Real Life Cowboy Stars in Cville Opera's Oklahoma

Jul 17, 2017

Charlottesville Opera is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with two very different productions and cast members from wildly different backgrounds.  Sandy Hausman has a preview of the summer season.

A real life cowboy plays the Paramount in Charlottesvville Opera's production of Oklahoma.
Credit Charlottesville Opera

Rigoletto is a tragic tale originally penned by the Frenchman Victor Hugo and adapted to opera by the Italian Giuseppe Verdi, but creative director Michelle Krisel says that’s just the beginning of the multi-national production  in Charlottesville.

“The female lead is from Cuba, and our male lead is Korean," she says, "but I’m sure the public will never question that they aren’t Gilda and Rigoletto.  It’s because of their acting and singing that they embody the character.”

Rigoletto is on stage Wednesday night at the Paramount Theater, followed in ten days by a run of the musical Oklahoma. 

It is, of course, a western saga by Rogers and Hammerstein, and the male lead – Curly – will be played by a guy with great credentials.

“He’s half African-American and half cowboy!” Krisel explains.

Nathan Granner grew up near his grandparents in Iowa, and on a horse farm in Missouri with his mother and one of a kind step-dad.

“We bought the ranch outside of Kansas City and had 28 acres and raised Missouri Foxtrotter horses," he recalls.  "My step dad would say, ‘Junior!'  (that’s my name) or  'Baden!' (as opposed to Nathan), 'Why don’t you come on over here and see my new John Deere tractor collection of plates.’”

And then there was the father who exposed him to music.

“I would play under the pews where my dad sang at the Presbyterian Church.  I always remember hearing his sonorous baritone voice.  That was my adopted dad.  My biological dad was a soul singer in Chicago.”

After studying art and music in college, he began performing in operas and toured with a classical group, the American Tenors.  He looks forward to his debut here and to sharing the stage, for the first time, with dancers from the Charlottesville Ballet.