The summer stayed unusually quiet for the Sun Valley Opera as ongoing health concerns forced the cancellation or postponement of live concerts and festivities. Last month, though, the organization began to pick up steam again, hosting popular outdoor film screenings on the lawn of the Sun Valley Pavilion.

Following that successful experiment, the opera is moving forward with its first live, in-person concert since early March. On Friday, Sept. 25, the opera will feature acclaimed Seattle-based singer and actress Cayman Ilika in a special outdoor concert on the Warm Springs lawn of Kathleen and Jim Britt.

Making her Idaho debut, Ilika will be joined by close friend and music director Christopher DiStefano in the what the Opera is calling the Garden Concert Al Fresco. Together, they will perform a wide-ranging program of Broadway favorites and classic country hits from the likes of Patsy Clyne and Johnny Cash.

According to Sun Valley Opera co-founder and President Frank Meyer, tickets are selling fast with attendance capped at 90 for social distancing purposes.

“It will be among the few live professional music concerts since lockdown, and I think people are really craving that experience,” Meyer said.

The sentiment extends beyond the audience. Ilika said she and DiStefano are both eager to get back in action. The freeze on live performance has not only stalled them professionally, she said, but has also robbed them of one of their purest joys in life.

“It’s been honestly very sad and very hard,” said Ilika, who hasn’t been able to perform in more than six months. “The only job I’ve ever held as an adult is theater and music, live performance. It’ll be a relief for the two of us. We’ve been missing our jobs so much. It’s not just our job, but it’s also our passion. It’s what we love to do.”

As live performance slowly begins to resume, performers and audience members alike have gained renewed appreciation for the importance of the arts.

“I understand our health is absolutely our No. 1 priority, but now that it’s safe to do certain things like gathering outside and keeping distance, our mental health has to be a priority, too,” Ilika said. “What do people turn to when they’re having a hard time? Art, music, theater, film. It’s essential.”

Ilika and DiStefano’s concert will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25. Tickets are available for purchase online at sunvalleyopera.com or by calling Executive Director Robyn Watson at 208-726-0991. As previously mentioned, attendance is limited and tickets are selling quickly.

“I think it’s going to be a really fun night,” Ilika said. “Frank has told me about the kind of programming they put on and that the audience they have in Idaho is full of people who appreciate art and live performance. It’s going to be so much fun to reconnect with an audience who’s been craving live performance as much as Chris and I have.”

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