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A New York Opera Enthusiast Spends Summer Working With Utah Opera Company

William Remmers in his element
Joe Ritter


“My name is William Remmers. I am a conductor and performer at the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre this summer, the summer of 2018.”


Remmers came to the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, or UFOMT, in a peculiar way. When he was 15, he met someone online through the social networking site Myspace. They became pen pals and corresponded with each other for many years.


“This fine pen pal is from Logan," Remmers said, "and at one point she said to me, ‘Hey, now that we’re adults, I see that you do the opera and that you like it.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, of course. Opera’s great and I do it all the time.’ So she said, ‘Well, we have this great company here that I’ve done some work within their opera by children program.”


His pen pal from Logan got him in contact with Michael Ballam, the general director of UFOMT, who invited him to come and participate in their 2018 season.


“So this year is my debut year with the company, and I have the privilege of being the first ever conductor/performer that they’ve had in one season,” Remmers said.


He is conducting Into The Woods and is performing in Amazing Grace.


“I started working in opera when I moved to New York City after high school," he said. "It was sort of an accident because I was a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, and I would go to the Gilbert and Sullivan society meetings - which is a very strange cult environment - where you go into a basement and are handed a book of the complete Gilbert and Sullivan and you sing songs in a community environment. Someone came up to me and said, ‘You’re not an octogenarian. Why are you here?’ And I felt like I wasn’t quite aware of this stigma that one had to be advanced in age to appreciate music that is advanced in age.”


Through this group, Remmers started working through the New York opera scene until he eventually started his own opera company called Utopia Opera.


“The New York environment might get a little more cutthroat at times. When you have fewer people working on things, it’s easy for it to get a little more tempestuous,” Remmers said.


This is his first time working in an area like Utah, where things are run quite different than what he’s used to.


“I’m mostly working with companies from New York or London and in those very, very dense cities, everything is smaller, because of how little space there is," he said. "So you might be working with one of the top 10 companies in a location, but it might be only 200 seats ... If I am working in an auditorium environment, it’s never anything quite so big as the Eccles Theatre. And it’s never quite as staffed. If I remember correctly, there are 300 or so staff members right now, at UFOMT or at least for the summer. From the crew, cast, orchestra, everyone involved. And with that amount of manpower, it means that lots of stuff gets done really fast.”


Remmers also composes his own music with two solo albums already released in his own name.


The UFOMT 2018 season will be playing until August 4th, with The Secret Garden, Into The Woods, Amazing Grace, The Barber of Seville, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown and other various events.


“It’s just sung theatre," he said. "That’s all it is. I like sung theatre. The answer to the question is 'I like sung theatre.' You can cut the rest out.”