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Poster Design by Melanie Fabrizius -- Graphic Designer Billings Gazette

Rimrock Opera Announces Adult Chorus for Elixir of Love! The following singers have successfully auditioned and have been accepted as Rimrock Opera's newest chorus: Brenna Becker, Tyler Bokma, Lance Hansen, Shirley Herman, Meghan Kilroy, Rachel Ludington, Dan Miller, Jesse Murphy, Rachel Nielsen, Stephanie Padden,  Christina Pezzarossi, Megan Powers, Nathan Raschcow, Sara Ricord, Christa Soloman and Erin Walker.

Dr. Chris Sheppard has been named adult chorus master of Billings’ Rimrock Opera Company. Sandi Rabas will accompany all rehearsals. Rehearsals for the upcoming opera The Elixir of Love is already underway.

ROC's 'Elixir of Love' set to delight with comedy, romance

JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008 11:00 pm
Donizetti's comic masterpiece, "The Elixir of Love," will be performed March 28 and 30 at the Alberta Bair Theater.

The Rimrock Opera Company production spins the tale of Nemorino, a love-struck peasant in a country village, who swoons at the sight of free-spirited Adina, a beautiful and wealthy landowner. It is sung in Italian with English text projected above the stage.

When a traveling peddler appears with an enchanted love potion, Nemorino empties his bank account to buy the elixir, hoping it will gain Adina's love. Unexpected results, which Nemorino credits to the potion, throw the characters into delightful chaos.
"The Elixir of Love" shows that courage may be found in a bottle, but true love enchants without mystical intervention.

Gaetano Donizetti's captivating music lifts this light-hearted comedy to dizzying heights. And "Elixir" ends joyfully - no hankies needed.

Internationally renowned soprano, Billings' own Alissa Rose, sings the capricious Adina. Jeffrey Kitto, of Bozeman, debuts with Rimrock Opera as the passionate peasant who sacrifices all for her love. Belcore, the arrogant officer competing for Adina's hand, is sung by Chris Johnson, another Billings native who graduated from Billings Senior High. The devious medicine peddler, Dr. Dulcamara, is portrayed by Robert Taylor of the San Diego Opera. Carolyn Coefield, a Montanan now on the faculty at Rocky Mountain College, debuts as Giannetta, a village girl. Rimrock Opera General Director Douglas Nagel directs.

Long a favorite of Billings opera fans, Barbara Day Turner visits once again to conduct "Elixir." Founder and artistic director of San José Chamber Orchestra, Turner's baton will lead a full orchestra of local artists. Christopher Sheppard of Montana State University Billings is chorus master.

 JAMES WOODCOCK/Billings Gazette
Music director Barbara Day Turner and the Rimrock Opera Company General Director Douglas Nagel look over music for their upcoming opera.

JAMES WOODCOCKk/Billings Gazette
Alissa Rose, playing Adina, is wooed by Jeff Kitto, as Nemorino, and Chris Johnson, as Belcore, in Gaetano Donizetti's comic opera "The Elixir of Love.” The new Rimrock Opera Company production will be staged March 28 and 30 at the Alberta Bair Theater.

JAMES WOODCOCK/Billings Gazette
Tenor Jeff Kitto portrays Nemorino, a love-struck peasant who empties his bank account to buy a love potion from Dr. Dulcamara, played by Robert Aaron Taylor, in "The Elixir of Love."

Billings Gazette

Former co-founder of The Clintons displays opera chops at ROC

JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008 11:00 pm
Rimrock Opera Music Director Barbara Day Turner describes the plot of the opera "The Elixir of Love," as "doofus prevails over smart-a**."

Jeff Kitto, of Manhattan, plays the doofus. But in real life Kitto is a handsome, articulate vocalist who gained regional fame as the frontman and founder of the Bozeman rock band The Clintons.

Doesn't sound like Kitto fits the role? Well, his voice certainly does. His range is remarkable, evident at his solo last weekend with the Billings Symphony Orchestra. And, as Turner says, "He's got high notes to spare" in his leading tenor role in "Elixir of Love." The comedic Italian opera will be presented March 28 and 30 at the Alberta Bair Theater.

"Everybody's favorite part is the tenor aria. It's just amazing," Turner said.

Kitto, who grew up in Manhattan and now lives there with his family, inherited a love of song from his mother, Lynne, who performed opera and sang with the Minneapolis Symphony Chorale. Of his immediate family, though, Kitto said he's the only one to pursue a professional career in singing.
"My mother won the MET opera house audition 30 years, almost to the day, earlier than I did. She won in 1968 and I won the district competition in 1998."
Graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, Kitto opted for a career in medicine. He started out at Montana State University as a premed student, but music kept tugging at him.

Lynne urged him to "Please, just stay in music." So when auditions came around for a part in the chorus at "La Boehme" in 1995 in Bozeman, Kitto saw his chance and nailed a part.

"I loved the combination of theater and voice."
Eventually, Kitto found that he was cutting his other classes and going to school just to sing. He formed his first rock band, the cover band Pounding Would, in the 1990s. Their claim to fame was earning the label, "Bozeman's favorite party band," Kitto said.
In 1999, when he graduated from MSU, Kitto helped form The Clintons. They toured regionally and recorded two CDs, but Kitto had a wife and daughter back in Manhattan and missed being away for long stretches of touring.

The Clintons' claim to fame, in addition to being a popular band throughout the West, is recording their second CD with "American Idol" finalist from 2007, Blake Lewis.

"He was the best beat-boxer around," Kitto said. "Whenever we'd play in Seattle, he'd get up on stage and perform with us."

When Kitto left The Clintons, the band considered replacing him with Lewis. Instead, they got John McLellan and Kitto believes they'll make it big some day.

"I have to realize the Clintons are going to be good without me. It still kills me every day that they're going to make it without me."

Kitto has gigs lined up throughout the region for this spring and summer, including an April performance with the Glacier Symphony in Kalispell. He will also solo in Spokane's "Night of Rock and Opera," which combines rock and opera music, something Kitto knows a thing or two about.

"I capitalize on the fact that I'm a versatile singer," Kitto said.

Opera's humor belies its splendor

JACI WEBBOf The Gazette Staff | Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2008 11:00 pm
If only Chris Johnson's eyebrows could talk.
The Billings native, who performs as Sgt. Belcore in Rimrock Opera's production "The Elixir of Love," conveys such snide arrogance with those expressive brows that it's as if they were speaking for him in this comedic opera. And we're left to wonder if they're speaking in Italian or English.

No one dies and the good guy gets the girl in Gaetano Donizetti's opera being staged at the Alberta Bair Theater. But don't sell this production short because it's funny. Tenor Jeff Kitto's stunning aria softens our hearts to his character, Nemorino, the village idiot. If the doofus can sing so passionately, maybe he deserves to find lasting love after all.

Even though we knew it was coming because the tenor aria is said to be one of opera's most melodic wonders, the haunting bassoon lead-in, giving way to Kitto's velvety vocals, is surprisingly stirring. And, as out of character as that amazing voice is, it alone is worth the price of admission. Pair that with other strong performances, especially Johnson's comical portrayal of Belcore, Alissa Rose's lilting soprano as the taunting beauty Adina, and Robert Aaron Taylor's fun performance as the snake oil salesman Dulcamara, and you've got one of ROC's finest operas.

Conductor Barbara Day Turner does a quality job with the 28-piece orchestra, made up primarily of Billings Symphony Orchestra musicians. While the plot is silly, the music is complex and showy.
What makes this production even more satisfying is discovering that all but one lead actor is from Montana. Kitto is from Manhattan; and Rose, Johnson and Carolyn Coefield who plays Giannetta, are all from Billings. Taylor, the baritone, who plays the cunning Dr. Dulcamara, is a native of Tennessee who performed in Rimrock Opera's production last fall of "Girl of the Golden West." He learned his complicated role in "Elixir" in just two weeks after another performer was forced to cancel his appearance here.

The plot is simple enough that even with it being sung in Italian, you barely need the English translations projected above the stage to figure out what's going on. Nemorino spends a good deal of Act 1 sniveling about his unrequited love for Adina and she, in turn, spends the first act teasing him. When Belcore arrives, women swoon and men shake as the arrogant Army sergeant stakes his claim to the prettiest girl in town, which just happens to be Adina. Just when Nemorino's cause seems lost, the snake oil salesman, Dr. Dulcamara, arrives to fix all broken hearts, bald heads, wrinkled skin, and anything else that ails the townsfolk.

General director Douglas Nagel took a few artistic leaps with the staging of this opera, at one point spoofing the opera itself by having Nemorino sing to the audience while resting his elbows on townsfolk as if they were mannequins. And while we're mesmerized by those bouncing eyebrows of Belcore's, Nemorino stumbles in and steals our hearts.

Letter: Community gives great support to Rimrock Opera
Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 11:00 pm
My personal thanks go out to all who attended Rimrock Opera's "Elixir of Love" performances. Since I started my career in opera this community has shown support for grand opera, in Billings and in our schools. Because Rimrock Opera is a finalist in Oprah's Big Give Billings, you also showed tremendous financial support at the performances. Thank you for donating to our next school project of "American Opera Idol." It will be a true success because of your generosity. I am very proud to be a native Billings man. Bravi to all of Billings!

Douglas Nagel, general director

Rimrock Opera




The Elixir of Love
Gaetano Donizetti

Donizetti's comic masterpiece, "The Elixir of Love," tangles and untangles love and laughter.

"Elixir," at the Alberta Bair Theater March 28 and 30, spins the tale of Nemorino, a love-struck peasant in a country village who swoons at the sight of the free-spirited Adina, a beautiful and wealthy landowner. A traveling peddler appears with an enchanted love potion. Nemorino empties his bank account to buy the elixir, hoping it will gain him her love. Unexpected results, which Nemorino credits to the potion, throw the characters into chaos.

For more of this story, click here

 There’s not a lot to be taken seriously in this comedy by Donizetti, except for the glorious music. Alissa Rose, Jeffrey Kitto, Chris Johnson, Bradley Thompson and Carolyn Coefield take starring roles.



Barbara Day Turner, conductor

Douglas Nagel, director

Alissa Rose, Adina

Jeffrey Kitto, Nemorino

Chris Johnson, Belcore

Robert Aaron Taylor, Dr. Dulcamara

Carolyn Coefield, Giannetta

Dr. Chris Sheppard, Chorus Master

Sandi Rabas, pianist

Jean-Francois Revon
, Set Designer

Jill Port, costume designer

Alex Heyneman, lighting designer



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