Littleton's Hudson Gardens is treat for lovers of nature, shows

Littleton venue allowed opera to hold performances outdoors

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When the Central City Opera Company determined that COVID rules and regulations would not allow for summer performances in the wonderful 1878 Opera House, an arrangement was made to move about 35 miles down the hill and outside — at Littleton’s Hudson Gardens and Event Center, where a stage awaited with a grass amphitheater.

The final performances are over and ticket sales went really well for Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” presented in repertory with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” which filled the gardens with music and live performances through July. (I feel certain the flowers are thriving after a month of beautiful music and happy audiences.)

I enjoyed a somewhat abbreviated version of “Carousel” with what looked like a sold-out crowd.

The musical, based on Ferenc Molnar’s play, “Liliom,” featured original choreography by Agnes DeMille and a live orchestra tucked behind a colorful backdrop, painted with carousel horses.

On a set with minimal furnishings, Julie Jordan was portrayed by soprano Anna Christy, while the rough-edged Billy Bigelow part was performed by strong baritone Stephen La Brie and Marin Tack performed as their daughter, Louise. “If I Loved You” sounded especially fine as the sun set ... “When I Marry Mr. Snow” is the funny/ familiar number sung by Julie’s friend Carrie (Jennifer Di Dominici) and Will Ferguson was the somewhat goofy Enoch Snow. Other familiar songs included “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and the haunting “You’ll Never Walk Alone ...”

Somewhere recently, I read that this was Hammerstein’s favorite among the wondrous collection of musicals he and Rodgers created.

Ken Cazan was director for “Carousel” and Christopher Zemliuskas conducted the behind-the scenes orchestra.

Meanwhile at the gardens, visitors can enjoy the constantly-changing plantings at Hudson Gardens and Event Center, with the entry at 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive in Littleton.

There’s a new Colorado Garden that features plants that grow especially happily in this somewhat difficult climate — many native plants, drought-resistant, colorful and pollinator-friendly.

There is a new River Garden that improves the connection with the Mary Carter trail and the South Platte River, and close to the water lily pond is Evelyn’s Garden, named for the late Evelyn Hudson, who donated her land and home to provide a place of beauty for her special hometown. Beautification was her middle name!

Longtime residents will remember the pretty Country Kitchen restaurant she and her husband, Col. King Hudson, operated in what is now the Inn at Hudson Gardens.

As I looked at the large evergreens that encircle that property, I recalled the story about how a businesslike Evelyn told King Hudson that the somewhat bare property needed some trees and he said “Yes, dear!” and drove his truck up to talk to the folks at CSU, returning with the first truckload! (The property had been farmed in previous times, but the Hudsons built their home and a busy restaurant.)

Which brings us to a final invitation to area nature lovers to visit this place ... it’s free and welcoming.

And, on Aug. 22, at the close of Western Welcome Week, music will return. The Littleton Symphony will perform a concert that is free, although the orchestra will surely welcome a $10 donation from those who can give. The grand finale of Western Welcome Week!

Hopefully, 2022 will allow for a return of Hudson Gardens’ concerts.

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