It has been a busy 2020 so far for the Sun Valley Opera. After just a couple of weeks off since the organization’s final concert of 2019, the winter season picked up again in late January with the Vienna Meets New York concert with Melody Wilson and Zachary James.
Then, just last week, local chef extraordinaire and accomplished vocalist Judith McQueen held a jazz show at The Argyros to benefit the opera.
Time ticks on, and, remarkably, the Sun Valley Opera only has four more concerts left in its 2019-20 winter season, three of which are coming up this Presidents’ Day weekend.
Fittingly, given the holiday, the opera has booked Broadway star Bryan Terrell Clark, perhaps best known as George Washington in “Hamilton,” for these next engagements.
First, on Saturday, Feb. 15, Clark will star in one of the Sun Valley Opera’s signature Diva Parties. Here, in the comfort of a private home somewhere in the valley, audiences have the opportunity to enjoy a world-class performer in an intimate setting. Clark will sing his program and then meet and chat with concertgoers.
The Diva Party, given its venue, will host a much more concentrated audience. These events typically fill up quickly, but for those looking for another opportunity to enjoy Clark’s talents, he will perform two additional concerts the following day—a 4 p.m. matinee and a 7:30 p.m. follow-up, both at the Sun Valley Opera House.
Tickets for the Diva Party are $250 but include premium passes for the ticketholder’s choice of Sunday concerts. The Sunday concerts cost $75 for general seating or $95 for preferred seating, with that higher price bracket including a post-show meet and greet.
All tickets are available online at sunvalleyopera.com.
Clark’s show will capture the full range of his varied career. From his Broadway debut as Marvin Gaye in “Motown” to his current turn as America’s first president in “Hamilton.”
“My concert is going to feel a bit like a cabaret meets a one-man show,” he said. “You will get to know me in a very intimate way. I’m going to go through the story of my life through music. There’s everything from Motown, to gospel, to classic musical theater and jazz. The concert is a bit of a journey and I hope you enjoy taking the ride.”
Heading into this presidential holiday with all the current hubbub in Washington, Clark pointed to that city’s namesake, his great Broadway role, as an important role model.
Reciting what he named his favorite George Washington quote, Clark said, “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles: the character of an honest man.”
The actor elaborated in analysis, saying, “I think that is what we need in leadership. Focus, determination, authenticity and honesty. ‘History has its eyes on you!’”
At a time when the study of history appears to be falling by the wayside in educational institutions across the country, Clark advocated for a greater examination of the past, and pointed to art as a powerful tool for inspiring audiences to conduct their own research.
“[‘Hamilton’ creator] Lin Manuel Miranda said he wanted to tell a story about the history of America with the voices that make up America today—I’m paraphrasing—but I find that truth and parts of history can be highlighted or even re-evaluated when told from a new context, a different framework if you will,” Clark said.
The Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway sensation has been smashing box office records around the world and has, indeed, encouraged people to dive into history.
The New York Times reported that the success of the musical yielded an astronomical increase in sales for the 800-page biography that Miranda adapted to the stage. The Times recorded sales of 3,300 copies in 2014. Following the musical’s 2015 debut, the book sold 106,000 copies that year, breaking onto the bestseller list.
“‘Hamilton’ has lit a spark in young people to investigate history, to study it, to dig deep and learn from, and to ask more questions,” Clark said. “What is the America we are building for our children?”
The actor himself learned a great deal more about Washington and American history by preparing for his “Hamilton” role.
“My approach to every character I play is different. George Washington was unique in that I had no real idea who he was as a person. I only understood him as a president,” Clark explained. “It was fun researching his life, learning his heart and the way he approached life. It was his idea that a president should only serve two terms. He didn’t think of the position as one of “ruler or king,” but that of a public servant. He had a heart for the nation, a heart for people and a heart to serve.”
Clark will aim to enthuse local audiences in a similar fashion this Presidents’ Day weekend, embodying the ability of arts to educate and provoke critical thought. Of “Hamilton” and its potential to inspire, Clark said, “The vehicle we use in this piece to drive us there is music, and it’s the best music on Broadway.”