Inside the Utah Opera Chorus: Part II
Carolyn Klassen joined the Utah Opera Chorus during the tenure of its founder, Glade Peterson, and the fall of 2014 will mark her 25th anniversary. We were lucky enough to have some time to get Klassen’s take on her experience in her own words.
How long have you been in the Utah Opera Chorus?
My first show was The Tales of Hoffman in 1989. I have sung in one or more productions each season for the last 24 years. I have been in the chorus of over 60 productions.
Tell us your favorite production or something unique that you’d like to share?
One of my favorite shows was the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath. It was so wonderful to have the composer in the room with us to explain what he was thinking and what he wanted from us. The chorus had many characters to play in the show (think costume changes). It was also special because not only was my husband Tom Klassen in the chorus, both our children were supers in the show.
It was wonderful to do the Gilbert and Sullivan Shows at Deer Valley during summer seasons. G&S is so fun, and to take “the show on the road” so to speak was another exciting dimension. Learning how to sing with microphones and having the marvelous Utah Symphony on stage with us, and not in the pit, was beautiful.
The production of Orphee we did in 2000 was very unique because we collaborated with a local modern dance company. Being on stage intermingled with the dancers was thrilling, and I had never sung in a Baroque opera before.
In our most recent production of Pagliacci the director had very specific characters for the chorus to portray. There was the town drunk, the beggar, the outcast, etc…. He chose me to be the blind woman in the community. It was very challenging to be lead around by a colleague and to look past (not completely focus) on the action. It was a great opportunity to hone my acting skills.
What does it feel like when you perform in a crowded theatre?
Getting in front of the audience is really the “icing on the cake”. We work on the music (sometimes preparing for months) then work for weeks with the stage director getting the show “on its feet”. During the week before we open we get on the set and add lighting, props, costumes, wigs and make-up. With every additional layer the show takes life. By the time the rehearsal period is over we are ready to share with the audience. There is an energy that comes back to us on stage when the audience is finally in the house. It is what we work so hard for. It is an amazing feeling to create something with a team of talented people and then “send it out there” to be received by the audience. I am always proud of the work the opera chorus does.
Will you elaborate on your training in music?
I have a Masters in Voice.
What is your current occupation?
My “day job” is the Manager of Information Technology at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, a psychiatric hospital.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am grateful for all the opportunities, large and small, that I have had with Utah Opera. I hope I have many more years to work with this company. I am proud of what we create here. Nearly every production Tom and I find ourselves saying how lucky we are to be part of such a wonderful company.