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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting Started

AGRIPPINA is a long song. Opera McGill is producing it this November for many reasons - foremost because it's a fantastic opera, we have incredible singers to sing the roles, I have a good take on it (at least I think I do!), and there are two anniversaries: 300 years since its premiere in Venice and 250 years since Handel's death. That's reason enough for me.

Getting going on it is tough. Hank Knox, our chef, and I sat down a few nights ago and worked hard to make some cuts to the score. We ended up taking out only a few arias, reducing a number of them by not taking the returns, and did figure out how to make some cuts in the recits (thanks to Hank's gifted skills with figured bass!) Tonight I spent about three hours pouring over the score with calendar in hand trying to figure out how to get it staged and to make sure there are enough reviews along the way so that the cast doesn't forget what we did way back in early October. For a variety of reasons I'm starting this the last week of September, even though we open November 20. There's a five day hiatus during Canadian Thanksgiving, plus I'm gone almost a full week in November. It's not something I've ever done before - start blocking a show, then leave it to go and stage another show (actually it's a semi-staged concert "Essential Puccini" that's being performed Nov. 8th at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.) only to return to finish the first. We'll see how the very long, yet rather casual rehearsal period either hinders or helps the students work on this fantastic piece.

So now the hard part is over - casting, organizing the staging and technical schedules, and making the cuts. The fun really begins during the next few weeks as I figure the details of how to move a baroque opera about the power struggles of Emperor Claudius' Roman court into 2009. It seems that these characters are all so power hungry and Poppea is an outsider to that power, yet she's the object of Nero's, Claudius', and Ottone's lust. Poppea has to be a celebrity of some sort and Claudio has to be some sort of super lawyer who's wondering who should take over the firm. The set and costume design team had a good suggestion: the TV series "Dirty, Sexy Money". I like the idea a lot and look forward to the cocktail parties, the paparazzi, the business suits, and having fun with that crazy kid named Nero!

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