Total Pageviews

Sunday, July 31, 2011


"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."
~G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren's Profession, 1893

Einstein also said something along the lines of "I'm not smarter, I just stay with problems longer."

I like those two quotes, particularly during times where I'm being tested - like the past few months. It's been a glorious summer on one front: Brevard's Janiec Opera Company. We've done great shows, the students have learned a ton -- through successes and also from minor failures (which teach more than the successes...), I've enjoyed my colleagues and certainly enjoyed conducting Traviata and Alcina (I'm typing this on the morning after our three performance run.) I enjoyed directing Alcina quite an awful lot. It was nice to revisit a production from four years ago with a new cast, remember the terrific performances from McGill (Lara and Taylor were ever in my mind's eye this summer!), and collaborate on it with my amazing assistant director Aria Umezawa (who really added her own touches to the show via some lovely Tai Chi inspired movement for Oberto, Bradamante, Oronte, and the Trees!)

However, I'm exhausted. Physically mostly, but also mentally. I've been trying to work on my tenure dossier this summer and plan for the coming Opera McGill season but it's not really worked out. Any free time I might have had was spent with my family (today's day off is a trip to Triple Falls!) I can tell our boys are missing time with their parents. It's a balance of time and energy that, for this summer at least, hasn't happened.

I look back on the last four years and I see this: 16 Opera McGill productions, 7 guest productions as director, and 15 Janiec Opera productions I've either coached, conducted, or directed (not to mention all the extra scenes programs and recitals and community outreach performances and audition tours, etc.) That's 38 operas/musicals in 4 years. I think that's too many.

Yet the schedule continues -- This fall at McGill is Britten's The Turn of the Screw and a musical theatre scenes program "Opera McGill on Broadway", plus the requisite extra performances in Montreal and on campus. 2012 brings a Don Giovanni and a L'incoronazione di Poppea at McGill, and two possible other gigs (contracts not yet signed!) down in the U.S.; and of course, a return to Brevard (productions not yet determined...)

So why continue? Why do so much opera? Even slowing down next year means doing 6 productions between October and May. Is that too many?

Opera is a huge endeavor. It's not a simple way to make art, by any stretch of the imagination. Particularly when you're the one in charge it means supervising every single person's input and involvement (from the length of quarter notes in the strings, to the color of a prop, to the hem of a costume, to being a psycho-therapist to the singers, to scheduling pianists for staging rehearsals, to making sure your tux is cleaned in time for the premiere...) I sometimes wonder if most people think that creating opera is akin to what Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney did in those "I've got a barn, let's put on a show" movie musicals from a by-gone era. You know, those scenes at the end of day after they've "rehearsed" where the singers and dancers are sitting around drinking coffee, yet become inspired to sing and dance some more - just to entertain themselves again by putting on a big routine complete with tap dancing on tables...

Okay, I'll stop now.

I continue because it's what I do. Period. I love working in and with OPERA; it's my medium - either visually as a director or aurally as a conductor. I persevere because solving operatic puzzles, (creating operas, coaching singers, and mentoring the next generation) brings me personal and artistic fulfillment.

However, if anyone out there wants to find me four tickets to the Universal Studios' Harry Potter theme park I'll be happy to take some time off for a vacation with the family...