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Vashon’s young opera company prepares for its second season

Director Jim Brown works with Islander Gary Koch.  - Leslie Brown/Staff Photo
Director Jim Brown works with Islander Gary Koch.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Following a sold-out debut season, the Vashon Opera’s much-anticipated second season will open in September with the comic opera “The Barber of Seville.”

The company’s artistic director, Jennifer Krikawa, believes Vashon audiences weren’t sure what to expect from an Island opera company when it started up last year but were pleasantly surprised by the caliber of performances the company offered when it put on Puccini’s “La Bohéme,” Copland’s “The Tender Land” and a free performance of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Krikawa and her husband, Andy Krikawa, a baritone who sings with the company and serves on its board of directors, moved from New York to Vashon in 2005, both giving up promising careers as opera singers to pursue what they felt was a more important calling: parenthood.

After becoming deeply involved in Vashon’s arts scene as a soloist for Vashon Island Chorale, a cantor at St. John Vianney Catholic Church and the star of two memorable opera productions, Jenifer Krikawa was finallyable to bring her dream of an Island opera company to life.

“We get to tuck in our kids every night and have the chance to work with other opera singers and musicians,” Krikawa told The Beachcomber last year. “I’m thrilled.”

Krikawa said the Vashon Opera’s appeal lies both in the talented performers it brings to the Island and the intimate performances it offers.

“We’re presenting opera in a very intimate way, which is exciting,” she said. “If you go to a big opera house sometimes you can’t even see people’s faces, but with us they’re right there in front of you.”

Though tickets are still available for the season’s two shows, a comedy and a tragedy, Krikawa has no doubt that this season, too, will sell out.

Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” one of the most performed works in opera repertoire, opens soon and is sure to be a spectacle of sight and sound. With an extravagant set, zany characters and music she said demands “vocal gymnastics” of the performers, Krikawa said the 18th century love story will delight audiences young and old.

She said she hopes to see families take advantage of the discounted dress rehearsal on Wednesday, Sept. 8. “First of all it’s fun and cute and it’s just a pleasure to watch,” she said. “The other thing is the singing — the technique is astounding.”

In May, the company will change tones when it presents Madame Butterfly, a tragedy by Puccini. Also performed in Italian with English supertitles, but written centuries later, Madame Butterfly tells the story of the romance between a Japanese geisha and an American naval officer.

Krikawa, who will star as Madame Butterfly, said Puccini’s beautiful melodies will pull at audience’s heartstrings and leave them holding their breath. “The story is a beautiful one,” she said. “It’s just incredible.”

While most of the principals in “The Barber of Seville” are from the Seattle area, the 12 characters in the show’s chorus are all played by Vashon performers.

Islander Holly Boaz, who plays Berta in the show, said she not only loves being part of an opera in her hometown, but enjoys rehearsing with so many performers she already knows from either Seattle or Vashon.

“We have a lot of fun in rehearsals and we all know who everyone is,” she said. “I think that makes for a much better product.”

Boaz is excited to soon present “The Barber of Seville”, saying Islanders will love how the show is full of laughs. “Rossini’s music is completely infused with the humor of the price, there are musical jokes all over the place,” she said. “The principals are well cast, very experienced in this repertoire and very funny themselves.”

She said Krikawa has been able to draw more and more talented performers to the Island. In addition, Krikawa and Boaz are both excited to have Jim Brown, chair of the voice department at Pacific Lutheran University, directing the show.

“The director is fabulous,” Boaz said. “He’s one of those directors who has memorized every single role. He has performed it himself before.”

Boaz said that with the help of Island arts supporters, Krikawa has been able to put together quality performances that rival those in larger cities.

“One of their strengths is they use the resources they have wisely, they don’t try do a spectacle on a tiny budget,” she said. “Instead they tailor their shows to what the resources are and they get a good product.”

The Vashon Opera will present “The Barber of Seville” at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept 10 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Vashon High School auditorium. A dress rehearsal will be opened to students and families at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, tickets are $15.

“Madame Butterfly” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, May 13 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15 at Bethel Church.

Tickets are $34 if purchased individually or $28 each when season tickets are purchased. They can be purchased at Books by the Way, Vashon Bookshop or vashonopera.org.

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