Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26 - In All Its Infinite Variety!

11:30 am Lifting Weights
A lovely late start, affording a long night's sleep after a 90-hour week. (Yes, I did the math. Not to qualify for martyrdom, but to justify feeling like I'd been run over by a truck.) The day started with a touch of weights and aerobics, setting up 150 chairs in the rehearsal hall!

Why the chairs? Well, we've been terribly fortunate to have an audience that loves its preshow lectures. We've been holding the preshow talks in our small 99-seat space, but lately we've been turning away dozens of patrons due to the capacity of the hall. So I decided to give today's talk in the Boheme rehearsal space, and setup was required!

2:00 pm Inside the Opera Preshow Talk

Being in the rehearsal hall meant that I was without my fancy-pants powerpoint presentation, but it was a good call. We had 151 patrons in attendance, and we were pleased to not have to turn anyone away.

3:00 pm Ulysses Performance #2
Packed to the gills, no house seats, no givebacks. Yikes. Nice to have a hot ticket! Fabulous performance. YouTube moments to come, I promise. As soon as I have the time.

6:10 pm Steve!
Mr. Blier himself is in the house, rehearsal with the cast for this Saturday's Pursuit of Love. Grieg, Villa Lobos, Granados, Sondheim, Kahane, and Robinson (Smokey, that is).

7:30 pm Instant Opera Dress Rehearsal
Darth Vader and Kermit steal prom dresses from Hannah Montana. To the strains of Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti and others. The real deal begins Tuesday at 11:15am!

9:30 pm At the Desk
Catching up on email, writing Boheme supertitles, and checking my RSS feed. Which is where I found that according to the blog metrics flavor of the day, we rank surprisingly high :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Being Selfish

It's difficult but necessary to distance myself from the music I love - to be fair and impartial when approaching possible rep for the company, and not to steer us exclusively toward things that speak to me. For no one's taste is truly catholic, and there are plenty of operas that I can barely abide (and no, I won't tell you what they are:)) that other folks adore.

But once a piece is up and running and my contribution is reduced to that of taking the blame or credit for what other folks lay at my feet, I can be selfish. In this case, that means taking in every moment - elegant, gutsy, wrenching, and bawdy. Because Monteverdi is in my top ten. Hell, top five. I'd give up a lot just to be able to hear this stuff the rest of my life. Gary Wedow has worked miracles, concocting an approach that honors both the letter and the spirit of the law and the music.

And, we've waded into doing scenic design with projections. A scary thing in a small venue with a smaller budget. But the design team (Eric Allgeier, S. Katy Tucker, Andrea Huelse & Bob Grimes) and director James Marvel have created a visually arresting and wonderfully integrated environment for this story.

Three more times in the next 5 days. It doesn't get any better than this :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why I Got Nothing Done Today

Prepare the Ulysses preshow talk... proof the Bohème program... no, digitize the Smokey Robinson arrangement... oops, finish writing the code for the fall audition tour application... er, put the final push on the Bohème marketing plan... first, solve the impossible Instant Opera scheduling puzzle... kick off the singer YAP roundtable discussion... no, finalize the Twitter plan for the NSO concert next week... but first, finish the Bohème supertitles... gotta find some chocolate... now, tweet about something... submit the website request forms for updating the chamber music series pages... wonder why I am so cranky... uh, proof the Ulysses dress rehearsal program... try to figure out how to see visiting colleagues... but first, confirm audition tour cities and dates... oops, forgot to blog about anything...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coming Full Circle

Over the weekend, the Studio Artists had the great privilege of coaching with Nathan and Julie Gunn.

Nathan was here as a Filene Young Artist in the mid-1990's, and Julie did a brief stint on our music staff, preparing the Genii for the 1994 production of Magic Flute. (She reminded us this weekend that the boys broke out into a fist fight on her watch:) It was wonderful to welcome them back and to see the enthusiasm with which they approached their time with these young artists.

Nathan and Julie are now on the faculty at the University of Illinois, and they truly seem to be enjoying this new aspect of their careers. They were gracious and generous, sharing all manner of advice on things vocal, professional, and personal. What it's like to survive those first few years, how everyone gets discouraged, and how children can mix with a career. Oh, and what it was like to be on the Colbert Report.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pre-Tech Ulysses

Ulysses finishes up its time in the rehearsal room.

At left, a composite from this week's artist panel.

Costume shop supervisor Sue Chiang shared sketches and fabrics for this show's amazing range of everything from leather to gauze. (Can't wait to share production photos with you...)

Conductor Gary Wedow talked about the quasi-democracy that is working with a terrifically talented and independent group of early music specialists.

Cast members Chad Sloan (Ulysses' son Telemaco), Rena Harms (the old nurse Ericlea) and Jamie Barton (Ulysses' wife Penelope) filled us in on everything from ornamentation to barbeque.

Final Designer Run - Photos

Cast Brings Ulysses to Lunch Music

Monday, July 13, 2009

Luxury Casting

My first time through Ulysses tonight, in the rehearsal room, 5 days before we move into the theatre.

An embarrassment of riches. The entire roster - 15 superbly gifted singers - throw themselves into roles big and small. Studio singers make brief finely-etched appearances, and the core orchestra of keyboards, lutes, viol and cello coaxes an amazing range of music out of their instruments.

This is the beauty of an ensemble company. Mimi sings Cupid, Marcello plays Jupiter, Musetta is Minerva, and Rodolfo chews scenery (and everything else) as the comic tenor. Alcindoro is Neptune, and stars of Steve Blier's upcoming recital who will sing Grieg and the Craigslistlieder appear as a shepherd and a son. Fiordiligi is the old nurse, Dorabella the young maidservant, Despina the goddess Fortuna. And, in a wonderful but inadvertent casting touch, Ferrando, Guglielmo and Alfonso are Penelope's three unsuccessful suitors. And they all do so with commitment and collegiality.

This all made reasonably good sense when we were putting the puzzle together back in December, but when it rolled by me tonight, I was simultaneously surprised by and thankful for the good fortune to work with these people and play a part in their careers.

A snapshot of Ulysses, frozen in time on 7/13/09:

"If a heart burns, it burns in flames of joy.
And whoever plays the game of love never loses."

"Man is arrogant, and heaven’s willingness to forgive him causes his downfall.
Neptune will not dishonor himself by tolerating man's transgressions."

"Who has changed my peaceful sleep into torment?
Who changed my rest into misfortune?
What deity watches over those who sleep?
O god of slumber, you are also the brother of death."

"You slept for a long time, and you still speak of dreams.
You are shrewd, Ulysses, but Minerva is wiser."

"It was noble of generous Ulysses to punish the Trojans,
but perhaps heaven is angered by the fall of Troy.
Perhaps heaven demanded his life in exchange."

"Lovely Helen of Troy received me.
I gazed into her eyes, wondering if the world were full of men like Paris.
For such a woman, a single man is little prey."

"This imminent danger must spur you to daring deeds.
Telemaco returns, and perhaps Ulysses as well."

"Jupiter cries for vengeance!
This is how the bow shoots!"

"Because of you, I bless all of my past sorrow.
We no longer remember the pain of the past, for all is pleasure."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Interlude: Country, Video Games & Marvin

This is an "NSO Triple" weekend, and because of the Ampersand Part of my Job, I'm surrounded by music of the nonoperatic type. And even though it's tough to multitask during the busy summer season, there are always new perspectives gained by taking a step away across the toll road.

Country Hospitality

Thursday night was LeAnn Rimes. Symphonic pops of the country music variety. She's a pretty fabulous singer, and I learned a lot from watching her touring "machine."

I don't spend a lot of time around country music, so I didn't really understand the fan culture. Suffice it to say that country singers and their entourages could teach us classical folk a few things about respecting the hands that feed us. Their approach to the fans and the care that was taken during their Meet & Greet was refreshing. Most artists do it, but often begrudgingly and randomly. And fans sense that. But Ms. Rimes and her handlers were like a well-oiled machine - warm, welcoming, and appreciative to the fans who were invited backstage.

Face it folks - if people didn't leave their houses, brave traffic and pay for tickets to see us perform, we'd be doing something else for a living.

Castlemania and Mario

Friday night was Video Games Live. I didn't work this show (my colleague and I take turns handling opera & symphony during these weekends, and VGL was hers), but I was embroiled in it up to the day of the show. I also did a USA Today interview yesterday, so we'll see if I didn't manage to get quoted as saying something stupid... Even though I don't believe that symphonic pops will serve (or ever has served) to create more "legit" music patrons, it's clear that video game soundtracks can be a significant stream of whatever the next generation of pops might be.

I spent all Friday evening on the new @NSO@WolfTrap twitter account, tracking and following everyone who was tweeting about the show. My favorite shout-out tweet of the evening went something like this: "Good social networking managment - not even in my seat and the NSO/Wolftrap twitter account is following me due to my couple of posts."

A Life in Music

Tonight's audience skews toward the grandparents of last night's. But what's happening onstage is no less compelling.

It's easy to take someone as iconic as Marvin Hamlisch for granted. But tonight Marvin is giving us an entertaining and self-effacing tour through his career - the highs and the lows - from his surprisingly recognizable score to The Swimmer (which, according to the quick poll he took of the audience, predictably few people ever saw...) to the movie scores from the '80s that are part of our DNA now, to the magic that is Chorus Line.


And since I'm in an orchestral mood, some food for thought about Ravinia's new screen installation here and here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009