Those who love Arts Walk, Olympia’s twice-yearly celebration of the community’s creativity, know to expect the unexpected.
Shops and restaurants turn into galleries. Streets become stages. And at the 53rd Arts Walk, a wastewater treatment plant will serve as a concert hall.
Internationally acclaimed soprano Cyndia Sieden will sing Friday (Oct. 7) at the WET Science Center, part of LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s downtown plant.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what to put on social media about the venue, because it’s so unusual,” said Sieden, who’s sung at London’s Royal Opera House and at the Met in New York City. “I’m not sure people would expect that.”
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“There are tremendous acoustics in that room,” said Jennifer Bowman of Olympia, the Juilliard-trained pianist who’ll accompany Sieden.
The biggest surprise about the concert is not the venue, but Sieden, who rarely sings here publicly though she’s lived here for nearly 30 years.
“Cyndia Sieden is one of those Olympians who’s better known outside of Olympia,” said Arts Walk organizer Stephanie Johnson. “This is one of those don’t-miss kind of things. I’m super excited.”
In a 2011 review of the New York City Opera’s “Monodramas,” an evening of short operas, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini called Sieden’s performance “dazzling” and praised the “uncanny focus, impressive stamina and ethereal beauty” of her singing.
“Singing beautifully is one thing,” The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette wrote in a review of the same production. “Sieden went the next step into artistry by imbuing every phrase with significance — not self-consciously, but with genuine urgency.”
Cyndia Sieden is one of those Olympians who’s better known outside of Olympia. This is one of those don’t-miss kind of things. I’m super excited.
Arts Walk organizer Stephanie Johnson
Sieden came to Olympia to study at The Evergreen State College. She graduated in 1976 in the college’s first graduating class. She then lived in Seattle, San Francisco and New York before returning to Olympia in the late ’80s with then-husband Charles Pailthorp, an Evergreen professor whom, ironically, she met in New York.
But most of her career has been in Europe, where she’s sung with companies in England, France, Germany and Austria, among others. She’s also performed in Asia and Australia.
She’s featured along with the Helsinki Philharmonic on the premiere recording of Finnish composer Sunleif Rasmussen’s Symphony No. 2 “The Earth Anew,” which was released Oct. 1.
She performs often in Seattle, where she’s sung with the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Opera. She’s an adjunct professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where she’ll sing Saturday with the university’s Regency Voices.
On Friday’s program are songs by Camille Saint-Saens and Richard Strauss.
“Strauss is kind of a specialty of mine,” Sieden said.
“I won’t be singing opera arias, but I’m deploying all my colors of singing as an opera singer would. I’m singing some great songs.”
She’s particularly excited about three songs by American composer Lee Hoiby. Each is a poem set to music, including Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”
“In your mind, ‘Jabberwocky’ is kind of sing-songy, but the way it’s set, it becomes this dramatic theme,” she said. “I find it riveting the way a song can transform a lyric. It’s really quite wonderful.”
It’s appropriate, too, she said.
“ ‘Jabberwocky’ is totally in honor of this ridiculous election we’re having.”
Arts Walk 53
What: The free twice-yearly event showcases visual and performing arts of all kinds at 91 downtown businesses and on the streets of Olympia.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday (Oct. 7) and noon-5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Throughout downtown Olympia.
Information: 360-753-8380, olympiawa.gov/artswalk. Mobile app at the website. Printed maps are available at participating businesses and The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW; Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.; and the Downtown Welcome Center, 301 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.
Cyndia Sieden and Jennifer Bowman
What: Internationally-acclaimed soprano Cyndia Sieden, accompanied by pianist Jennifer Bowman, gives a rare public performance in Olympia, where she’s lived for nearly 30 years.
When: 7-8 p.m. Friday (Oct. 7).
Where: LOTT (Lacey Olympia Tumwater Thurston) Clean Water Alliance’s Regional Services Center, 500 Adams St. NE, Olympia.
Also: Bowman teaches piano, and her students will perform 6-7 p.m.