Sunday night at the Wards’
BEAVER CREEK – She sang opera. He cooked omelets.That’s how B.J Ward and her husband used to entertain friends on Sunday evenings once a month.The outcome – “Stand-Up Opera” – which comes to the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Bored with assignment singing for various commercial projects, Ward told her voice coach, Lee Sweetland, she needed a challenge. Sweetland handed her an aria. In no time, Ward became an opera star in her own right.
“My voice teacher said, ‘Why don’t you invite your friends over’ and sing arias for them,'” she said. “People seemed to really like it, and every month I would learn a few more arias.”As Ward learned the arias she began to unravel the stories behind them, the lives of the performers, the composers. Ward said unless you grow up going to the opera or schooled in the fine arts, there’s a lot to learn about it – and it’s fascinating.”I look at 75 percent of the heroines dying in the operas written by white European men and for some reason the whole crux of the opera is that the girl dies at the end. She struggles, she dies, she kill herself, she dies of love. It was how they put women in the center of the story. It was cathartic for people,” Ward said.Ward never mocks the operas or makes fun, she simply tells it how she sees it. “It’s like a comedian’s take on a story. I let people know what’s going on. We don’t know what they’re singing about. I translate things. I let them know funny things that happened backstage,” she said. “I mean, it’s like crazy stories, and some of the music was so beautiful that I would find people would be laughing one minute and then crying over the arias the next.”As her repertoire grew and her husband got sick of making omelets, Ward decided to take the show out of her living room and on to the stage of a little theater in Los Angeles. Fifteen years later, she’s still at it.Kris Sabel, director of the Vilar Center, said the show is full of wonderful music and no less entertaining. “She comes out and sings ‘Sempre Libera’ from ‘La Traviata’ and at the end she falls over and then she says, ‘There is no reason for a note to be this high,'” Sabel said. “If you don’t know anything about opera or you think you may want to know something about it, it’s a great show. It’s not over your head. She tells these great stories. And then, if you actually do love opera, you shouldn’t stay away from it. She really has a beautiful voice.”Ward’s first taste of opera came when she showed up for her first voice lesson as a teenager. She sat outside, waiting for the previous lesson to be over and through the door she heard a girl singing “Indian Bell,” a beautiful aria from “Lockme.””I said, ‘I want to sing that.’ I just did it for the fun of it, really,” she said. “I just wanted to go to New York and sing in musicals.”Ward did just that. Soon after, she packed her bags and headed to Broadway. The first musical she saw when she got there was “The Fantasticks.” She said, “I want to be in that show,” and she got in it.”Of course, when you’re that age you don’t really know that you can’t,” Ward said.Ward never outgrew her determination. It’s what allows her to belt out opera tunes in her 90-minute performance.”I sing 10 or 12 of the biggest gut-busting arias in one show,” she said. “Opera singers never even talk during a performance because it uses up your voice and your energy. I didn’t know that it was hard.”But it is. Ward practices every day for at least an hour to keep her voice in shape. She also gets in shape physically by swimming and working out before she heads to the altitude to perform.”I go to my acupuncturist. I do everything I can do but you still never know how you’re going to be because you are the instrument. It’s like vocal bungee jumping.” Ward’s program is evidence enough. The soprano will perform arias from “Carmen,” “La Traviata,” “La Bohem,” “The Magic Flute,” “Don Giovanni,” as well as the entire opera “Turando” in seven minutes. “You’ll know a lot opera by the end of the evening and it’s just fun,” Ward said. “I’m doing operas greatest hits, and it’s sort of my take on it. I’m not trying to convert anybody. I wasn’t any big opera fan when I started. I’m not an expert, I just act like it.”For tickets, call 845-TIXS (8497) or go to vilarcenter.org.
The Vilar Guild presents an evening with B.J. WardMeet and greet, special performance by B.J. Ward to benefit the Vilar6:30 Friday night May Gallery Patrons Lounge, Vilar Centerhors d’oeuvres and wine will be served$100 for benefit, $125 for benefit and Sunday performance
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado