Anna Hawkes (who you’ll hear singing the role of Tancredi tonight) and I first had the idea for a “gritty” chamber opera company when we were analyzing feminist themes (or the lack of them) in Dr. Elizabeth Craft’s Opera Literature class while completing our masters work at the University of Utah. We dreamed of bringing opera to Utah that featured stories and artists from populations traditionally underrepresented in the Classical music world. In our opinion, opera could use more diverse voices—it’s been dominated by cis-het white men for long enough.
We also wanted to tackle darker themes than your typical Utah musical theatre arts council would be equipped to produce. We feel strongly that positive social change can be sparked when humans view art, such as opera, and when that art embodies and tackles the difficult and nuanced parts of life.
In 2020 (right before the pandemic, of course), Opera Contempo was born. Our mission is to produce “opera with the times” by updating classic works with modern settings, promoting the voices of up-and-coming Utah artists, and premiering new works. We are so very grateful to NEXT Ensemble for partnering with our fledgling organization to produce this, our very first fully-staged in-person production!
Tonight, you’ll experience how operas written between 76 and 398 years ago still speak to the themes of connection and communication that we struggle with in our modern world. We think you may relate!
Our production of “The Telephone” was written and composed by an Italian-American gay man, Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007); the setting has been updated to modern day and moved from a woman’s apartment into a cafe. And telecommunications technology has definitely advanced since the piece was first performed!
“The Combat” (or “Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda”, as it’s known to its friends) has words by Torquato Tasso and original music by Claudio Monteverdi (1567?-1643). However, tonight’s music has been significantly adapted by Utah composer and Opera Contempo founding member David Campbell (b. 1982) to bring us from a military battle between to opposing warriors into the virtual world of texting and social media posts, where battles can hurt just as deeply and turn just as deadly. This production, with non-traditional voice-casting to use an all-female-identifying cast, has been a vision of mine from Opera Contempo’s inception, and I couldn’t be more proud of what you’ll experience tonight!
Many thanks for your support of NEXT Ensemble’s wonderful work, and if you like tonight’s production or our mission and vision, please join the Opera Contempo movement by following us on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, or join our Patreon and email campaigns at www.operacontempo.com
Emilio Casillas is a theatre maker from sunny San Diego and received his BFA in Theatre Production and Design from Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Emilio serves as the Artistic Director of the Classical Greek Theatre Festival, producing Medea starring April Fossen, in September, 2022 for the 51st Season. Directing credits include the premiere of Larry West’s Punxsutawney, The Christians (Lucas Hnath), Perdida (Kathleen Cahill), Prometheus Bound (Aeschylus), the premiere of Man and Moon (Siena Marilyn Ledger), and readings of Sleeping Giant (Steve Yockey) and Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls (Meg Miroshnik) . As assistant director, Emilio has worked on Titus Andronicus, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Utah Opera’s productions of The Long Walk, Gianni Schicchi, Pagliacci, The Little Prince, and Silent Night. Recent scenic design credits include La Bohème, L’elisir d’amore, and A Little Night Music for Westminster Opera Studio as well as The Christians and Eurydice at Good Co. Theatre. This summer you can catch his work on the writing team for #SLACabaret: Down the Rabbit Hole
Evie Marie Gilgen
Evie is a transgender woman from Salt Lake City and is so excited for
the opportunity to work with Opera Contempo and NEXT Ensemble! She has been seen on podiums all
over the Salt Lake valley, most notably as the Assistant Conductor for the Westminster Chamber Singers,
and Westminster Opera Studio. She has conducted scenes concerts at Westminster College, as well as
assisted in their productions of The Elixir of Love by Donizetti, and La Boheme by Puccini. Equally
comfortable on stage, Evie is a sought-after choral artist and bass-baritone who sings frequently with
Utah Symphony Chorus and Utopia Early Music and is the bass section leader in the choir at the
Cathedral Church of St. Marks in downtown Salt Lake City. In August 2022, Evie will be moving to Arizona
to begin work on a doctoral degree in conducting at Arizona State University, under the mentorship of
Dr. Jace Saplan. She would also like to take the space to acknowledge and appreciate the opportunity to
work and create on the ancestral and traditional lands of the Paiute, Ute, Shoshone, Goshute, and Bannock peoples.Add text
Anna Hawkes holds a Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Utah and a Bachelors of Music with an emphasis in vocal performance from Brigham Young University. In addition to her singing and onstage work, Anna danced with Tanner Dance and Children’s Dance Theater for 15 years. Favorite roles include Blanche (Dialogues des Carmélites, University of Utah, 2019), Hanna (The Merry Widow, Utah Vocal Arts Academy, 2017), Musetta (La bohème, Brigham Young University, 2016), and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel,
Brigham Young University, 2015). When not singing, Anna enjoys sewing her own clothing and biking around her Peaks Island home with her two children.
Karllen is an established actress, vocalist, and dancer/choreographer across the Wasatch Front. She received her BFA in Voice from Weber State University with a minor in Theatre and held title roles in each of their main-stage operas. She was most recently seen as Carol-Ann in Jim Christian’s “Five Carols for Christmas” and in Utah Opera’s “Pirates of Penzance.” She plans for an MFA after taking time off to raise her young children and explore the wonderful Utah Theatre Community both as an actress and a pro-team member. She is beyond delighted and grateful to be a part of this production!
Aimes is thrilled to be dancing in her first Oprah Production. Aimes has choreographed, movement directed and stage managed within the Utah art scene. She has also performed at theatres and live performance venues throughout The SLC Valley and in Park City. She taught preschool for four years before fully deciding to earning a full time income as a performing artist. The Pandemic gave her the space to write,produce, and direct an original monologue for the Gender Based Violence Consortium & Eves Project 1040. She strives to bring humans of all backgrounds together, inspiring them to take up space and live boldly.
Cody Carlson is so excited to sing Ben in The Telephone. As a singer, Cody spent two summers on a young artist contract at Ohio Light Opera where he sang in various light opera and golden age musical theatre productions such as Michael in the North American premiere of George Gershwin's musical comedy Primrose, Hubert in Romberg's The Student Prince, Josef in Lehár's Cloclo, as well as Phil McCabe and Gus understudy in Rodger's Babes in Arms. From 2015-2019 Cody was a rostered chorus member at Utah Opera. Favorite roles include Maximilian in Bernstein's Candide, Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni, and Frank in J. Strauss II's Die Fledermaus. Cody recently graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. This fall Cody will be moving to Ann Arbor to pursue a Master of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Michigan.
Alyssa Liu is a local coloratura soprano who enjoys collaborating with all kinds of artists and bringing classical singing into unique spaces. She has been fortunate to perform a variety of operatic roles all over Utah, as well as Hungary and Italy. Some of her recent performances include the title role of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, and the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte. It has been an absolute joy for her collaborate with NEXT Ensemble and Opera Contempo on this unique and relevant production, and she is thrilled to share it with you this evening.
Soprano Hilary Koolhoven has delighted audiences from the United States to Europe with her warm voice and expressive acting skills. With experience in opera, musical theatre, and recital repertoire, she has showed excellence in a wide range of roles: from the flexibility and poise of Ilia in “Idomeneo” to achieving the multi-layered and comedic personality of Margaret in "The Light in the Piazza." Hilary graduated from the University of Utah with a Master of Music degree and received her Bachelor of Arts from Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Along with performing in university settings, she has worked with organizations such as Utah Opera, Ohio Light Opera, and the Franco-American Vocal Academy. Along with singing professionally, she works as an adjunct member of the voice faculty at Westminster College.