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It’s hot, so it’s time for opera

Marcus Shelton headlines “A Hot August Night.”
Marcus Shelton headlines “A Hot August Night.”

Summer shows start Wednesday

Every summer, the sounds of Verdi, Puccini and Sondheim echo off the tall ponderosas.

It’s the Spokane Opera’s “A Hot August Night,” a rare chance to experience live opera for free. Each year, more than a thousand people do so, over two performances.

This annual celebration of opera (with show tunes thrown in) will be served al fresco at Mirabeau Meadows in Spokane Valley on Wednesday, and on the lawn in front of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture on Aug. 6.

This year, the lineup includes an up-and-coming opera star, tenor Marcus Shelton from Seattle Opera’s Young Artist Program. He has sung Puccini with the Greek National Opera and was a finalist for the Les Azuriales opera competition in Nice, France.

The evening’s soprano star will be Heather Holzapfel, a regional favorite.

And this year, everybody else can be an opera star, too. Well, not a star, but at least an enthusiastic amateur.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. each night, there will be a video camera and microphone set up on stage, to film anyone who wants to attempt to sing some opera. Everybody who tries will end up with a pair of free tickets to an upcoming Spokane Opera main event.

“It’s something new and fun,” said company manager Bill Graham. “If you have aspirations to be an opera singer, you can be on stage.”

At 7:30 p.m., the real concert starts. The program begins with Shelton singing “Ah! mes amis” from Donizetti’s “La fille du Regiment,” which has him hitting nine high C’s.

You’ll hear arias and other music from Romberg, Gounod, Verdi, Puccini, Herbert and Lara. You’ll also hear show tunes from Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” Lerner & Loewe’s “Paint Your Wagon” and Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures.”

By the end of the concert, when the sun has set and the stars begin to twinkle, the finale will take a whimsical turn. The entire ensemble will do two songs from Disney’s “Pinocchio”: “Give a Little Whistle” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

The other artists on the bill are talented local students, including baritone Elliot Matheny, soprano Michelle Perrier, baritone Jordan Taylor and tenor Ross Mumford.

Accompaniment will be provided by Greg Presley on piano. For a change of pace, Bethany Schoeff on oboe and Daniel Cotter on clarinet will perform two instrumental pieces from Mozart operas. Susanna Baylon will be the emcee.

Spokane Opera suggests that you bring a blanket or a low-rise chair, along with a picnic. No refreshments will be available on site.

The MAC show on Aug. 6 coincides with First Friday, so it will be a great opportunity to visit the museum’s exhibits beforehand. It stays open until 8 p.m. on First Fridays.