Kirsten and Keith Chambers fell in love in Texas.
They will have a unique way of telling their story through music when the opera couple perform in the Permian Basin.
Kirsten, an internationally acclaimed soprano will take the stage with music directed by her husband Keith to tell the story of their friendship in a performance titled “A Life Made in Music: The Love Story of Kirsten and Keith Chambers”
The performance will take place at the Yucca Theater in Midland on September 23-25.
The story is about their friendship, starting with their first meeting and love in Texas to navigate the worlds of performing and teaching opera and eventually moving to New York (where they currently reside) to follow their dreams in this interactive performance.
“It’s our love story that’s told through music,” Kirsten said. “But it really has to do with anyone’s love affair.”
The two have been together for 20 years now and have been married for 17 of those years.
Kirsten said there will be a bit of something for everyone.
“From rare operas to more popular operas that Puccini lovers would love,” Kirsten said. There is ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber in ‘Remember Me’ by Disney Pixar’s ‘Coco’. My husband will lead. The fantastic singer Gabriel Salgado will sing with us.
The concert will include a performance by the Hispanic Cultural Center of the Ballet Folklorico of Midland.
“I’m excited about this because I have a dance background,” Kirsten said. “There will be something for music, theater and dance lovers.
She promises that there will be some funny moments in this production.
“There will even be an anecdote about the couples on the show and there will be opera prizes and t-shirts,” Kirsten said.
The accompanying musicians include the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale String Quartet and LuAnn Lane.
For Keith, this will be the second time in two years that he has led at Midland. His last trip to the Permian Basin was just before the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, in the spring of 2020.
He can’t wait to get back to West Texas.
“I’m very excited because this is one of my favorite jobs because the company and the people of Midland always treat us the best they can. We are very well taken care of, ”said Keith.
For the Permian Basin Opera House, it will be the first performance since before the pandemic.
“We are really excited,” said Sarah Jones, executive director of Permian Basin Opera. “Keith has done a few things with us in the past. This is my first time working with Kirsten and she is so adorable. She was a joy before this show. We are really excited. It’s something they’ve put in place. It’s something different that we can highlight.
The couple may have lived in Texas before, but for Kirsten this week will be her first time in the Permian Basin.
Kirsten and Keith first met when they were at the University of Houston.
“We have Texan roots,” Keith said. “We were both doing higher education and working on an opera called ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’. She was singing one of the main roles and I was the choir director.
In this production, Kirsten played the role of villainous character Giulietta.
“She collects men’s souls and puts them in her jewelry box,” Kirsten said. “That didn’t seem to deter (Keith) from wanting to date me. That’s a good thing.”
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kirsten attended Wesleyan University of Illinois in Bloomington, Ill. For her bachelor’s degree.
She knew she wanted to be at the opera since she was in fifth grade when she was in the production of “Carmen”.
“I auditioned to be a soldier,” Kirsten said. “That’s when I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living. As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be an opera singer.
She made her professional debut in Finland, playing the role of Elsa in Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin”.
“It was a super cool production,” Kirsten said. “We sang in a castle on a stage. They built a lake with a swan boat. My costumes had to be water and fire resistant because they set the swan on fire and I remember my mother asking me “why is opera so dangerous?” “
But fear not, Kirsten assures us that this performance at Midland will be very safe and careful.
Her career has taken her everywhere, including the famous Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York.
Her Carnegie Hall debut came on just two days’ notice when she sang the difficult role of Maria in Richard Strauss’s “Friedenstag” with the American Symphony Orchestra.
She said that being married to a conductor had helped her learn the role.
“I had the lead role and only had two days to learn it,” Kirsten said. “I’m happy to be married to a coach because we’ve worked hard on it. I was determined to learn it and memorize it as much as possible.
Kirsten is best known for her portrayal of the title role of “Salome” where, in addition to the Metropolitan Opera, she also performed it at the Hong Kong Opera and the Florida Grand Opera.
His debut at Metropolitan came on even shorter notice (just under six hours).
“I had played this role before, but I remember getting this call at 2pm and being asked if I wanted to make my Metropolitan Opera debut for that night,” Kirsten said. “The lead was sick. And I was like ‘yes!’ I just put on a leotard and went there to practice the dance and listen to the music. It was crazy. But it was my dream. Since the fifth year, I wanted to play there. It was very cool.
Keith has conducted over 150 performances of over 50 different operas for companies such as Dallas Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Shreveport Opera, Asheville Opera, Ithaca Opera, the new Amsterdam opera house, the Amarillo opera house and the first opera house on the coast, among others.
He has been a conductor and / or assistant conductor for over 40 different operas and has assisted renowned conductors Emmanuel Villaume, Patrick Summers, Willie Anthony Waters and Riccardo Frizza.
He knew he wanted to be in music since he was a kid.
Keith started playing the piano at the age of four.
“My mom was a pianist and I was going to sit next to her, picking up the melody as she played,” Keith said. “Then, about 20 years ago, I decided to lead. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. I still play the piano, but now I also conduct an opera orchestra.
Keith, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami (Florida).
With Kirsten on stage and Keith in charge, it’s safe to say that their schedules are busy.
“We travel all over the world,” Keith said. “Often we will be separated for six months a year.”
Both work continuously.
“You don’t really have a day off,” Kirsten said. “I’m always training for the next thing that’s coming. You have auditions and there is a lot of work that you do. You work a lot on memorization and acting. You work with your coach and your director.
In order to keep up with everything, Kirsten says she sets a schedule and follows it. His day usually starts at 9 a.m. and ends around 10 p.m.
“You really have to schedule your time and I write and schedule my 9 am-10pm days and make sure I’m ready,” Kirsten said. “But you are not always prepared. Two of my most important debuts, I received very little notice which was exciting and scary.
With this performance in Midland, they will be together but this is not always the case with their other shows.
Trying to make everything work with their schedules and marriage, Kirsten emphasized that communication is key.
“We try to call even when I’m in Hong Kong and they’re in the US, we’re trying to find a time to connect and share what the other is going through,” Kirsten said. “I think it’s super important.”
When they can, they try to assist each other.
“Sometimes we can’t, though, because we’re at different performances,” Keith said. “The first time she sang in Hong Kong, I was in Dallas and couldn’t go. It happens.”
Kirsten and Keith have lived in New York for 14 years now.
While Kirsten had dreamed of being an opera singer, she had no idea that it would come true and that she would end up in New York.
“I didn’t think my dreams would come true anywhere else,” Kirsten said. “I grew up on a farm outside of Pittsburgh, so I never thought I would ever move to New York. I didn’t know how I would be an opera singer. I never thought I would live in the city. In our building there are a bunch of opera singers so it’s a great place to get creative and work. It is beautiful too.
Keith also loved being in the Big Apple.
“New York is traditionally for musicians and singers,” Keith said. “Everyone comes here. Having access to all of this in a community of musicians is one of the best things about being here. “
Jones is looking forward to production this week.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Jones said. “Even if what you think is opera, it’s going to be something different. I would encourage people to go out and even if you want to go out at night it will be fun. We will have some fun stuff for couples. We will have a fun skit and it will be a fun night.
Tickets can be purchased online at the Permian Basin Opera website at https://www.mypbo.org/.
If you are going to
- What: “A Life Made in Music: The Love Story of Kirsten and Keith Chambers.”
- Or: Yucca Theater, 208 N. Colorado St., Midland.
- When: 7:30 p.m. on September 23 and 25.
- Tickets: mypbo.org