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Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Don Giovanni!

I write this blog in the midst of Opera McGill's performances of Don Giovanni -- which opened January 26, 2012 in Pollack Hall and closes tomorrow, January 29.
Some stats:

2 casts, each performing the opera twice to nearly sold-out houses, made up of 34 McGill students. They were supported by a student team of 2 assistant directors and 2 assistant stage managers, the McGill Symphony Orchestra (38 musicians for this opera), plus a myriad of sound recording students and backstage crew. It takes over 80 people (almost all of them students) arriving in the theatre hours before performances begin to create this Giovanni production.

In the end, there were multiple set designs and many costume designs; the first done in May of 2011, the next revised sometime in October, 2011, the penultimate finished sometime in late November, the final design completed only in mid-January, 2012 during staging rehearsals of the last scene of the opera.

Every piece of text and every note written of the Prague version (Mozart's original version) was performed. That means NO CUTS. Even with a 20 minute intermission the opera came in under 3 hours (which begs the question: why cut Giovanni?)

A little under 100 hours was spent in various staging rehearsals. With the private coaching hours, the musical rehearsals, the staging rehearsals, the tech rehearsals and dress rehearsals, plus the performances, I estimate that the production took over 250 hours to prepare. That does not include any individual amounts of time any of the students spent learning their parts in a practice room, the time the designers spent creating costumes or sets or lights, or time I spent creating the blocking for the production. It would be interesting to add it all up sometime. I bet we'd be well over 1000 hours!

I filed 180 email messages in the month of January alone regarding this Giovanni production. (I hate email...)

After opening night, this blog had over 100 reads in less than 24 hours. Currently, someone in the UAE is reading my previous blog on Giovanni. Amazing.

On opening night we had over 100 high school students attend from Overton. They were a great addition to our regular audiences. They seemed very entertained by the show, which includes a kind of sword which most are describing as a lightsaber, a lot of kissing and making out by Zerlina and Masetto, and a couple of audacious touches (like the female vampire carrying in Donna Anna's maid over her shoulder and dropping her on Giovanni's table for him to feast on!)

Oh, did I mention that it takes 8 pomegranates, 8 blood oranges, bottles of club soda, orange, and cranberry juice, dozens of batteries, and 12 blood pellets in order to perform this production over this weekend?

And there are 7 vampire attacks each show and a number of attempted attacks as well?

But only 1 vampire sings...

So, what did I learn from working on this Don Giovanni?

1) The Prague version is superior to either the Vienna or the traditional hybrid version normally done
2) Gordon Gerrard is a wonderful colleague and a terrific conductor
3) My Opera McGill students constantly surprise me with their ability to imagine a new world of opera
4) Audiences want to be entertained
5) Cutting out recits cuts out parts of character's hearts. It was nice to have these amazing characters played intact
6) E flat is one of Mozart's most interesting keys
7) It's fun to design a show with such talented colleagues like Ginette, Vincent and Serge
8) Mozart challenges young singers and orchestral players to be at their best -- and it's apparent when they achieve a high standard just as it's apparent when the mark is missed; however they hit it much more than missed it!
9) Mozart's genius is a comforting blanket to wrap yourself in while working during long hours
10) I don't want to do another Giovanni for a long while.

On to Monteverdi's "L'incoronazione di Poppea" which opens March 15, 2012 in Pollack Hall.  It's a LONG opera, but one of the greatest ever composed!