Fort Collins performance series revives opera

Callie Varra

By Guest Author, Kyle Thornburg

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Known as an art form fit for bow ties and ball gowns, the opera house seems like an unlikely setting to find a slew of college students. Stepping away from formality, The Opera Fort Collins partnered with local eatery, Avogadro’s Number, to create a casual setting for opera performance in the series titled “Arias @ Avos.”

Deemed a local watering hole for college students because of its proximity to Colorado State University’s campus, Avogadro’s Number is ripe with grungy eatery stereotypes. From the murals on the walls to the false vines that border the tables and booths, the restaurant hosts musical guests and even amateur karaoke once every month.

However, the Arias @ Avos series introduces the greater Fort Collins community to opera by foregoing the shimmering stage and opting for a casual pub-like setting. On the last Sunday of every month from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Arias @ Avos brings opera to the patio or the bar at Avogadro’s Number, free of charge.

Comprised of students from Colorado State University as well as some community members, Arias @ Avos allows young performers a platform in front of young audiences.

Lindsay Espinosa is a graduate student in the vocal performance discipline at CSU and an apprentice artist with Opera Fort Collins. Espinosa has loved to audiences that fill the seats at Avogadro’s Number, but she wishes more of her peers would take an interest in opera.

“I don’t want to be snobbish and say that this is really good culture to know, but it is because this was actually the popular music of its time,” Espinosa said. “Sometimes when we’re [singing] inside, there will be a football game playing in the bar next door and people will pop in and say ‘Oh wow, that was actually really cool.’”

Created in 2008 by Dick Thomas, Arias @ Avos was first formed to be an operatic version of American Idol, complete with elimination and voting by audiences. Yet, Thomas and the Arias @ Avos co-founder, Cynthia Vaughn, agreed to put on an event for pure entertainment.

“I said to Dick, ‘Please don’t make this a competition,’ because everything about their lives is a competition,” said Vaughn. “They compete for roles, they compete to get into the University, they compete for roles in other opera companies, so wouldn’t it be nice to have something that is just a performance.”

According to the apprentice artists, Vaughn’s suggestion has been well received in the community. Pairing the musical inclination of Fort Collins with the artists’ need for practice, Arias @ Avos has filled the venue with patrons no matter the season.

At the start of each concert series, the emcee suggests $10 donations per person. What is more valuable in the eyes of the artists, however, is looking out over a crowd of engaged community members of varied ages.

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“It would be nice to get some younger people in and keep them coming, because this is sadly not art of the popular culture right now,” Espinosa said. “This is something that I want to share with people to show that this is what I do, this does exist and it’s worth knowing about.”

With beer flowing from taps, patrons dressed in street clothes and a menu to display all finger foods, the atmosphere at Avogadro’s Number is reminiscent of a neighborhood barbecue. For Arias @ Avos, that is just the setting modern opera needs.

The next installment of Arias @ Avos will take place Oct. 26. You can keep up with Arias @ Avos through their Facebook page, “Arias @ Avos.”