Gridiron Giovanni

Football-player-turned-opera-singer coming to Steamboat

¤ The Emerald City Opera's 2006 Outstanding Artists Recital Series, featuring baritone Keith Miller and pianist Debra Ayers¤ 7 p.m. Thursday¤ Depot Art Center¤ $20 adults; $10 students; children 11 and younger admitted free. Tickets are available at All That Jazz, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and the Emerald City Opera office¤ Call 879-1996 or visit www.EmeraldCityOp...

To know the pitch of Keith Miller's singing, all you have to do is listen to his voicemail message.

When he says, "You have reached Keith Miller," the earth rumbles.

The man is undoubtedly a baritone. His vocal range runs deeper than the Pacific Ocean.

Miller, a former football player for the University of Colorado, the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders, is an experienced baritone opera vocalist who has performed in England, Colorado and across the United States.

He is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Depot Art Center in Steamboat Springs. The show is part of Emerald City Opera's 2006 Outstanding Artists Recital Series. Pianist Debra Ayers, also an accomplished musician, will accompany Miller.

The two performed together during the summer at the Crested Butte Music Festival, an experience Ayers said provided unique opportunities for harmony and musical interaction.

"There's a great deal of wonderful repertoire for voice and piano," she said from Cambridge, Mass., where she lives after 18 years in the Aspen area. "It's going to be a real treat to bring this kind of performance to audiences who would not normally hear it."

Ayers said Thursday's performance will include a variety of musical styles, including a piece from "Beauty and the Beast," a piece by 19th-century Austrian composer Franz Schubert and several of Miller's favorite arias.

"Keith is a wonderful vocalist, and he is also a very good interpreter of the music, so he brings the music to life for the audience," Ayers said. "I think the audience is going to enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoy playing with him."

Keri Rusthoi, owner of Emerald City Opera, said Miller is a star on the rise.

"We're really lucky to have him," she said. "He's been really breaking out and making quite a name for himself around the country."

A fullback in his football days, Miller began his opera career by joining the Academy of Vocal Arts after graduating from CU, where he majored in fine arts. The academy is a four-year institution based in Philadelphia and Chicago and dedicated to training world-class opera singers.

The training has paid off for Miller, whose recent performances include a critically acclaimed production of "The Cricket Recovers" at the Aldeburgh Festival in England; Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Monterone/Sparafucile in Rigoletto with the Crested Butte Music Festival; the roles of Leporello and Masetto in Don Giovanni; Dulcamara in L'elisir d'amore, Don Alfonso in Cosà fan tutte; Sarastro in Die Zauberflte and Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro.

Upcoming performances for Miller include Fafner in Das Rheingold, the title role in Don Giovanni and Colline in La BohÃme.

Miller played professional football for five years.

Ayers said she has played the piano for "just about (her) entire life." She has played with a wide range of musicians, including members of the American, Vega and Da Vinci string quartets; Mercury's Players; and several major opera companies. She has performed at venues including the Aspen Music Festival, the Emerald City Opera, the Breckenridge Music Institute and the Crested Butte Music Festival. She also is a founding member and pianist of Opus 21, a new Boston-based ensemble.

Rusthoi said Paul Underwood, owner of Cafe Diva in Torian Plum Plaza, is sponsoring Thursday's concert.

"This is one of many ways that he is courting Emerald City Opera," she said.

On May 2, another concert series -- the Resident Artists Spotlight Series -- will continue with a performance by local percussionist Leland Miller.

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