A brief history
Founded in 2003 by James and Marnie Werner, High Desert Opera began as a way for James' voice students and other community singers to practice singing classical music in front of an audience. The first "recital" took place in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church in Grand Junction, Colorado. The format for that evening was a New Year's Eve Gala concert, featuring excerpts from opera as well as musical theater.
The event became one of the community's favorite choices for New Year's Eve entertainment, and grew over a five year period from a program with a piano accompaniment to a fully staged production with a small orchestra and large chorus. It moved from the church into the largest local theaters: The historic downtown Avalon Theatre and the Robinson Theatre on the local college campus.
In 2009, a new tradition was born when HDO produced the classic musical "The Man of La Mancha" for its New Year's Eve program. Since then, our New Year's Eves have all featured classic musicals, such as "The Sound of Music", "Camelot", "I Do! I Do!", and "Les Miserables". Our audiences have grown from several hundreds to several thousands.
From galas to full-scale opera
Emboldened by the success of the first New Year's Eve Gala, the decision was made to produce a full opera, "The Tales of Hoffman", in the spring of 2004, in the church basement. The audience loved it, in spite of the tiny stage, hard folding chairs, and the simple piano accompaniment.
Since that first opera, HDO has produced "Die Fledermaus" (with the Grand Junction Symphony), "Pagliacci", "Tosca", "The Sorcerer", "The Mikado", "The Barber of Seville", "The Elixir of Love", "Madame Butterfly," and (most recently) "Hansel & Gretel."
Our goal is to keep increasing the quality of each production. We are accomplishing that by casting professional singers to perform alongside our local ensemble cast, utilizing larger orchestras, and including more beautiful details in the sets, costumes and other production components.