April 25, 2013
CU Opera performs magnificent version of Mark Adamo's 'Little Women'
Directors Leigh Holman and Chelsea Lewis make the most of the intimate stage. The central, elevated, realistic attic set gorgeously interrupts the conceptual memory world surrounding it. Large sheets of manuscript representing Jo March's stories form the background and floor.
April 21, 2013
CU Opera gets back to roots of 'Little Women'
The opera, which will be staged Thursday-Sunday in the Imig Music Building on the University of Colorado campus, is organized as a kind of surreal dream sequence. It is told from the perspective of Jo, who reminisces about the novel's familiar events in the March attic.
And that, said CU's director of opera, Leigh Holman, is the only truly realistic element of the set.
"It sort of floats above the floor, where we see Jo's memories play out," Holman explained. "The changes of location are conceptual, and it is obvious that we are seeing these scenes as Jo remembers them."
March 14, 2013
CU Opera review: Joyous 'Falstaff' sparkles with virtuosity
The staging is beautiful too, with an intriguing set that transforms easily from a tavern inn to an aristocratic home. The costumes, especially the title character's fat suit, are superb. And the exuberance of the comedy bears all the hallmarks of Leigh Holman, the program and stage director who approaches everything with an effervescent, infectious gusto.
March 14, 2013
Up Close: Freshman lands rare role in CU opera
March 12, 2013
Verdi’s Falstaff, with an emphasis on funny
Holman says the emphasis will be firmly on comedy.
“If you like ‘I Love Lucy’ you’ll love this show,” she says. “This is like Ethel and Lucy in a situation comedy.”
Drawing mostly from Merry Wives, the opera focuses on the eponymous knight. One of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, he’s a somewhat pompous, but jolly, lover of wine and women. He is drawn into a web of deceit when two married women he’s tried to woo trick him into a series of foolish antics and delusions. He winds up spooked and wearing antlers while fake fairies and nymphs cavort in the forest.
“There are big laughs, lots of slapstick and physical comedy,” Holman says.
March 10, 2013
Funny thing, but CU Opera stages Verdi's finale
CU Opera director Leigh Holman says "Falstaff," based on Shakespeare's "Merry Wives of Windsor," doesn't require really big voices.
"It's not heavily dramatic, but the music is really difficult," Holman said, "and the dramatic timing takes a lot of work."
She and music director Nicholas Carthy looked at the current students in the program and decided it was time to take on the piece -- the composer wrote it when he was 80 -- as this season's large spring production.
"Verdi had always wanted to do a comedy," Carthy said, "but he never found the right libretto until Arrigo Boito came up with Falstaff. He was already retired at that point, but he just threw himself into it."
Both Holman and Carthy said that the Boito libretto and Verdi's music greatly enhance the Shakespearean source, which is considered one of the bard's weaker plays.
"It's a happy Falstaff, not the pranky old evil figure seen in 'Merry Wives' and the 'Henry IV' plays," Holman said. "And the bubbly, intricate music underneath paints a picture of a man who drinks because he is jolly, not because he is depressed or corrupt."
October 25, 2012
CU Opera is a tour de force
Stage director Leigh Holman has set the story in a "steampunk" style. Gorgeous Victorian costumes are mingled with an industrial, austere setting that, like the music and the libretto, is both detached and beautiful. It is a vision that perfectly captures the most bizarre elements of both. The brothel scenes are particularly bold and daring.
March 16, 2012
CU soars with two Puccini one-act operas
October 26, 2011
Fingers Crossed for CU's Figaro!
Although the seduction, farce, and sensitivity of timeless themes revolving fidelity and marriage have kept this work of genius alive since 1786, the
sophistication and sheer complexity of this work prove to be a challenge for many universities and professional companies worldwide. Fortunately, the University of Colorado again puts its mark on the operatic map with this fall’s production, enveloping the intricacies of this glorious score while tackling the extensive plot with confidence and finess. Visually sensual and extraordinarily detailed both vocally and dramatically, this Le nozze di Figaro leaves the audience member feeling as though he or she has just had an eight course dinner; tantalized and so happily satiated.
The word “sensuality” constantly appears in regards to this production, whether in the actual marketing of the show or the mind of the viewer. The creative team of Peter Dean Beck (set and lighting designer) and Tom Robbins (costumer) demands acknowledgment for the absolutely sumptuous production elements. True to period costuming, each piece was well-crafted and ornate with features. A truly breathtaking moment appeared in the top of act two as the curtain parts to the Countess’ boudoir, softened by a curtain of sheer whiteness draped across the proscenium and the soft light from upstage glistening down before the first notes of “Porgi, amor.” Bravo, Leigh Holman, for paving the way to such a delightful production of excellence. My fingers had no need to be crossed, for expectations were definitely exceeded.
October 21, 2011
Classical Music: CU Opera's 'Figaro' sparkles with exuberant wit
It is the same gorgeous set that was used in 2000 and 2006. The beautiful costumes have not changed much. But this weekend's production of Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro" ("The Marriage of Figaro") at Macky Auditorium has something special that is entirely new and exciting.
The most obvious reason for this is the presence of stage director Leigh Holman, who played the part of Cherubino at CU in 2000. She has an understanding of the score and the story that matches music director Nicholas Carthy's absolute expertise in Mozart's music and drama.
Whether to go is not the question. It is whether one should go twice in order to see both casts.
October 13, 2011
Classical Music: CU Opera stages 'Figaro,' a comic classic
For Leigh Holman, CU Opera stage director, her relationship with Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro" has finally come full circle.
For much of her life, Holman has been associated with Cherubino, the opera's amorous page and perhaps the most famous of all "trouser roles" for the mezzo-soprano voice.
"It was the first opera role I ever played, and it became my bread and butter," Holman says. In fact, she played the role on the Macky Auditorium stage in 2000 as a doctoral student in voice. She now returns to direct the same production on the same stage this weekend.
"This is the first time I have ever directed an entire production. Spending so much time as Cherubino, I now realize that I only experienced one side of it," Holman muses. And while she is excited to bring her perspective to the two singers playing Cherubino this weekend, particularly the subtleties needed for a woman playing a boy, she is also excited to tell "the whole crazy story" in a way that the audience will appreciate.
July 22, 2011
Screenings of live and recorded opera at local theaters are drawing new fans
Leigh Holman, director of University of Colorado Opera, thinks that opera onscreen is "a vibrant, new art form. I think in the long run it's going to be really powerful to combine opera with theater, especially for developing younger audiences, which we have to do to keep this art form alive."
But some critics worry that the ease of seeing opera at the cinema may decrease the number of people attending live -- i.e. onstage, in person -- opera. Holman doesn't share that concern.
"My opinion is that live, movie-theater (opera) will only help greater the appreciation of live performances in the long run," she says.
June 16, 2011
Peering through the workshop window
“We know that this is providing something very special for composers,” Holman says. “They say, ‘This doesn’t work,’ ‘I don’t like the way I wrote this,’ ‘I want to make some changes,’ and that’s what we do.”
Last year, Holman recalls, one composer said, “‘You know, I just don’t like the way it’s coming out,’ and he asked for my advice about the way he could move things faster, and we worked with his librettist in making changes, gave those to the students, they learned the changes overnight, we came back and fixed things.”
This can be very valuable for the composer, but Holman is quick to explain that is not the main reason she started CU NOW.
“From a composer’s standpoint, I’m sure it’s about getting his work up,” she explains. “But from our standpoint it’s really more about the singers. As a trainer of young artists, it was more important [to me] to give the singers an opportunity to sing new music and work with composers who were writing music for them and for their voice.
“We’re not here to teach composers, we’re here to teach the singers how to work with composers.”
June 15, 2011
University of Colorado's New Opera Workshop to feature bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam
May 29, 2011
A high-flying summer for classical music
Boulder Daily Camera
NOW is an acronym that means exactly what it says: New Opera Workshop, a significant step into contemporary music taken for the first time last summer at the University of Colorado.
Designed to "get music off the page and into the voice" -- as Leigh Holman, director of CU Opera, says -- the program features works created and performed on site.
April 26, 2011
Berstein's Mass: A bit messy, but it works
Director Leigh Holman smartly took advantage of Boettcher's in-the-round configuration, placing the musicians and choral members behind, on the sides and in front the central action, which took place on a raised, faux-rock platform. If some of the work's tension seemed underplayed at times, her high-energy staging vibrantly captured the work's overall spirit and drama.
April 22, 2011
Cooperation en masse in Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass”
Leigh Holman, director of CU Opera, believes the Mass holds new relevance for today's audiences, because of this era's own unrest, marked by protests by the Tea Party, labor unions and others scuffling to be heard.
The work is especially appealing to a university, because of its almost unmatched potential for bringing multiple departments together. But with such collaboration have come hurdles, including all the forces being able to rehearse together only twice before Tuesday.
"I would say the biggest challenge is getting all the parts and pieces together," Holman said. "And that's probably the main reason it is not done more."
April 20, 2011
Bernstein’s bold, original ‘Mass’ a massive undertaking
March 18, 2011
University of Colorado Opera’s “Susannah”
Fortunately, CU Opera chose to perform Susannah in the period and costumes for which it was written, rather than following the trend of some companies to get their costume ideas from Lady Gaga and their set design from Tron. Peter Dean Beck’s set and lighting supplemented the performances without being intrusive; the twinkling stars and Sam’s cabin were especially good.
March 11, 2011
CU has the voice power for “Susannah” opera
In an interview, stage director Leigh Holman, who heads CU Opera, talked about why this opera makes sense for the school's program — and how her Tennessee upbringing influenced her approach to it.
Q: Why is "Susannah" appropriate for a college opera program?
A: It's not always appropriate for a college-opera program, but it's appropriate for our opera program. Even though we are using a reduced orchestration, it is still quite big, but the singers that we have doing the lead roles are quite mature. And, personally, it's an opera that I've always been excited about doing, being from Tennessee and growing up in the evangelical church. And we were planning on an all-American season this year, so it just fit nicely.
March 10, 2011
CU’s Leigh Holman pays tribute to American opera with Susannah
WW: You mentioned the fact that you're from Tennessee. Did that geographic connection play into the selection?
LH: Susannah was very close to my heart, not only because of the music but because of the relevance it has to my own life, growing up in Tennessee. The opera takes place in and around an Evangelical church; the people in the church are the people who are actually turning on Susannah. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church in Tennessee, so a lot of the story line I could really relate to. I just think it's a beautiful piece and it was appropriate for our students at the time.
July 25, 2011
CU workshop lets opera fans put their own stamp on new stagings
The idea for CU NOW emerged in 2008 when Opera America, the national service organization for the field, held its annual national conference in Denver as part of the National Performing Arts Convention.
In conjunction with the conference, Opera America asked stage director Leigh Holman, then head of Opera Colorado's young-artist program, to put together a performance sampler of recent premieres from around the country.
That event and a smaller effort under the auspices of Opera Colorado the following year were so successful that she wanted do something similar when she became director of CU Opera in 2009.
That led to CU NOW, which Holman hopes will become an annual event.
July 4, 2010
FIVE QUESTIONS with Leigh Holman, University of Colorado opera director
Q: What do you say to people who think opera is a dead art form?
A: It's not! But it is up to my colleagues and me to do our best to continue to keep it alive. If we don't offer performances of new works and put living composer's operas on the stage, audiences will believe it is a dead art. It's important that the classics live on, but side-by-side we can make new art as well.
April 16, 2010
“Our Town” opera at CU poses challenges
CU Opera director Leigh Holman is betting that her cast will deliver a strong run of the 2½-hour opera in Boulder, starting Thursday.
"At one point or another, most students have studied the play itself," she said. "And most of them know of the many, many songs that Ned has written. But he only composed a handful of operas, and this one is unique for our young opera singers because it really allows them to focus on drama.
" 'Our Town' strips away the usual spectacle of opera and puts the character story at the forefront. It requires attention to both singing and acting."
March 10, 2010
Five Questions for Leigh Holman, Director of CU Opera at the University of Colorado at Boulder
Q: This is your second CU Opera production in your current position, following "La Traviata" last fall. Even though you're an experienced professional, did you learn anything from your first CU production that's helping you this time?
A: Actually, I did. In the professional world, rehearsals are done so quickly because everyone's done their role several times before. In the academic setting, we have time to really dig into it and think about how to learn a role. In "Traviata," I tried something new and had the singers translate each of the Italian words into English, and then put it into their own words in modern language, to help them really understand every single thing they're saying.
It helped to make the drama so much more immediate. So we did that again with "Don Giovanni." For example, if Giovanni is saying something that would translate to, "Women are the air that I breathe and the depth of my existence," the actor would say something in his own words, like, "I don't think of anything in the world except women. Food doesn't matter, drink doesn't matter. I just think about my next conquest." The performers are getting out of the poetic and making it their own.
April 26, 2009
The Denver Post
Leigh Holman has found what she calls her dream job. The stage director and former professional singer has been named director of the University of Colorado at Boulder's opera program.
"I love working with students, and I really care about that program there, so it's really just a wonderful opportunity for me," said Holman, who earned her doctorate at CU.
She is the former head of the voice department at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and founder of its opera program. She is currently completing her third year as Opera Colorado's director of education and community programs.
April 22, 2009
Holman to direct CU Opera
Leigh Holman, currently director of the Opera Colorado Ensemble Artists, has been named director of CU Opera, the opera program at the University of Colorado.
Holman will direct three fully staged productions during the academic year, teach in the opera training program and participate in other CU service activities.
Under Holman's guidance, education and outreach programs at Opera Colorado have grown in three years to reach 50,000 students and adults in the region annually.
Holman holds a doctor of musical arts degree from CU and a graduate opera performance degree from Eastman School of Music. She has held several academic positions and has earned praise for opera productions throughout the United States and in England.
"As director of CU Opera Leigh brings a world of energy, talent and creative ideas to the program," says CU dean of music Daniel Sher.
July 14, 2008
Talented duo returns home
March 24, 2005
Theater reviews at the Rep and UALR opera
In a remarkably short period of time, Leigh Holman, director of the UALR Opera Theatre Workshop, has built opera into a student activity worthy of broad community support.