by Andrew Crisp
Though Opera Idaho Executive Director Mark Junkert boasts an extensive knowledge of music, he acknowledged up front he wasn't an expert on the long history of opera in Idaho.
"If at some point you know more about this than I do, just say, 'Wrong!'" said Junkert.
But a small crowd assembled to listen didn't mind, asking questions and providing input throughout Junkert's presentation. The event was part of Sesqui-Speaks, a roster of talks hosted by Boise 150, the city's sesquicentennial celebration.
"In the early years, even 1890s, troupes would come through and perform opera. They're probably not operas any of you would know the names of now," said Junkert.
Opera Idaho has taken on four different names in 40-plus years, starting as the Boise Opera Workshop in 1971, then Boise Civic Opera, Boise Opera and, finally, Opera Idaho in 1997.
"Name change again, to place ourselves as the opera of Idaho," said Junkert. "It's interesting because we haven't really done that. We are going to Pocatello this year, but opera's hard to take on the road."
Junkert said he believed the first opera performed in Boise was technically an operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore, written by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert and performed in 1879. Fort Boise soldiers added live marching and drilling to the performance. Junkert said Gilbert and Sullivan operas were commonly performed in the City of Trees.
Before Junkert finished, he finished with a slice of Boise's opera future, asking a singer to perform "Penny's Lament" from a Boise opera based on the story of Odysseus.