Winter holidays bring an endless round of parties and traditions, many celebrated on behalf of causes great and small. Supporters can join the Central City Opera Guild as they produce the much loved L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour, now in its 41st year, scheduled for November 17 and 18.
A popular fundraising event created to inspire and delight, as well as support the Guild’s most worthy programs, this year’s tour focuses on the Hilltop area, home to some of the city’s most distinguished residences, rich in architectural diversity. Five homes will open their doors to the public to enjoy the holiday-themed decorative interiors and tabletops created by some of Denver’s most creative floral and table designers. Respected firms like City Floral, The Tended Thicket, The Lark, The Twisted Tulip and others practically reinvent holiday decor every year.
“With each tour, the designs grow more exciting,” said Denise Sanderson, chairwoman of the event and a longtime supporter of Central City Opera. “For example, one year a woodland scene scattered with foxes bedecked a dining table created by Maury Ankrum, owner of The Tended Thicket; a real crowd-pleaser. People come to see the architectural interest of the homes and the latest trends in holiday decor, as well as overall home design.”
“Themes are so important,” added Ankrum. “As a floral designer, I especially like the woodland theme with a more sophisticated European flair, highlighted by quality ornaments from Germany, France, Scandinavia and Scotland. It’s fun to add cultural signatures, such as various plaids for example, when creating a Scottish feel.”
Chairperson Sanderson recommends taking the tour on foot. “It’s more fun that way. Besides, neighborhood selections are made, in part, on street parking availability. Do keep in mind, visitors are advised to remove their shoes or put on booties over footwear at each entry point. And since more than 2,000 people visit the homes during the two-day event, we also recommend starting early.”
In recent years, many designers have also decorated the patios, now thought of as outdoor living rooms. Most carry the design theme from the front door throughout the home to the outdoor dining tables, since these are often visible from key areas. Some homeowners work with the designers and incorporate their own ideas in the living, dining, and even, family rooms. Others simply stand back and “host,” giving designers free rein to interpret their inspiration. For reference, guests receive a booklet detailing the decorated rooms in the house which are fully staffed by volunteers who can answer visitors’ questions.
Proceeds from L’Esprit de Noël ticket sales benefit Central City Opera’s many outreach and educational programs, including its annual Summer Festival, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artist Training Program, the preservation and maintenance of the historic Central City Opera House, and more than 30 additional historic properties in Central City. Most important is the ongoing support to the Opera’s Education Community Engagement programs.
According to Deb Morrow, director of education and marketing, these programs enhance existing curriculum for young students, as well as lifelong learning for everyone. “We work directly with educators, community leaders, students and parents to make these offerings relevant, educational and entertaining. We believe the arts enrich lives and learning at every age. CCO began offering programs in schools in the late 1970s, and sought a broader mission than just offering performances in the Opera House—their hope was to be a resource and artistic home for all the citizens of Colorado. To that end, we offer touring programs to schools and communities throughout Colorado and Wyoming.”
A hugely successful initiative of the Guild is TACO (Take a Child to the Opera), a perfect way to provide a young person a meaningful opera experience for their age level.
“We are all about making opera fun and accessible for everyone,” added Morrow, without ‘dumbing’ it down. “We choose scenes and moments from great operas that are easy to understand and relate to. Kids really love the total experience.” (More details at centralcityopera.org/education.)
Brochures and information about education and community engagement and Central City Opera in general are available throughout the tour. Most docents are familiar with the programs, and do promote them to patrons, making visitors aware they are supporting arts education.
L’Esprit de Noël may be enjoyed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, regardless of the weather. Please be advised; no strollers and no photos inside the houses. Homes are not handicapped accessible. Tickets may be purchased online starting Oct. 1 at centralcityopera.org/lesprit for $23, or at area King Soopers stores after Nov. 1 for $25. The cost is $25 at the door. For more information, visit lesprithometour.com.
Corinne Joy Brown loves the holidays and how they unite us with a sense of wonder and appreciation. A freelance writer who covers architecture, design, leadership and popular culture, she is also an award-winning author of five books.
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