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Steamboat Magazine

Emerging Artists Take the Stage

08/02/2023 10:37AM ● By Suzy Magill
Steamboat Springs, CO - Opera is descending on Steamboat Springs this month as Opera Steamboat brings two shows to town, the fruit of their Emerging Artists program. In the past, artists have paid tuition to be part of the program, but now, the program is free to participating artists, thanks to the Steamboat Springs art community.

“Essentially, individual donors, most of whom had been giving to Opera Steamboat for years, all agreed to add to their gift and sponsor a young artist,” explains Thea Wigglesworth, operations manager at Opera Steamboat. “We are thrilled by the outpouring of community support. It really illustrates how important it is to our community in Steamboat to support young artists.”

The nine emerging artists showcased this summer were hand-picked from a pool of 489 applicants by Ben Robinson, Opera Steamboat’s artistic director. Through the program, they will get invaluable experience performing and practicing, as well as masterclasses, the chance to participate in a workshop on a newly commissioned opera, and sessions on career and audition preparation. 

“Opera is a practice. You only get better by practicing in front of other people,” Thea says. “So part of the training of any young singer is getting as much experience performing and preparing a role as possible.”
(Opera Steamboat rehearses "Gianni Schicchi.” Photo courtesy of  Melissa Hampton.)

Steamboat Opera will put on two masterclasses, led by baritones Troy Cook and SeungHyeon Baek, who plays the title role in this summer’s performance of “Gianni Schicchi.” Both artists are celebrated; SeungHyeon has performed in operas nationwide, including the New Orleans and Orlando Operas, and Troy Cook recently made his Royal Opera House debut in London.

“We know that the best way to become a better singer is to practice and be taught by those who are further along in their career, so we work very hard to provide those opportunities for our emerging artists,” Thea says.

“Gianni Schicchi,” an Italian comedy in which a family argues over the will of Buoso Donati, the very wealthy, very powerful, recently deceased patriarch of the family, features four professional guest artists in the leading roles, including SeungHyeon. 

“The masterclasses are extremely valuable opportunities, but there’s something really special about getting to stand next to people and be on stage one foot away from people who have sung at the Met,” says Geoff Peterson, one of the emerging artists in the program. “That’s where we’re all trying to get to.”

The second opera, “Proving Up,” is a Western ghost story about the challenges of homesteading, and is truly a feature of the young artists themselves. 
(Avanti Dey. Courtesy of Opera Steamboat) 

One artist, Avanti Dey, says that what pulled her to Opera Steamboat was the range between the two shows they were producing. She describes them as “diametrically opposed in music style.” 

“We are in a musically evolving world. Having the opportunity to perform all kinds of music that is changing along with the audience’s attitudes advances the field as a whole,” Avanti says.

What brings the two shows together is a theme of family, more specifically, dysfunctional families. “Gianni Schicchi” and “Proving Up” are two wildly different operas that debuted 100 years apart. Still, in each one, a family faces challenges they must overcome. 

Both operas are accompanied by the Opera Steamboat orchestra, which the artists say is critical to the performances. 
(Pete Wesoloski. Courtesy of Opera Steamboat) 

“We’re blessed to have them. To move up to bigger and bigger shows, we have to learn to sing with an orchestra,” says Pete Wesoloski, one of the program’s participants. “In similarly sized companies that are smaller and put on these more intimate shows, you’re lucky to have four woodwinds and a piano,” he laughs.

A handful of artists will also participate in a workshop for a newly commissioned opera about our very own Steamboat Springs. 
“It’s about people who have had a very strong impression on this community specifically,” Avanti explains. “Working in real-time to see that evolve and happen is going to be a tremendous experience.” 

See both shows at Perry-Mansfield’s newly renovated Julie Harris Theatre. “Gianni Schicchi” will be performed on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. “Proving Up” will take place on Saturday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. For tickets, visit