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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Update from sunny Montreal

A bigger update:

Memphis’ ORPHEUS: great cast, great company (staff, chorus, production teams), great food, great weather – aside from a few snowflakes. Loved doing it and think that the three versions in one (counter-tenor, tenor, and mezzo) would be a great thing for other companies or programs to do (particularly young artists programs looking for a flexible opera, casting-wise.)

Wichita’s ELIXIR OF LOVE: turned out great – which was a bit of a surprise. Considering I didn’t know I was doing it until a few days before Christmas and I had only a few days to plan things. The small chorus was really eager to do a great job; even my soldier’s trio (don’t ask) turned out looking okay. The cast was charming and I made a number of new friends: a shout out to Emily and Jorge along with the young artists! I saw a flaming Indian – really: a big 30 foot statue on the Arkansas River surrounded every night by huge flaming pots. Don’t know what that’s about… The nice thing about the experience is that I remembered what it was like to work on a great 19th century opera. Loved it, and loved working there, even with all of the eccentricities. It was so nice to work with Otakar Klein – the Nemorino – who really knew the role having sung it all over Europe in Vienna, Bratislava, etc.

McGill’s THE RAKE’S PROGRESS: directed by David Lefkowich and conducted by Julian Wachner was something quite special. It was a terrific production. The cast and chorus did wonders with the score and the design by Vincent, Ginette, and Serge worked well with David’s conception. It’s nice when things work out great without you!

MusiMars: This is a week-long contemporary music festival that takes place at McGill the first week of March. Night after night, huge programs of music by everyone from Stockhausen and Schoenberg to world premiere pieces are performed by students, faculty, and guests. I restaged some AGRIPPINA, staged a conductor’s death in the middle of conducting Kagel’s “Finale”, lit 117 light cues for a bassoon concerto premiere, coordinated a crazy Aperghis piece, and then experienced my first “Pierrot Lunaire”.

The “Pierrot” was the most stimulating experience I’ve had yet as a director. The singer was Ingrid Schmithüsen, who sang it MEMORIZED (!!!) and threw herself into the work. The players were faculty and students from McGill who gave a pretty much note-perfect rendition. Many who’ve heard a number of Pierrots thought that this was close to definitive. I was amazed by the performers and by the piece. Freed to finally stage something based entirely on the subtext and the images created by the text in one’s emotions and imaginations, I became a new director. It was thrilling and I’m still glowing about it!

Right now (literally as I write this) I’m the rehearsal pianist for Opera McGill’s production of Brook’s adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen titled “La Tragedie de Carmen”. Basically all of the tunes, no chorus, and Carmen never shuts up once she starts singing! It’s a great one hour of music and really intense. I’m playing the rehearsals and the performances. François Racine is directing and doing a really cool concept: it’s all done from Jose’s prison cell. Carmen’s dead already and Micaela is a bit out of her mind. Escamillo’s aria is totally a drunken sing along with Pastia. The other half of the double-bill is Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, that I’m stage directing and a student here, Jordan de Souza, is the pianist on. Rehearsals have been a hoot – I haven’t worked on it since I was in high school back in the 80s! My first professional job as a music director, at Omaha’s Center Stage, was on this piece. I remember I thought it odd that this musical didn’t have any dialogue – later I learned it was considered an opera! I’m taking a very 50s approach (a bit “Mad Men”), but trying to create a number of fantasy sequences. It’ll be a really entertaining evening!

My next big project is Brevard! I’ve never conducted Pirates before, so that’ll be fun. The casts for Brevard are looking FIERCE, and I think it’s going to be our best summer ever! Elizabeth returns to do her incredible work with the students (she's a Voice Whisperer if ever there was one!) and our boys are certainly looking forward to their third summer in the forests of North Carolina. Lots of new, exciting, stuff happening there the summer after next, so look for more news down-the-road.

That’s the update! Next up is planning Opera McGill 10-11: Puccini / Mozart / Handel