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"The Playground King:" Opera to come to Bozeman, performing on playgrounds

Posted at 12:20 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 14:20:56-04

BOZEMAN — After more than a year with their curtains closed, another Bozeman theatrical staple, Intermountain Opera Bozeman, is returning to the stage for their first live show since February 2019.

At what looks like a castle from a distance, the next group that will be singing at the Dinosaur Park Playground in Bozeman is going to be an opera group.

What makes this show more unique, it is set entirely on the playground and it is free.

“This is no normal opera stage,” says Michael Sakir, interim artistic director of Intermountain Opera Bozeman.

What you will be seeing and hearing, indeed, will be a reality come Saturday, July 10, and Tuesday, July 13.

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Dinosaur Park Playground, as well as the Farmer’s Market at Bogert Park, will soon be the stage for professional opera performers.

“We’ve been having to be innovative for the past year,” Sakir says.

That’s putting it lightly for Intermountain Opera Bozeman.

Michael Sakir, from his home in Philadelphia, says for a long-awaited return like this, unprecedented time away from the stage requires unprecedented presentation.

“This is the first stage production that we’ve done since February of 2020, in a year and a half,” Sakir says. “This is our return to the stage, even if that stage is the playground. I think that’s kind of perfect.”

The troupe of four opera singers, equipped with a libretto including tunes from operas across time, will open the curtain to “The Playground King,” using the full playground to tell a 15-minute story from the perspective of children.

“It is a hit every time that Opera Memphis presents it,” Sakir says, who spent time working with the Tennessee group. “It’s an annual tradition there and I’m hoping if it is received well here that it becomes an annual tradition here, too.”

It’s something performers Michael Gray, who is a tenor and will be playing the part of “Todd” in the production, along with his fiance, Tascha Anderson, a mezzo-soprano from Helena who has studied opera internationally, say has been a long-awaited encore.

“Like many people in our field, we’ve been working construction, Uber,” Gray says. “We’ve had to supplement that portion of our lives, traveling the country and being working performers.”

“You get to feed off of the energy, the actual in-person energy of both of your castmates and your audience,” Anderson says. “It’s just different. It’s much more special. I’m particularly excited that my little nieces that have never seen me perform live will hopefully be there and I’ll get to interact with them while I’m singing.”

And just like her family audience members Shelby, Avery, and Finley, Tascha says it’s the thrill of being a kid again for their grand comeback.

“It’s really fun,” Anderson says. “We kind of get to let our inner children come out and play and I think that’s just super fun.”

“Just before the pandemic, it was becoming pretty common practice for opera companies to use non-traditional venues so cafes, museums, breweries, bars,” Gray says. “Being played out in a non-traditional venue, it helps you re-imagine the way that you see the world.”

The Playground King will be its stage at the Dinosaur Playground first this Saturday, July 10 between noon and 2 pm doing three separate shows, with one show each hour.

Then on Tuesday, July 13, they’ll be over at Lindley Park, same deal: three shows for everyone starting at 5 pm through 7 pm.