Opera season opens with
© Heins Creative
Thursday, January 30, 2003 11:00 pm
It's a Mozart season for Rimrock
Opera Company of Billings. The
second regular season for the opera
company opens at 8 p.m. Friday,
March 28, with first of two
performances of "The Magic Flute."
The second performance is set for 2
p.m. Sunday, March 30.
season picks up again Friday, Oct.
24, with the first of two
performances of Don Giovanni
conducted by Barbara Day Turner and
directed by Daniel Helfgot. The
second performance is set for 2 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 26.
tickets are on sale now at the
Alberta Bair Theater Box Office or
by calling 406-256-6052. A season
ticket reserves the same seat for
both shows. Also, former season
ticket holders can reserve the seats
held during the company's first
season last year. The price on the
season ticket with a reserved seat
is $50, $35, $20 and $10 per show.
Individual tickets are also on
sale and priced at $55, $40, $25 and
$15 per show.
comedy, fantasy and imagination star
in "The Magic Flute." Billings' own
Cassandra Norville stars as Pamina,
her husband, Kiel Klaphake, plays
Tamino, and Lisa Lombardy, also of
Billings, sings the role of the evil
Queen of the Night.
conductor for the two performances
is Robert Wood of San Francisco.
Rimrock Opera artistic director
Douglas Nagel directs the show.
Both productions feature Montana and
Billings talent. Don Giovanni
features Margarett Hanegraaf, David
Cody, Anne Basinski, Lesley Jorden,
Wyoming's Jan Michael Kliewer and
Opera features 'Mozart in
February 20, 2003 11:00 pm
It's a "Mozart Season" for the
Rimrock Opera Company of Billings.
The second regular season for the
opera company opens Friday, March
28, at 8 p.m. with the first of two
performances of "The Magic Flute."
The second performance is set
for Sunday, March 30, at 2 p.m.
The season picks up again
Friday, Oct. 24, with the first of
two performances of "Don Giovanni,"
conducted by Barbara Day Turner and
directed by Daniel Helfgot. The
second performance is set for
Sunday, Oct. 26, at 2 p.m.
tickets are on sale now at the
Alberta Bair Theater box office or
by calling (406) 256-6052. A season
ticket reserves the same seat for
both performances. Season ticket
holders can reserve the seats held
during the company's 2002 season.
The price on a season ticket with a
reserved seat is $50, $35, $20 and
$10 per show. Individual tickets are
priced at $55, $40, $25 and $15.
Mozart's unique comedy, fantasy
and imagination are the stars of
"Flute." Billings' Cassandra
Norville stars as Pamina, her
husband Kiel Klaphake plays Tamino
and Lisa Lombardy, also of Billings,
sings the role of Queen of the
Night. The conductor for the two
performances is Robert Wood of San
Francisco, with direction by Rimrock
Opera artistic director Douglas
"Don Giovanni," Mozart's
tale of a most licentious young
libertine of 17th century fiction,
features Metropolitan Opera bass
Craig Hart as the Don and Nagel as
his sidekick Leporello.
productions feature Montana and
Billings talent. Among those joining
the company of "Flute" are Paul
Houghtaling, Shawn Rasch, Nancy
Downing, Angela Nelson, Ed Harris,
Cody Maki, Leslie Mauldin, Melissa
Hamilton, Bret Weston, David Hill
and Kevin Schweigert.
Giovanni" features Wyoming's Jan
Michael Kliewer and Karen Cliff,
Margarett Hanegraaf Lesley Jorden,
Christopher Bengochea and Ethan
director has Billings roots
CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette
Entertainment Editor | Posted:
Thursday, March 20, 2003 11:00 pm
Baritone and impresario Douglas
Nagel is a networker.
remembers people, voices heard,
does favors and calls in musical
And he loves circles
showing the continuity of life,
music and his favorite art form,
director of Rimrock Opera Co., is
part of a circle himself. In 1978,
he played the role of Papageno in
the Billings Symphony Orchestra's
production of Mozart's opera, "The
Nagel directs the opera at the
Alberta Bair Theater.
all that hair," he giggles,
chuckling at the publicity photo in
a vintage Enjoy magazine. Longtime
BSO conductor George Perkins
collaborated with Hall Diteman in
the long-ago production. It launched
a lifetime love of opera for Nagel.
After a stint at Rocky Mountain
College and degrees from University
of Wyoming and San Francisco
Conservatory of Music, he taught at
California State University and
Southern Oregon University,
returning to his first love, the
stage, completing training with
Opera San Jose.
"I sang 20
leading baritone roles," he says,
"and I directed 'Die Fledermaus,'
'The Tales of Hoffmann,' 'Gigi,'
'Pajama Game,' and 'The Pirates of
He also pursued a
mission: taking opera to children,
adapting full-length operas to
mini-versions, "pint sized but with
big sound for touring."
recent "The Cell Phone" reached
14,000 area children in 40
performances and schools, and Nagel
proudly took a shortened version of
"The Magic Flute" on tour, reaching
more than 10,000 children.
Nagel has always loved the tuneful
Mozart opera. "It makes you feel
good," he says of the music. "We're
doing well with the German and have
I got the voices."
touring Europe and singing around
the country, Nagel met and
befriended many top voices and
talents — conductors, designers and
technicians, all opera lovers. Some
of those colleagues are in Billings,
rehearsing for the upcoming ROC
Nagal is thrilled
to have Robert Wood of Santa Fe
Opera as his conductor. He made his
San Francisco Opera debut as pianist
for "Lucia de Lammermoor" and has
credits ranging from "Othello" to
"Hansel and Gretel" to "The Merry
Widow" and "Faust."
vocalists have mighty backgrounds,
too, and are an agreeable mix of top
Billings talent and gifted imports.
As the eye-catching Queen of the
Night, who has one of the opera's
most memorable and challenging
tunes, Lisa Lombardy makes her ROC
it isn't her first ROC performance,
though," says Nagel, who tagged
Lombardy to play violin in earlier
ROC productions. She is remembered
as Mabel in "Pirates of Penzance,"
and has sung major roles in
"Carousel," "The Mystery of Edwin
Drood," "The Mikado" and "HMS
native, soprano Cassandra Norville,
will play Pamina, making her debut
with ROC after many major roles. She
lives in Phoenix, where she lives
with her husband, tenor Kiel
Klaphake, who sings the role of
Tamino and is a Missoula native. The
two have performed in Europe and New
York and love light opera and
musical theater. Klaphake has sung
many of the plum male leads: Danny
in "Grease," Tony in "West Side
Story," Conrad in "Bye, Bye Birdie"
and Bill in "Kiss Me Kate."
Bass David Hill tackles the role of
Sarastro, bringing the experience of
stints in Los Angeles Opera, Roger
Wagner Chorale and Costa Mesa Opera.
A union studio singer of film and TV
soundtracks, he also sings pop and
jazz in Los Angeles and has worked
with Michael Tilson Thomas, Robert
Shaw and Andre Previn.
Bass-baritone Paul Houghtaling as
Papageno has toured Europe and
played Carnegie Hall in Mozart's
"Requiem." A favorite with Billings'
audiences, soprano Leslie Mauldin
stepped in at the last minute last
season to sing Micaela in "Carmen."
She won raves and will appear as
First Lady next weekend.
Soprano Angela Nelson will be on
hand as Papagena. Another Billings
native, she has sung in Italy and in
Intermountain Opera productions.
Second Lady Melissa Hamilton has
also done major romantic leads in
"Carousel," "The King and I" and
"Camelot" and played Musetta and
Cio-Cio San in "Madama Butterfly."
She lives in Boise now, where Nagel
also works and cultivates his ROC
Downing's Third Lady role marks her
return to ROC. She sang as a geisha
in "Madama Butterfly" and teaches at
Rocky Mountain College.
Another Montana connection is chorus
master Ed Harris, who has worked in
every corner of musical production,
from performing to arranging,
scoring and conducting.
just fabulous," says Nagel. "He has
a wonderful rapport. He works hard
and everyone else does."
Other ROC regulars are assistant
director Dorinda Doolittle of
Medford, Ore., stage manager Bernie
Rose and many other stalwarts.
to 'show her stuff' in opera
CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette Arts &
Entertainment Editor | Posted:
Sunday, March 23, 2003 11:00 pm
Opera is all in the family for a
married couple with Montana roots.
They're finding themselves paired on
and off the stage, thanks to scoring
leading roles in Rimrock Opera
Company's upcoming production of
"The Magic Flute."
tenor Kiel Klaphake and soprano
Cassandra Norville, are native
Montanans now living in the Phoenix,
Ariz., area. They rarely have the
opportunity to sing together.
"So we jumped at this," Klaphake
says. "Career-wise, it's a wonderful
opportunity. And, for Cassandra,
it's a chance to show her stuff for
her hometown, so we've been very
excited about that."
two performances Friday and Sunday
at the Alberta Bair Theater, the two
will sing the roles of love
interests, Tamino and Pamina.
Show-biz kids from way back and
married for eight years, the two met
at University of Montana, where both
were students. Norville enrolled at
UM after being among the first to
graduate from Skyview High School
1988. She remembers her "High
Voltage" dancing days and has fond
memories of cheerleading and singing
She's 32, and
Klaphake, a native of Missoula, is
The two have decided to
settle down for a while. Their
ambitious plans include a major
dinner theater project in Peoria,
Ariz., where they have secured four
acres near two major arteries to
build. Klaphake will act as general
manager and producer for Arizona
Broadway Theater, and Norville will
be artistic producer, managing
auditions, casting and the selection
"She will still
be career-minded," says Klaphake,
who has sung many of the great roles
of musical theater, from "West Side
Story" to "I Do! I Do!" and
Both are also
well-grounded in the operatic world,
from "Don Paquale" and "La Boheme"
to "Carmen" and "Die Fledermaus."
Between stints with Central City
Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Ohio Light
Opera and Operafest of New
Hampshire, the couple has also
played European concert halls, "but
usually not together," Klaphake
"We kind of take turns
when opportunities arise, or we sit
down, evaluate and see who can go
where and if we might be able to
travel together," he says.
For both, Norville says, "It's
wonderful being married to someone
who completely understands the
performing experience, the hotel
rooms, the pressures."
Klaphake says, "She knows about the
challenges, the living out of a
suitcase, the demanding rehearsals,
the agents, casting directors,
auditions. It's a unique world, so
it's fabulous to be collaborating on
The pair is also
helping fill the house for "The
Magic Flute" with relatives from
both ends of Montana.
are people here from all over the
country, but many have local
connections," Norville says.
"They've made the newcomers feel
welcome, connected. We have a true
sense of community in the wonderful
mix of performers."
WARNER/Gazette staff Angela Nelson
and Paul Houghtaling play Papagena
and Papageno in 'The Magic Flute,'
which will be performed by the
Rimrock Opera Company. JOHN
WARNER/Gazette staff From left,
Nancy Downing, Melissa Hamilton and
Leslie Mauldin draw their spears on
the Monster (Kevin Schweigert). JOHN
WARNER/Gazette staff The challenging
role of Queen of the Night is being
sung by Lisa Lombardy, right, here
with Kiel Klaphake as Tamino.
'The Magic Flute' hits Rimrock
March 27, 2003 11:00 pm
The singers look
and sound sharp and passionate. The
German is coming right along.
And artistic director Douglas
Nagel is thrilled to be presenting
Billings area audiences with what he
terms "a top notch version" of
Mozart's "The Magic Flute."
The opera, setin an imaginary Egypt,
features some of Wolf-gang's most
be-loved tunes, and a story of
exaggerated and dramatic characters:
the three ladies attending the Queen
of the Night, saving the fainting
Prince Tamino from a serpent.
Enter birdcatcher Papageno, the
Queen's daughter, Pamina, the evil
Sarastro (pronounced with a "Z"
sound as Zarastro), Sarastro's
Moorish slave, Monostatos, and
plenty of action, good cheer,
courage, virtue and wisdom
triumph over greed, power and
Or it wouldn't be opera.
Nagel is thrilled to be at the
helm of an opera so dear to his
heart. He played Papageno in a 1978
production, and loved prancing and
parading as the feather-covered
top people," he said, "from all over
the country, starting with our
Robert Wood steps
to the Rimrock Opera podium for the
taking a break from
the Santa Fe Opera, where he is
chorus master. He is also assistant
conductor and prompter of San
Francisco Opera, where his credits
include many of the opera war
horses, "Tosca," "The Merry Widow,"
"Lucia di Lammermoor," "Otello" and
"Hansel and Gretel."
collected his cast from throughout
the country, the Atlantic seaboard
to Arizona, Oregon and California.
He is particularly delighted to
pair husband-wife team Kiel
Klaphake, tenor, and soprano
Cassandra Norville, Phoenix
They play opposite
one another as Tamino and Pamina.
She, like many on Nagel's roster,
has Billings roots, as one of the
first Skyview High School graduates
with a background in choir and
She and her husband
are building a new theater in
Phoenix, "and that's typical of the
people attracted to our endeavor in
Montana," says Nagel. "They're all
'givers' in the arts world, and
builders and experimenters."
Most, like Klaphake and Norville,
have toured Europe and sung in the
great opera houses. Many have done
extensive work with musical theater
as well, which Nagel says gives them
life, poise and a natural ease on
As Sarastro, Nagel picked
David Hill, who has worked with many
of many of the arrangers and
conductors, from Andre Previn to
Robert Shaw and Roger Wagner and
familiar names include Leslie
Mauldin, seen as Micaela in last
season's "Carmen," a role she pulled
off with aplomb on very short
She has TV and film
background and has toured with the
Bass-baritone Paul Houghtaling has
toured Europe as Papageno with the
Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra.
Lisa Lombardy will sing Queen of
the Night. Nurse by day, she also
plays violin and has an extensive
background in a variety of musical
production, from opera leads to
madrigals and vocal ensembles, pit
orchestras and operetta. Billings
audiences fondly remember her Mabel
in "Pirates of Penzance." Nagel says
she is among a half-dozen singers in
the country who can do the taxing
Angela Nelson is
another Billings native, a veteran
of choral study who sang in Venice
at St. Marks Cathedral. Ed Harris,
too, has Billings roots, and Shawn
Rasch, Bret Weston, Cody Maki and
Kevin Schweigert round out the cast.
"They're as good as singers come,"
says Dorinda Doolittle, Nagel's
"right hand man," the company's and
production's assistant director. She
has been part of ROC from the ground
up and has collaborated with Nagel
since Rogue Valley Opera days in
Oregon 15 years ago.
The two have
gone the distance to save ROC money.
Nagel drove the set in himself,
through wind and snow storms. And
the majority of the company are
staying in private homes, opera
board members and friends of opera,
to save money. Nagel's mother,
Helen, a lifelong arts buff, bakes
goodies to bring to rehearsals. "We
keep any extra expenses bare
minimum," says Nagel.
for makeup early one morning this
week at a discount house, the
unflappable Doolittle, "our Girl
Friday and more," Nagel says, ducked
out of the house and headed to the
mall with no makeup.
people took me for a bag lady," she
No worries. She'll be
resplendent for the opening Friday.
WARNER/Gazette Staff Maestro Robert
Wood of the San Francisco and Santa
Fe operas, enjoys working with an
enthusiastic group of young spirits,
all Billings students. With him are,
from left, Julie Gayvert, Rachel
Nielson, Eric Homer, Karen Evanson
and Paul Elias, the 'Knaben' in 'The
Rimrock Opera director finds way for
eager actors to participate in
Gazette Entertainment Editor |
Posted: Friday, March 28, 2003 11:00
An abundance of young
auditioners for "The Magic Flute"
presented a dilemma for director
What to do with
the young hopefuls.
director of Rimrock Opera Company
has always welcomed young people.
This year was no different, when
many young boys turned out for "The
Magic Flute" auditions.
"I have a
hard time turning kids away," Nagel
said. "They're so enthusiastic and
at such an impressionable age."
So the ever inventive impresario
decided to invent parts for the
young opera hopefuls.
casting the five spirits, who have
singing roles as called for in the
script, he improvised, in the time
honored spirit of theater.
invented a concept," he says, "that
allowed me to use everyone." The
"extras" perform in non-singing
roles, "for lack of a better phrase,
they're what we're calling Dark
People," says Nagel. "They move the
set, act as trees and bushes, bring
props on and off the stage, make
fire and water and escort characters
Nagel's concept was
greeted warmly by conductor Robert
Wood, who also believes in
encouraging and grooming the young.
Wood, of San Francisco Opera and
Santa Fe Opera, says he was
"surprised and delighted" at how
well the youngsters performed.
Adds Nagel, "The maestro was so
excited that the kids were already
memorized at the first staging
rehearsal, just like in professional
enthusiastic reaction on the part of
Part of the response
comes from Nagel's school tour of
excerpts of "The Magic Flute." Last
fall, he and other members of ROC
performed the shortened version to
around 2,500 elementary school
students in Yellowstone, Sweet Grass
and other Montana counties, as well
as several towns in northern
It's all part of his
"start 'em while they're young"
approach to opera, and building the
audience of the future.
they're interested in the arts
early, they'll be lifelong
supporters, on both sides of the
footlights, Nagel believes.
Working with vocal coach Ed Harris,
the young charges are learning
perfect German, the language of the
Mozart work. Later in the ROC
season, the youth will have an
opportunity to learn a new language.
Next October, "Don Giovanni" will be
sung in Italian. Both works will
have English dialogue and English
text projected above the stage.
The kids are having fun, Nagel says,
"and they're learning that not
everyone gets to be a star and have
a singing part. That's part of their
gift, too. They're learning the
production ropes from the ground
The kids are troopers, he
says, showing up each day for
rehearsals, often several hours
long. And they have to fit the opera
in along with homework, sports,
music and more.
"But it's a rare
opportunity," says Nagel, "to work
with pros from across U.S. and get
this kind of hands-on exposure and
Raised in Billings,
and a Billings Central High
graduate, Nagel says he gets chills
of happiness and excitement when he
hears and sees "his kids."
many young helpers are diligent and
curious, he says, and the five
spirits are singing away in a
foreign language. "Here they are in
Billings, Montana, singing in German
and acting, knowing what they are
saying," he says. "I love it. It
makes me realize how important my
mission for education is."
Local troupe breathes life into
Gazette Entertainment Editor |
Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2003
In German it's "Die
Zauberflote." In English it's "The
In any language,
Company's imaginative production of
the tuneful Mozart opera has much to
recommend it. The opera features
striking solo voices, solid ensemble
work and that nearly invisible
essential to seamless opera: a
masterful pit orchestra to hold it
Wood collaborates with ROC artistic
director Douglas Nagel in this
best-yet production of the
and humor flit and skip as freely as
the flutes and pan pipes on stage
and in the pit.
In his mission to
involve youth, Nagel made the three
spirits five — four agile
grade-schoolers and a nimble college
graduate. And he added the novel
touch of "Dark People" who move the
sets about, hand the actors their
props and act as a kind of "German
chorus" in the Greek tradition,
preparing us for or reinforcing the
action on stage.
Spooner adds artful touches with
these figures, who also mime trees,
bushes, walls and more.
story, one of the best known of
opera liturgy, features the charming
gourmand and bird catcher, Papageno;
the dashing Prince, Tamino; the
dramatic Queen of the Night and her
Three Ladies; the Queen's enslaved
daughter, Pamina; the evil Sarastro,
and more. Through twists and turns
of the plot, the evil doers and
duplicity are conquered, and love,
purity and goodness triumph.
Sit back and enjoy the
ride with Lisa Lombardy's bell-clear
voice doing justice to the raging
Queen. Lombardy is just the right
age and vocal maturity to hit the
high notes, and she nails each one,
including the grace notes, with
precision. Her effortless high F's
transport us to the imaginary Egypt
of the plot, and her "pangs of hell"
threats are heavenly rendered. (Her
first-act air, too, with its
unerring pitch and flawless trills,
brought chills of admiration.)
Another standout in a cast of no
weak links is Paul Houghtalin's
Papageno. He provides the audience
with merriment by using body
language to convey his character's
indiscretions and charmingly
feckless nature. He is a delight to
watch and hear, with a deep,
animated voice and stage presence to
Pamina is at once spirited and sad,
wanting to be dutiful but desiring,
too, to follow her heart. Her duet
with Papageno brought sighs from the
Papageno's early air with his
fawn-flute sets the tone for an
evening of amusement.
Klaphake's Tamino is a constant
strong and lyrical presence, with a
soulful tenor voice that makes us
believe he can communicate with the
spirits of the forest. (Nagel makes
use of more young hopefuls in the
delightful menagerie Tamino woos:
wild animals surround him, drawing
applause and affectionate laughter.)
The singer expressively captures the
Prince's conflicting emotions.
the coniving Moorish slave,
Monostastos, Cody Maki has power and
stage presence. David Hill's
all-knowing Sarastro makes us
believe that right will out with his
The Three Ladies
are an important presence, and ABT
audiences warmly greeted Leslie
Mauldin, who was cheered for her
quick step-in as Micaela in last
year's "Carmen." She has
magnificent, magnetic stage presence
and is joined by Melissa Hamilton
and Nancy Downing in ear-pleasing
vocals from the opera's opening
moments when they and Tamino set up
Ed Harris is another
steadfast presence, as the Speaker,
and Angie Nelson's Papagena delights
with her impish transformation when
Papageno finally mends his ways.
The retainers of Monostatos are a
hoot: bruisers rendered helpless by
the magic of Papageno's bells. Nagel
shows his gift for comedy but holds
the line at slapstick as the men —-
some of them gangling, some ample of
girth — drop their thug guises and
twirl like those hapless hippos in
are a whirling dervish of colorful
silken capes, vivid robes and, of
course, feathers enhanced by Jeff
Boschee's muted but rich lighting.
The Opera Idaho-provided sets
transport us from forest to temple
to garden and cliff, with simple
effectiveness although these
handsome backdrops sometimes seem
small for the ABT stage.
miss "The Magic Flute," you'll miss
a chance to hear German well-sung by
fine voices, both imported and
domestic. The well-tuned orchestra
delivers non-stop some of Mozart's
most infectious tunes.
language, bravo, brava.