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User-friendly opera

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

Opera with Altitude has some attitude – as spokesperson Catherine Houdek puts it, this “is not your father’s opera.”

“There will be no fat lady singing, no costumes, and the majority of the songs will be in English,” Houdek said. “Black tie is way optional. All we ask for is shirts and shoes. It will be very user-friendly.”

The special event ushers Chicago Lyric Opera tenor James N. Kryshak to Summit’s stage. It’s a chance to hear big-city talent without the big-city price, traffic and dress code.

The show benefits the Continental Divide Land Trust, a Summit County-based nonprofit working to save mountain landscapes forever through the use of conservation easements.

Breckenridge attracted Kryshak because his father, Terry Kryshak, has lived in Frisco for a few years, and the singer supports Continental Divide Land Trust’s mission.

For this concert, he chose pieces with nature themes.

“I tried to create a little bit of a journey through nature to preserve love and nature and ourselves,” he said. “It will be an interesting journey through lesser sung composers – not everyday run-of-the-mill (pieces) you hear on classical radio. It’s part of the preservation of the whole thing, reminding people there’s more to (opera and classical music) than the top 20 radio (hits).”

The concert begins with George Frederik Handel’s “Where’er You Walk” and includes songs by Charles Ives, Benjamin Britten, George Crumb, Mozart and Aaron Copland’s American folk songs.

“It’s life in full circle,” James Kryshak said, explaining how the pieces take audiences through finding love, losing love, being renewed and reawakening.

The show also features locals Doug Bair, Jeff Wakeley and pianist Kim Ruhland. Bair and Wakeley will join Kryshak in performing “Danny Boy” and Mozart’s “Al fato dan legge.”

“I’m glad to share their love for (singing),” James Kryshak said about taking the stage with Bair and Wakeley. “It will be great working with them – any way to get local people involved (is wonderful) because it is for a local cause.”

As the story goes in the Kryshak family, “I was humming before I was crying,” James Kryshak said.

His music teacher in school noticed that as a 5-year-old, he sang often and could match notes correctly, so she encouraged his somewhat non-musical family to enroll him in voice lessons. His first voice teacher classically trained him, instilling a love of the classic form. In college, he delved into opera more, studying German to prepare himself for living abroad. He ended up living in Vienna – the heart of the classical music world – for two years.

The experience helped widen his outlook on life and now enables him to bring a richness to the characters he embodies in opera.

“Whenever I’m singing or doing a performance, it just takes over my life,” he said. “There’s nothing I’ve ever done that has given me that feeling; it just brings me so much joy. I have no idea of where the drive comes from, but I try to feed it and try to keep it going.”

His passion has led him to become a national semi-finalist on the Metropolitan Opera stage, as well as a finalist in the Ferruccio Tagliavini International Vocal Competition in Deutschlandsberg and a semi-finalist in the Klassik Mania Competition in Vienna. He earned a master’s of music degree in opera performance from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where he was the recipient of the Wisconsin Distinguished Voice Excellence Fellowship and studied with Julia Faulkner.

This season, he performs four operas at the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he recently won a coveted spot.


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