Cedar Rapids Opera turns 25 this year.
The company opens the season with a recital by soprano Abigail Rethwisch, Norman Garrett and pianist Minji Kwon at CSPS Hall.
It was at CSPS where Cedar Rapids Opera gave its premiere performances back in May 1999 — a triple bill of The Music Cure by Phillip Hagemann, and Red Tide and Long Island Dreamer by Kim Sherman.
Garrett made his professional debut with CRO in 2003 as the Herald in Otello. He returned to participate in the Young Artist production of Pirates of Penzance, singing the role of the Pirate King.
Garrett has been called “scene-stealing” by The New York Times, and has gone on to sing at major opera houses across the U.S. He makes his house debut in Seattle as the Count in Marriage of Figaro and returns to both the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago as the Foreman/Adult James in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones and reprises the role of Jim in Porgy and Bess at the Metropolitan Opera.
Rethwisch makes her CRO debut in this concert. She also appears on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for last season’s production of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten. Rethwisch triumphed in the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor in 2017, stepping in on less than two hours’ notice to perform the entire run at Utah Opera.
Hailing from Iowa City, she tells of growing up as a musician: “Some of my earliest memories of music are sitting in my dad's lap as a young child, while he played guitar, or singing with my five siblings, while my mom played piano. Music has always been a large part of my life, but the moment I fell in love with opera was during my freshman year at Simpson College when I was playing French horn in the pit for Menotti's The Consul, under the baton of Robert Larsen. My voice teacher, Kimberly Roberts, was singing the most beautiful aria on the stage above me, and while I was thrilled to be taking part in the pit, I suddenly knew that I wanted to sing on that stage more than anything!”
The Friday night concert will be broadcast live by Iowa Public Radio, so having a rousing audience response will add to the celebration. The program includes several favorites, including “Sempre libera” from La Traviata, “Glitter and be Gay” from Candide, the duet “La ci darem” from Don Giovanni, and the haunting pieces in English “Joey, Joey, Joey” from The Most Happy Fella’, and the spiritual “Deep River.”
I can’t think of a more thrilling way to open our 25th season than to present this fabulous repertoire with these talented artists in the theater where CRO got its start back in the last century.
The concert is Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Wine, hors d’oeuvres and toasts to follow.
Tickets are available by calling 319-365-1580, or by visiting cspshall.org/norman-and-abigail.
This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: Cedar Rapids Opera opens 25th year with Iowa City native in main role