Outside at the Opera 

Opera Under the Stars redefines the experience of the art

Opera will never lose its reputation as a highbrow affair, but Opera Idaho attempts to make the fine art more accessible to the public with the Opera Under the Stars summer program (though the show finishes long before stars are visible).

The upcoming program on Friday at the Idaho Botanical Garden mixes the outdoor delight of the Garden with the resident company and guests performing Met to sentimental Broadway show tunes. The classic songs performed at the last Under the Stars event, held in July at the Winery at Eagle Knoll, ranged from Phantom of the Opera's "Think of Me" to South Pacific's "Bali H'ai." Excerpts from the Opera's 2005-2006 season were also presented, including The Barber of Seville's "Largo al Factorum," perhaps the most recognized aria of all time (figaro, figaro, figaro!), but the August program sticks strictly to Broadway fare.

Judging from the selected sneak peaks from La Traviata coming to Boise October 8, and The Mikado opening March 2, it is going to be quite the year for Opera Idaho. What the July performance of Opera Under the Stars lacked in the grand, elaborate costumes I was expecting to see, it delivered in sentiment and talent. Opera Idaho's Executive Director Julie Kilgrow, took a break from narrating the program to sing "I Remember it Well" from Gigi with her husband Al Gardner-performing together again for the first time in 20 years. The sassy retorts her character sang (reminding Gardner of what really occurred when they first met), were delivered with flair by Kilgrow, and his character's affable forgetfulness was endearing as well. Another real-life couple in the company, Leslie and John Mauldin, seemed to serve as inspiration for each other as they both had two of the best among the many fine voices of the night.

As long as Opera Idaho continues to offer its enjoyable Under the Stars program-especially if it includes more actual opera and traditional theater garb in future years-perhaps that world will become accessible to those curious about opera.

Opera Under the Stars, August 26, 7 p.m. (gates open at 5:30), Idaho Botanical Gardens, $20 in advance, $25 at the door, 345-3531, www.operaidaho.org.

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