Central City Opera’s John Baril

Monday, May 02, 2011

John Baril

Gamblers aren’t the only risk-takers in Central City. John Baril, music director and conductor at Central City Opera, takes chances every time he produces an opera. The wild cards involved in training an international cast of performers, seamlessly blending instrumentalists and singers, managing divas, jumbling schedules and even persevering through power surges can be taxing. We talked with Baril recently to get the details.

Q. How and when did you get involved in the Central City Opera?

A. This is my 18th summer, so 1992, the first year of gaming. I started as a scheduler and worked my way up.

Q. What’s been the biggest change at the opera house since then?

A. We used to do opera only in English, but now we do it in original languages.

Q. What do you like to do away from the opera?

A. When I first moved here, people would ask me if I liked Colorado and I would say, “Meh.” But then I started running and lost 60 pounds, and now I love it here. I ran my first marathon earlier this year, and I’m planning on running another one soon.

Q. Are people surprised when they discover the quality at the Central City Opera?

A. I think they’re not surprised anymore. Five or six years ago they were. But now they expect it, so it puts a little added pressure on you.

Q. What’s the most unexpected occurrence you’ve witnessed on stage?

A. In 2003 we were in the middle of “Pagliacci” and the lights went out. Usually, they come back on, but it wasn’t happening. So we sent the instrumentalists home and told the audience to come back in 15 minutes, while we moved the chairs right on stage. We performed the second half of the opera under our working lights, and I think we only had a couple people ask for a refund. Most people were delighted by it. In general, our opera house offers that kind of intimacy with a production that most houses can’t — from onstage, you can hear the gasps of the audience when they’re surprised, you can see them crying, you can feel what gets transmitted across the footlights.

Q. How do you deal with divas — and just for clarification, that could mean male or female?

A. Sometimes, you have to pull people aside and say, “Look, you’re not just here for a few weeks, you’re here for 11 weeks, so you have to be able to get along with others.” I’m a down-to-earth person, I don’t run into it a lot, maybe only a couple of times have we let people go.

Q. Do you have a favorite opera?

A. The politically correct answer is the one you’re working on, but I like Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” (Offenbach’s) “The Tales of Hoffman” and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Q. What’s your preferred game of chance?

A. I’ll throw a couple of quarters in a slot machine occasionally, but I don’t really gamble — though really, every performance we give is a gamble!

~ Sam DeLeo

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