Logan opera festival starts today

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    Who says the only things to come out of Cache Valley are cows and Aggies?

    Beginning on July 9, Logan will be the scene of the Utah Festival Opera Company for the eleventh year running.

    “It’s kind of this obscure thing to have an Opera Company in Logan,” said Darla Seamons, marketing and communications director for the Utah Festival Opera Company. “It is a wonderful experience.”

    This year, the four main stage productions include Puccini’s tragic “Madama Butterfly,” opening on July 9; “The Wizard of Oz,” a fairy-story by L. Frank Baum, opening on July 10; the biblical “Nabucco” by Verdi, opening on July 11; and Sheldon Harnick’s heart-wrenching “Fiddler on the Roof,” opening on July 12.

    Not exactly your typical farmyard fare.

    The shows will continue to rotate nightly at the Ellen Eccles Theatre, an 1,100-seat European-style theatre built in 1923 and refurbished in 1988.

    The non-profit summer opera company was started in 1993 by Michael Ballam, a Logan native and well-known opera professional.

    Each summer about 200 out-of-state artists, actors, designers and crewmembers come to Utah to lend their talents to the productions.

    In 1988, Ballam began a campaign to save the neglected Capitol Theatre in Logan, with the idea that it would one day house professional opera in Utah.

    Using fund-raising and volunteerism, Ballam was eventually able to restore Capitol Theatre with a $6.5 million budget, renaming the structure the Ellen Eccles Theatre after a pioneer woman famed for her contributions to Cache Valley.

    According to the Utah Festival Opera Company website (www.ufoc.org), the festival format was adopted in order to allow patrons to take in all the productions within a two or three day period.

    Since its inception in 1993, the festival has continued to grow in both size and popularity.

    In the first year, attendance reached approximately 14,000; last year 23,000 attendees were recorded.

    The vision of the festival has also continued to expand. Aside from the main stage productions, the Utah Festival Opera Company also supports a classic film series, a children’s opera program, and YAP, the Young Artists Program, which helps young adults who are trying to start their opera careers by giving them hands-on experience and exposing them to professional artists.

    “Michael feels very strongly about working with individuals, about helping young people today,” Seamons said.

    “It’s like the 13th Article of Faith — we’re giving them the opportunity for ennobling artistic experience.”

    The company does have a strong LDS affiliation, although the majority of visiting artists do not. Some of the funding is provided by the LDS foundation, and the company will even be performing during “Music and the Spoken Word” on August 3.

    The festival will continue through August 9. Tickets, costing between $15 and $50, can be obtained through Arttix, or at www.ufoc.org.

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