Monday, August 22, 2005

Season summary continued...

this is an audio post - click to play

Ciao for now!

Finally, back to an audioblog for the last posting - see below. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

- Kim

Transcript of audio post:

This was supposed to be an audioblog, but it didn’t happen. It was somehow too hard to distill and inflect things so they came out the way I wanted. So I ended up writing my way through the summer. And here I am, a week late, trying to summarize. The Cinderella performance was Saturday night – very, very happy with that. Very successful on a lot of different levels – singers inhabiting those roles both musically and dramatically in a way that belied the fact that there was no set behind them.

As far as summarizing the whole summer, it’s very tempting to do it “by the numbers”… We did 19 performances in 9 weeks, there were 16 singers with us, we had more than 50 staff and crew members, and well over 100 local choristers and orchestral musicians – all of which come together to make us a company for three months.

I’m as guilty as the next person at wanting to crunch numbers and represent things tidily, but that’s not really how any of it will be remembered.

This summer will be remember as the season we tackled Sondheim without microphones and lived to tell the tale.

It was the summer that Don Giovanni returned to The Barns after 13 years away, with a lot of personal bests in that production.

It was the Cenerentola performance last Saturday with a standing ovation – kind of like being at a rock concert.

It was a season of adrenaline as we did improv for the children at the Theatre-in-the-Woods.
This was the summer that Steve Blier was so happy with both of his concerts that he’s wondering how he’s going to top them next year. (I’m sure he will.)

This was the season that we took our collaboration with the National Symphony to a new level in lots of different ways, and that bodes well for the future.

We introduced lots of new people to Wolf Trap Opera this summer, through that NSO concert particularly, but also through our annual recital for Wolf Trap donors.
It was a sold-out Barns season, and a terribly hard sell for the large theatre. Lots of good things, but also lots of anger and sadness on my part at having to change the nature of the Cinderella production.

But we’re so very proud of this company of artists. It’s a very youthful place on every level – I’m almost always the oldest person around, and most of our staff are within the first decade of their careers. Our singers are in their mid-late twenties, and there are lots of college-age crew and staff members.

Here at the end of the summer there’s lots of fatigue. I can count on one hand the number of days since mid-May that weren’t consumed in one way or another with the opera. It goes with the territory. It’s a dense season, and it’s a small staff. There’s lots of frustration when our resources don’t meet the goals we’d like to set, but there are saving graces, too. The great thing about music is that it exists in time, and if you’re going to give yourself over to it, that process excludes a lot of negative energy. And that’s when it pays you back. During the performances, no matter how tired you are, you’re re-energized. The music, while it’s happening, makes this lasting impression and overrides everything else. And you do it again. It’s like childbirth. You don’t remember the bad parts, and you jump back in.

Anyway, we’re already in 2006 in a lot of ways. The chamber music series starts in 6 weeks, and we have one of our well-known alumni, Alan Held, coming back to sing on that series in February. The first draft of the 2006 budget is done, we’re working on schedule permutations for next summer, the audition application is up on the website and all of the travel for the audition tour is booked,

I have absolutely no idea if we’re going to blog again. People have been trying to talk me into it, but it’s a challenge. I hope you enjoyed the ride if you were following us. It was actually gratifying to learn how many people were reading.

Go to the opera, take a friend to the opera, and check back with us in late winter to see what will be on the boards for 2006. I hope to see you next summer – ciao!

Season summary

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Good Ol' Gioachino

My audition tour colleague is an unlikely Rossini fan. He's an American pianist born in Germany, and one would expect his tastes to run to Wagner and Strauss. And indeed they do. (He’s taking a sabbatical from Wolf Trap this summer to work on the “Ring” at Seattle Opera.) But he’s an unabashedly rabid Rossini fan. Every time someone sings a Rossini aria (and does it well…) during our audition tour, he’s in heaven. I came late to bel canto and opera buffa, and I wasn’t aways a big fan. But I’ve been a convert for quite a while now. No matter how tough things get, Rossini’s music does something to you. Gets inside your body and your psyche, scrambles the signals, and makes it (almost) impossible to be cranky.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Feel Like Talking Back?


Tonight’s recital (“Where the Boys Are”) was sold out months ago, and the capacity audience was captivated by these songs running the gamut from Sir Arthur Sullivan and William Bolcom to Joni Michell and Cy Coleman. Fears of alientating the audience with controversial material were unfounded.

Had a few post-performance conversations about the blog, oddly enough. Realized that it might be a good idea to solicit questions/comments. If you’re reading this, and you feel the urge to talk back, please do so. Anything from asking a question that’s been raised in your mind to taking issue with something I’ve said to simply telling me that you’re reading (and why you’re reading), I’d love to hear from you. Send a message to wtoc@wolftrap.org and put “Kim’s blog” in the subject line.

Saying goodbye to another 5 singers and 1 staff member tonight. Summer is indeed winding down.

Feel Like Talking Back?


Tonight’s recital (“Where the Boys Are”) was sold out months ago, and the capacity audience was captivated by these songs running the gamut from Sir Arthur Sullivan and William Bolcom to Joni Michell and Cy Coleman. Fears of alientating the audience with controversial material were unfounded.

Had a few post-performance conversations about the blog, oddly enough. Realized that it might be a good idea to solicit questions/comments. If you’re reading this, and you feel the urge to talk back, please do so. Anything from asking a question that’s been raised in your mind to taking issue with something I’ve said to simply telling me that you’re reading (and why you’re reading), I’d love to hear from you. Send a message to wtoc@wolftrap.org and put “Kim’s blog” in the subject line.

Saying goodbye to another 5 singers and 1 staff member tonight. Summer is indeed winding down.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Someone Actually Is Reading This...

All of a sudden, people are telling me how much they enjoy the blog. Just when I was getting comfortable, thinking that no one is reading it, I find out that I’d better watch what I say.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Naming of Things

Finally getting to spend some time in Cenerentola staging rehearsals. What fabulous voices, and how lucky we are.

Yet, from an marketing standpoint, it’s a conundrum.

A bit of a recap: Cinderella began life as a two-performance fully produced opera in our large outdoor venue (the Filene Center), with rented sets and costumes. About two months ago we turned Cinderella into a single performance concert staging. (See the June 30 entry if you want more background on the decision.) You wouldn’t know it, though from the rehearsals. Looks pretty much fully staged. Just with no walls, drops, flats, stairs, etc. But with plenty of props, costumes, lights, and more energy and dramatic integrity than many “staged” performances I’ve seen.

I’m afraid that, in the spirit of truth-in-advertising, we’ve further hurt our sales potential. The audience will undoubtedly perceive this as a “real” opera production, even though the orchestra is onstage. And I’m certain that there are folks out there who would truly enjoy this performance but won’t attend because they’re put off by the “in Concert” description. We’ve decided to err on the side of understatement, but in doing so, may have misrepresented ourselves.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Launching the "Boys"

Steve Blier is back, working with his largest Wolf Trap recital cast ever – 6 singers. Today is a landmark birthday for one of our folks, and we had a little celebration. August fatigue is setting in all around, but Steve infused us with some new energy and adrenaline.

Some cutting edge subject material in this program (“Where the Boys Are”). A little anxiety about how the audience will receive it. Admittedly, Northern Virginia is a bit more conservative than New York City. Somehow I’m not worried. Maybe I’m na├»ve, but Steve has built such a wonderful rapport and trust with our audience that I believe they’d accept almost anything he has the generosity to offer.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Saturday Off

A company day off that falls on a weekend is a rare and marvelous thing. Too often, the weekly day off falls in the middle of the week, and because the rest of the world is still chugging along, we have to staff the office. Not so today. And, as if the gods knew that we needed it, the weather was stunning.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Times Have Changed

After having sunk into the depths of almost writing Giovanni supertitle translations right up until the dress rehearsal, I’m reforming. Finished the first draft of Cenerentola today. Actually have a week to edit and tweak.

Tonight brought a magnificent Don Quixote by the Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra. A landmark event at Wolf Trap. Back in the day, we were a stop for many touring ballet companies, opera companies, and symphony orchestras. Times have changed, and almost no one can afford to tour any more. But for two nights this week, it’s like old times.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Research

Our music library is just about a year old, but it’s one of the best things about our home in the Center for Education. I was desperate for something like this 20 years ago. Scores, recordings, reference books, biographies, historical programs, trade magazines. It’s a small room, but it’s packed with the building blocks of a career. The staff and singers spend hours in there, and it never ceases making me smile.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Finally

It’s a relief to start staging rehearsals for Cenerentola. Mostly because 99% of the work I’ve done on it this summer has fallen on the negative side of the ledger, and at last we’re creating instead of tearing down. Our conductor and director have stuck with us in this revised scenario, and we’re in their debt. And the cast is a breath of fresh air. Hard for me to leave the rehearsal room and go back to my office.