Skagit Opera presents rags-to-riches fairy tale

Marcus Shelton, 37, has the enviable role of playing Prince Ramiro in Skagit Opera’s upcoming production of “Cinderella,” Giachino Rossini’s operatic achievements, “La Cenerentola.”

The classic fairy tale opens this weekend at Skagit Valley College’s McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon.

Shelton describes his role as a “a prince who is looking for true love: someone that loves him for who he is, not his riches and title.”

But football fans might recognize him, even if they’ve never attended an opera.

For eight straight seasons, he’s sung the national anthem for a Seattle Seahawks home game. Here’s proof (just Google “Marcus Shelton, Seahawks“ on YouTube.

John Boehr, who performs the role of Dandini, the valet to Prince Ramiro, in his debut with Skagit Opera, grew up singing with his sisters in church.

“The joy of singing as a child certainly influenced my choice to become a professional,” he says.

“I decided to begin an opera career when I was in college after working with a wonderful voice teacher who showed me how inspirational and passionate the art form could be.”

There are some operas that he would particularly recommend to first timers, Boehr says, and this is most certainly one of them.

“The comedy in this show is definitely laugh-out-loud stuff, the story of Cinderella is one that everyone can enjoy, and of course the music is so full of energy and life, and that alone will keep any audience member engaged and entranced for the entire show.

Mitchell Kahn, general director of Skagit Opera, spent 28 years as house doctor, tour physician and medical director of Metropolitan Opera, and director of Miller Healthcare Institute for Performing Artists in New York City.

His many responsibilities include selecting the operas; finding, negotiating, and hiring singers, orchestra, staff; raising money from donors; begging people to house out-of-town singers; lending singers his car; managing the chorus; excerpting and printing chorus music audio; writing the subtitles; giving talks at local community colleges and radio interviews, writing press releases; doing publicity; writing grant applications; organizing fund-raising activities; collecting props; and building both the website and the set.

He says that “Cinderella” is “a very un-intimidating opera; a farce with lots of silliness and lots of vocal pyrotechnics, with effervescent music.”

It’s a great cast, Kahn says, that includes Western Washington University instructor of music Jonathan Silvia as Alidoro, the prince’s tutor.

And what if someone is thinking about attending, but has never been to an opera and finds it a bit intimidating?

“Same thing I say to my kids when they won't eat their dinner,” says Shelton.

“How do you know you don't like it unless you try it?”