Cedar Rapids Opera opens its 25th year with an Iowa City native in the lead role

Cedar Rapids Opera turns 25 this year.

The company opens the season with a recital by soprano Abigail Rethwisch, Norman Garrett and pianist Minji Kwon at CSPS Hall.

It was at the CSPS that Cedar Rapids Opera gave its first performances in May 1999 – a triple project of The Music Cure by Phillip Hagemann, and Red Tide and Long Island Dreamer by Kim Sherman.

Garrett made his professional debut with CRO in 2003 as Herald at Otello. He returned to take part in the Young Artist production of Pirates of Penzance, singing the role of the Pirate King.

Garrett was called a “scene stealer” by The New York Times and went on to sing at major opera houses across the United States. He made his Seattle debut as the Marriage Earl of Figaro and returned to both the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago as Foreman/Adult James in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones and reprized the role of Jim in Porgy and Bess at the Metropolitan Opera.

Rethwisch makes his CRO debut in this concert. She also appears on the Metropolitan Opera’s roster for last season’s production of Akhnaten by Philip Glass. Rethwisch triumphed in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in 2017, stepping in on less than two hours’ notice to perform the entire series at Utah Opera.

Originally from Iowa City, she recounts growing up as a musician: “Some of my earliest memories of music are sitting on my father’s lap as a young child, playing guitar or singing with my five siblings, while my mother played the piano. Music has always been a big part of my life, but the moment I fell in love with opera was during my freshman year at Simpson College, when I was playing French horn in the pit for Menotti’s The Consul, conducted by Robert Larsen. My voice teacher, Kimberly Roberts, was singing the most beautiful aria on the stage above me, and while I was thrilled to participate in the pit, I suddenly knew that I wanted to sing on this stage more than anything!

The Friday night concert will be broadcast live by Iowa Public Radio, so having an enthusiastic response from the audience will add to the celebration. On the program, several favorites, including “Semper libera” by La Traviata, “Glitter and be Gay” by Candide, the duet “La ci darem” by Don Giovanni, and the spellbinding pieces in English “Joey, Joey, Joey” from The Most Happy Fella’, and the witty “Deep River”.

I can’t think of a more exciting way to open our 25th season than to present this fabulous repertoire with these talented performers in the theater where CRO got its start last century.

The concert will take place on October 27 at 7 p.m. Wine, appetizers and toast will follow.

Tickets are available by calling 319-365-1580 or visiting cspshall.org/norman-and-abigail.

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