George Cordes and Friends opera
George Cordes doesn’t think people should be intimidated by opera.
The bass-baritone opera singer and his wife, Elizabeth, brought their experience to Tupper Lake in 2006 and gave it a name in 2009 when they formed the High Peaks Opera.
The modest company has since performed world-class recitals and concerts throughout the region, some of which have featured performers from Boston and New York City.
High Peaks Opera, in collaboration with Hill and Hollow Music, will keep the bar set high at 3 p.m. Sunday with the George Cordes and Friends show at Saranac United Methodist Church in Saranac.
“There is a perception that opera is a very different animal, and it can be intimidating for people,” Cordes said. “Part of it has to do with the language. Opera historically tends to be written in languages that a lot of Americans don’t speak, like Italian, German and Russian, but opera really is the original music theater.”
Cordes said there’s a direct line from modern opera staples like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats” to classic operas.
“It still remains a very viable theater form,” Cordes said. “Once you make it more accessible by giving it translations and presenting it in a way that brings out the dramatic content in it, then I think people tend to appreciate it more as another form of music theater – something that’s just as dramatic, just as tuneful, as a show like ‘Some Enchanted Evening.'”
Sunday’s show will consist of four musicians – George Cordes singing, Elizabeth Cordes singing and playing piano, Jonathan Tortolano on cello and William Tortolano on piano – performing a series of scenes from various operas. It will highlight the melodies, characters and storytelling of the pieces.
“This is a great introduction to different styles of opera, and to a variety of music,” Cordes said. “This music is really tailored toward the type of music that is good for my voice as a bass-baritone. We feel that it gives a good indication of what kind of variety there is.”
Cordes said the playlist will have everything from Bach and Beethoven to the “Song of the Golden Calf,” which is sung by the character Mephistopheles in Charles Gounod’s grand opera “Faust.”
Some of the pieces are not in English, so translations will be available to help the audience better understand and appreciate the stories behind the melodies. A few non-vocal pieces will also be included.
The musical amalgamation was first performed by Cordes and company last year at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. The musicians have since gone their separate ways, and the reunion is something Cordes is looking forward to.
“We’re really excited about this collaboration,” Cordes said. “It’s basically the same program. Johnathan is a wonderful cellist. He works with Pittsburgh Opera and is based in Toronto. He’s also played with the Erie Philharmonic. This is a great opportunity to round out what we do with some of these pieces. It’s great to add that extra instrument.”
Cordes is not a stranger to the stage. Besides acting in and directing numerous local productions, his pre-Tupper Lake resume includes performing with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera.
Early this summer, the Cordes’ will join Pendragon Theatre’s summer concert series production of “Man of La Mancha,” in which George will play Don Quixote.