MAN AT THE HELM TAKES THE STAGE Aaron St. Clair Nicholson's Solo Show Benefits Opera CdA, JACC

By Janovich, Adriana | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), January 3, 2014 | Go to article overview

MAN AT THE HELM TAKES THE STAGE Aaron St. Clair Nicholson's Solo Show Benefits Opera CdA, JACC


Janovich, Adriana, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


It might be a one-man show. But baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson will be performing with some "old friends" Saturday night.

They're classical and contemporary, a mix of popular opera arias and Americana, a few of his favorites, songs to which he always returns.

"They're special to me," Nicholson said. "They're old friends of mine. They're all songs I've sung for a long time."

Sharing them with the community gives the Inland Northwest newcomer a chance to meet some new friends while raising awareness for Opera Coeur d'Alene and The Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center. Nicholson is giving his first recital since moving here last spring to run Opera CdA, where he serves as artistic and general director.

"Just One Night: An Intimate Evening of Songs with Baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson" is a solo show featuring Maurice Ravel's classical song cycle inspired by the character of Don Quixote, contemporary American songs from Aaron Copland and Randy Newman and some opera hits.

"It's a good set-up," Nicholson said. "It'll be fun. It's very intimate."

The recital runs more than an hour and includes a special guest performance by Spokane soprano Dawn Wolski. Pianist Mary Trotter and bassist Angus Nunes will provide accompaniment.

Concertgoers can also expect audience engagement, including some storytelling.

"It's a light mood. It won't be a somber event," Nicholson said, noting that he approaches his art form with integrity. "But I don't take myself too seriously."

Nicholson, 40, took the helm as artistic and general director at Opera CdA in fall 2012, moving to Coeur d'Alene last May in time for the start of the 2013 season.

He had worked with Opera CdA during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, serving as an artistic consultant both years and performing the role of Escamillo, the bullfighter, in the 2012 production of "Carmen." He directed "Faust" in 2011 as well as "Rigoletto" last September.

"The opportunities just unfolded here," said Nicholson, who spent five years in the San Francisco Bay Area before coming to Coeur d'Alene. "The dominoes just fell in the direction of coming here."

Originally from Abbotsford, B.C., Nicholson graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham in 1995 with a degree in music. In 1998, he received his master's of music in opera performance from Binghamton University in upstate New York, which served as his home base for 13 years.

From 1998 to 2008, he served as the artistic director of the Binghamton Summer Youth Music Theater Workshop, which he co- founded.

He was also on the road, performing with - among others - Opera Saskatchewan, Vancouver Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria and New York's Metropolitan Opera, where he portrayed Schaunard in "La Boheme," Clyde Griffiths in "An American Tragedy" and Chou En-Lai in "Nixon in China. …

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