How much does Claudia Simpson-Jones love opera? A decade ago, she founded Opera Pacifica with her husband, tenor Robert William Corl.
Olympia didnt have an opera company, and it should have because we have some really great singers, she said. We have Cyndia Seiden, who is a Metropolitan Opera star. She sang our first opera.
But being the founder means Simpson-Jones doesnt just conduct the operas, including the concert version of Faust that the opera company and the Olympia Chamber Orchestra will perform Saturday. She also produces them, which is a huge endeavor, even for the amazingly dedicated.
And so Simpson-Jones, 68, said this might be the last full-length opera she tackles.
Theres a lot of preparation that goes into doing opera, she said. Stress can be good or bad, and doing opera is wonderfully stressful, but I probably need to retire.
She cant say for sure, though. I say it may be the last opera, she said. But I have so much fun doing it, I think, How can it be the last one?
This is her first time conducting Faust, which tells the familiar story of a man who makes a deal with the devil, with predictable results.
Its one of the most beautiful operas ever written, she said, and its not done a lot. It has some of the most romantic and beautiful music in it.
The cast includes Corl as Faust; bass Thomas J. Freet, who has sung major roles with several Washington companies, as Mephistopheles; and soprano Christina Kowalski, who has sung major roles with a number of German opera companies as well as the Portland Opera and performed with the Olympia Symphony last season, as Marguerite.
The original opera is three hours long. For this performance, Simpson-Jones has trimmed it to fit in the two hours typically allotted to the orchestras concerts.
Shes also the maestro of the orchestra, which is wrapping up its 2012-13 season with this performance.
As if all that work weren't enough, Simpson-Jones also has been working on Broadway musicals. Claudia is pretty remarkable, said the orchestras Tania Basham.
Just because Im an opera conductor doesnt mean I dont like other kinds of music, Simpson-Jones said.
Of late, shes musically directed such Capital Playhouse productions as Nuncrackers and Next to Normal. This summer, shell work with the playhouses Kids at Play theater program. And shell conduct and write music for next seasons holiday show.
Musicals, she said, can in some ways be more challenging than opera because the casts musical knowledge and vocal training can vary more than those of opera soloists.
You get people from all walks of life, she said. I have to do more teaching. I have to do vocal warm-ups. When opera people come to rehearsals, they have already done a set of vocal exercises.
But ultimately, theres one big reason the musicals are easier. I am producing Opera Pacifica, which means Im responsible financially, she said. With Capital Playhouse, instead of paying out money to put on a production, Im on the payroll.
Asked what will happen to Opera Pacifica if she really is ready to retire, Simpson-Jones said, I dont know. I dont know. I would like for it to (continue). Its been a labor of love for a lot of years. I would like to see it continue. It may continue on a limited basis like doing an oratorio each year.
But I havent sat down and really come up with a game plan.