sitcoms “30 Rock” and “Murphy Brown” and on PBS Great Performances and Live from Lincoln Center.

“We have known each other for 10 years,” said Montgomery. “He brought my opera to New York City when he was running a young renegade opera company called Metropolis Opera Project. We had it in Hells Kitchen at a tiny venue with no AC or elevator. And it got great media reviews.”


The Sun Valley Opera is just getting started with Winterfest23:

  • On Feb. 17 Hadleigh Adams, touted as the International Showman of Musical Theater and Opera, will perform “Stories from the Stage: A Life Well Lived in Musical Theater and Opera.” The 6:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by wine and hors d’oeuvres at 5:30.
  • On March 23 Tenor Ashley Faatoalia will join Soprano Marina Harris for a Crossover Concert featuring duets of opera, pop, musical theater songs from around the world. That concert will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Sun Valley Opera House.

Psst—Buy tickets to all three shows, which gives you a 10 percent discount and a $175 tax deduction.

Sadly, however, MetHD screenings have been postponed due to technical difficulties. So much snow piled up on the roof top of the Magic Lantern Cinema beginning in early November that the Dish Network could not install the dish.

Sun Valley Opera hopes to have them up and running by March.

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