“A Day at the Opera” – Greenwich Time – By Robert Marchant – 12 October 2016
“A Day at the Opera”
October 12, 2016
By Robert Marchant
To read in Greenwich Time: greenwichtime12oct1916p1-4
GREENWICH — There are plenty of hyphenated high achievers in Greenwich who pursue multiple tasks with intensity, but Brett Kroeger might have a distinction all her own.
“I’m the hockey-mom opera-singer,” she said with a laugh.
When she’s not lugging around hockey equipment, or spending hours behind the wheel driving to ice rinks around the region, Kroeger is hitting the high notes as a soprano with a regional opera company.
“The goal was to be a professional singer, and then children happened,” said Kroeger, whose deep, rich voice in casual conversation hints at years of conservatory training and classical-opera performances in New York City and Italy. “As much as I can, I’ve tried to make this work.”
Now that her children, aged 5 and 8, are school-aged, Kroeger is renewing her commitment to opera and the vocal arts. She will be taking a lead role in an upcoming Gilbert and Sullivan production next month with the region’s only operetta company.
It’s a facet of her life she can’t live without, said Kroeger, a Riverside resident.
“This is the kind of job – you can’t do it, unless you love to do it, unless you can’t live without it. Everytime I try to quit – it just doesn’t happen,” she said.
A love of singing came at an early age.
“Ive always sung. Would not shut up,” the soprano said. “According to my mother, I was singing ‘Old Man River” at 11 months. I don’t really believe it, but it’s a nice story.”
A career as a professional singer beckoned. “I had a big voice. It made sense, perfect sense, when I was 16, and I never doubted that that was my path.”
Though she has also sung folk music, popular hits from the Great American Songbook and loves Tori Amos, the world of opera lured her in with a siren song she could not resist. Her eyes light up when she talks about performing operatic works by Tchaikovsky and Mozart. She also enjoys light opera — and the challenge of extremely fast and witty vocal wordplay, punctuated by broad comedic laughs, created by Gilbert and Sullivan.
The Troupers Light Opera Company, now in its 72nd year and the only vocal-arts company of its kind in southern Connecticut is putting on a rarity from Gilbert and Sullivan, “Thespis,” their first collaboration together.
It’s typically described as a “lost opera,” since Sullivan’s musical score has been los tto history. In 2007, director Anthony Baker and conductor Timothy Henry recreated the score, using bits of other works by Sullivan and composer Jacque Offenbach, an important influence on Sullivan’s work. The performance of Thespis in Norwalk next month would be the first of its kind in the Northeast using the new score.
“It’s all new. It’s exciting, it’s funny, it’s a quirky show,” said Kroeger, who also sits on the board of the Troupers.
The company has survived through the years on the labors and passion of people like Kroeger.
“It’s the last of its kind — all these opera companies are falling apart,” Kroeger said. “We struggle every year, and worry that we don’t have enough funding, but every year, somehow, we put on two shows a year. It’s one hundred percent labor of love.”
The 20-member cast is presenting the full comic operetta, semi-staged, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 6, at All Saints School in Norwalk.
Aside from the upcoming Gilbert and Sullivan show, and performing popular songs from the era of World War I, Kroeger said she sees a duty to bring a new generation of young people into the world of opera. She has done operatic performances at Riverside School and is planning one for Cos Cob School. In between driving, hockey practices and rehearsals, promoting a love of opera has become a priority for the dedicated soprano.
“This music needs to stay around,” she said, “however we can do it.”