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'A funny thing happened ...'

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La Belle poque began as a brainstorming session for the sixth season of the Colorado Springs School's Thursday Night Recital Series.

"But a funny thing happened on the way to the recital," opera singer Judith Burns (pictured) tells me, before she and producer David Sckolnik break into giddy laughter.

In La Belle poque, Sckolnik and Burns have translated their obvious enthusiasm for the performing arts into a powerhouse production referencing hundreds of artists, songs and events from "The Beautiful Era."

The setting: It's 1907 and American opera singer Virginia Madison Smith a composite character of real turn-of-the-century opera stars Mary Garden, Geraldine Ferrar, and Lillian Russell, as played by Burns is spending the morning at the recently constructed Trianon, the French-style estate that has been home to the Colorado Springs School since 1967.

With the Baldwins (the real-life wealthy socialites who modeled the building after the Grand Trianon at Versailles) out of town, Smith touts her exploits with fin-de-sicle artists and performs her morning vocal lessons. These lessons feature works from the time period: German and French salon music, pieces by Strauss, various arias, and popular American songs.

Burns, who teaches privately at the Conservatory, will be accompanied by professional pianist Mary Beth Shaffer.


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La Belle poque: Judith Shay Burns and Mary Beth Shaffer, part of the Colorado Springs School Thursday Night Recital Series

Louisa Performing Arts Center, 21 Broadmoor Ave.

Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $50-$75 for the season, $10-$15 single show, coming soon; call 475-9747 or visit css.org.

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