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Archive for August, 2009

Olivia and Figaro

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Well, I thought it would never happen, but after an artistic life-time of not being a fan of Mozart operas generally, (I do love Idomeneo), I fell in love with Figaro. It was a sudden and unexpected and don’t know whether henceforth I will be a committed to unending adoration, but certainly eternal fondness is a definite. ( I can never give up my total addiction to Wagner and Strauss, and (most of ) Verdi). All right, Donizetti too!

The rehearsal period was fast and dynamic — demanding speed imprinting and even fast forwarding from the cast. We did it in two weeks- and that is with a couple of singers debuting. They were tremendously good sports about it all — and even enjoyed the” fast forwarding,” : pretending to speed up the tape and moving breakneck through the second blocking/staging. I find that once the footwork is definite, and the artist is secure in the blocking, the real work of creating the character and staging can start. It frees the actors up to be inventive, change things to fit, and start making the character live. And boy, did they begin to design their roles- taking them ever further as a cohesive cast, and eventually making the total work a delight-, The audience laughed and laughed, and was rapt in pleasure during the sublime musical moments. The artists had full,” stand and sing’” moments, e.g. Dove sono, Deh vieni, Porgi Amor etc.-but also the hilarious madcap sections. What a cast! it was a dream working with such cooperative talented artists. They all wanted to explore and discover ; work the scenes together for precise comedic timing. What a beautiful bunch! What beautiful voices! I’m so grateful for you.

Undergirded by the wonderful meals Ellen and Ron provided, the careful musical support of Jonathan, and the lively rehearsal process-we sailed along. We even had a pancake breakfast for the entire cast and production/volunteer team cooked by the lovely hands of both Ellen and Michael-.
Thank-God we avoided the “homage to Mozart” stance, the sacrosanct preciousness which can be so suffocating and debilitating to this work in particular. There are theories and uber theories - thousands of books by now about Mozart, but my approach is, be elegant, stylish, respectful, witty, but never be dull. Keep the emotions Mozart sized and stay with the music and what is there.

We were overwhelmed with the crowds that showed up - some people came three hours early to secure a space. It was amazing to see people everywhere in the theater and many more spilling all over the hillside. A gentleman who has lived across from the park for forty years said he had never seen such a enormous audience for any performance there. The first day, some audience members looking for a seat, moved onto the adjacent hillside, unknowingly loosening a few stones into the orchestra “pit”. Oiy! We had to move fast to correct that. It was gratifying to see such a huge audience- most especially, I was happy to see young mothers with their children - eyes as big as saucers, following the opera with total attention.

Nothing is just is as it seems, as those in the theater know- producing opera is like moving Alexanders troops from Greece to Persia. Even at this modest level it is still a slow moving army with a thousand moving parts. I will leave it to Ellen to discuss in her blog, the portapotties dilemma and the extra security guards- costumes, wigs, the set, the huge drape, (thankyou Virginia), projecting surtitles (thankyou Khuners, Ross) in daylight! etc , etc. So much behind the scene structure and coordination - Ellen is amazing. Just puts her head down and gets it done, like a star quarterback.

Volunteers showed up to help set up and dismantle the” set” each time and to help load everything on the van, God bless them. There has got to be a special place in heaven for people who are willing to contribute to the arts like this; schlepping, towing and lifting- being there, alert and ready backstage. Never seen, never heard - bravi! to you, Ron Rudy Eileen Tyler Camille Katy Jason Katya - to everyone, a great big thank you.

Saying good bye is always hard after such a bonding experience, and yet it happens all the time in the theater. We meet, share intimate emotions, compress life as it were, and then poof! It is gone. All too ephemeral. All too fast.

But this time…..
May this Figaro live on and resonate in all kinds of positive ways for everyone involved! May it be your artistic four- leafed clover!!!
My love goes with you, O