Steamboat icon takes spotlight in Opera Steamboat’s ‘Cookie!’ |

Steamboat icon takes spotlight in Opera Steamboat’s ‘Cookie!’

Local celebrity Cookie Lockhart with Andres Cladera, artistic director of Opera Steamboat, at Cookie’s birthday celebration June 29, 2019.
Melissa Hampton/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Opera Steamboat has announced that it is the recipient of one of only five grants offered by OPERA America to support the work of female composers. The grant money will be used to commission an original opera, “Cookie!,” which is slated for production in summer 2021.

“Cookie!” will focus on the life of Cookie Lockhart, one of Steamboat Springs’ most famous daughters. Lockhart began making headlines at age 6 when a 1944 story ran in the Steamboat Pilot titled “Everybody Knows Cookie.” The story was accompanied by a picture of Lockhart in a cowgirl outfit on a rearing horse. From then on, she was known as the starlet of Steamboat Springs.

Lockhart went on to become a famous auctioneer. She was inducted into the Colorado Auctioneers Hall of Fame in 2002 and the National Auctioneers Hall of Fame in 2007 — the first woman to be inducted into both organizations.

She has also appeared on the hit TV show “American Pickers” and the game show “To Tell the Truth.”

Often described as flamboyant, captivating and recognized in the auction world as royalty, Lockhart is still active in the auction world and other business ventures.

Now in her 80s, she will be in the spotlight once again.

“Just a few months ago, I couldn’t even spell opera, and now, I are one,” Lockhart jokes.

It was Opera Steamboat Artistic Director Andres Cladera who first had the notion to write an opera about Cookie Lockhart.

Submitted by Cookie Lockhart.

“The first time I met her, I was captivated,” Cladera said. “We sat at Table 79, had drinks and chatted for two and a half hours. She is truly wonderful.”

Cladera wanted a comedy, claiming that the opera world needs more humor.

“I wanted to have a huge, positive female role at the center of a piece, and I wanted that message to be a positive one,” he said. “Cookie’s story is fascinating — going to auctioneering school with 130 men, being the first woman in the hall of fame.”

When Cladera met Leanna Kirchoff, a Colorado composer, he knew she was the perfect person to create the opera with him.

Since the OPERA America grant is designed to support the work of female composers, Opera Steamboat is taking it one step further.

“We will have not only an outstanding female composer (in) Leanna Kirchoff, but the librettist, Rachel J. Peters, as well as the subject of our original work are also women,” Cladera said.

“This is an exciting commission for me,” Kirchoff said. “As a native of Colorado, it’s really a thrill to work with Opera Steamboat, an outstanding Colorado-based opera company, and I have enjoyed getting to know Cookie. Her larger-than-life personality and unique life story will translate really well into an opera.”

Workshops will be held this summer as the composer and librettist test out material with a live audience.

Staying true to Cookie Lockhart, the opera is sure to include lots of spangles, sparkles and smiles.

Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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