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Opera’s greatest hits

Come rain or shine, Thursday’s concert means music in the park

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For anyone planning to attend the Opera in the Park concert Thursday evening, the word from Utah Opera is, don't listen to the weather report. And don't panic if it should be raining that morning. Just bring your family, some blankets and a picnic basket to Valley Regional Park in Taylorsville and enjoy the music.

"Every year it rains on the day of the concert, and then it clears up in the evening," Douglas Kinney-Frost told the Deseret News. "People need to come because it'll clear. And rain or shine, we'll play, because the orchestra and the audio equipment are under a tent."

The annual Opera in the Park concert, which is now in its fourth year, is a joint venture between the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. Kinney-Frost, who is the chorus master and assistant conductor of Utah Opera and one of the two co-conductors at this concert, notes that more and more people have been attending this open-air concert. "It gets bigger every year," he said.

The audience at last year's Opera in the Park concert was estimated at 6,000, and this year everyone hopes that even more people will show up. "All the numbers show that this is one of the most popular concerts in the area," Bundit Ungrangsee pointed out. Ungrangsee is the associate conductor of the Utah Symphony and the other co-conductor for Thursday's concert.

"It's one of the biggest events that ZAP (the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks Fund) sponsors," Kinney-Frost added. "And the concert is a thank-you to the people of Salt Lake and to ZAP for their support (of the arts)."

In addition to the Utah Symphony, the concert will also feature the Utah Opera Chorus and seven vocalists — Lynnette Arbizu, Robert Hoyt III, Lindsay Killian, Carolyn Talboys-Klassen, Richard Lippold, Todd Miller and Clayne Robison. Except for Robison, all of the singers are promising young artists who have some connection with Utah Opera. "All of them are either former (Utah Opera) Ensemble members, or people we are considering having join the Ensemble in the future," Kinney-Frost said.

Killian, moreover, has recently distinguished herself nationally by being one of five winners at this year's Metropolitan Opera auditions held in New York City. "I heard Lindsay sing in auditions," Kinney-Frost said, "and I'm anxious to work with her."

Robison, of course, needs no introduction. A long-time faculty member and former director of opera at Brigham Young University, he's also well-known locally as a performing artist, having appeared in numerous mainstage productions at Utah Opera over the years.

As to the music for Opera in the Park, Kinney-Frost has devised a program that is bound to make everybody happy. With vocal and orchestral selections from "Aida," "Porgy and Bess," "Madame Butterfly" and other famous operas, he's confident that the audience will recognize some, if not all, of the musical numbers.

"The concert is designed to be opera's greatest hits," Kinney-Frost admits. "The program is designed for opera lovers and for those who don't go to opera. And for the ones who don't go to opera, they'll recognize some of the music from commercials or movies or Warner Bros. cartoons.

"But there will also be some more obscure pieces. We're doing the trio from 'Der Rosenkavalier' and the 'Ice Cream Sextet' from (Kurt Weill's) 'Street Scene.' And the finale for the concert will be the Act II Finale from 'Fidelio,' which Utah Opera-goers will know, but probably not too many others."

Unlike previous years, this year's Opera in the Park concert will have no solo numbers. All the selections will either be ensembles or choruses. "There won't be any arias this year," Kinney-Frost pointed out. "The concert is intended to feature and focus in on the chorus and the orchestra."

Even though the singers won't be in the soloist spotlight, Kinney-Frost has taken great care to highlight them in ensembles that suit their voices and talents. "I put the program together with the singers in mind, too. When I told Robert, for example, that we'll do the Sextet from 'Street Scene,' he said, 'That's my favorite piece.' And I said, 'Yes, I know. That's why we're doing it.' "

Both Ungrangsee and Kinney-Frost agree that Valley Regional Park is a good place for open-air concerts. "It's a different setting, and I think people like it there," Ungrangsee said.

"One of the main reasons we're doing it in the valley is to bring the concert to the people," Kinney-Frost added. "Salt Lake and the suburbs have their venues, but there's really nothing in the valley.

"And the ZAP people, who are anxious to find out who's there (at these concerts), have discovered that it's always a mixed crowd." And that's reassuring for Kinney-Frost. He's thrilled that there's such a wide diversity among the audience, and he hopes that concerts such as Opera in the Park will help rid people of the notion that everything and everyone associated with classical music is elitist.

"There is nothing elitist about the audience or the musicians," Kinney-Frost exclaimed. "It's funny, but the people who make music just aren't like that."

Opera in the Park takes place on Thursday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. Valley Regional Park is located at 5100 S. 2700 W. The concert is free of charge, and everyone is encouraged to come early to find a good spot on the lawn. And for anyone not packing a picnic, food concessions will be at the park selling hot dogs and ice cream.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com