I had an interview a few weeks ago. It…umm…didn’t go well. It was for the Glimmerglass Opera Young Artists Program. They had the previous year began a Musical Theater program, and they had very respectable theater directors working on the pieces. I’ve made no secret that I simply don’t know the lexicon of opera, but I understand music and singing. And I really could have improved upon Nabucco (see previous blog.) I thought they would see that I was exactly what they were looking for – an intelligent director who could speak their language but with a fresh pair of eyes. And they would see the immense potential for growth as this is a... nope.

I was practically laughed out of the room. The overwhelming subtext was “and what are you doing here exactly?” We didn’t focus at all about what I could bring to opera, rather on the fact that I didn’t know much. It was very disheartening. But I had one more trick in my pocket. I asked them how the addition of theater has changed their philosophy of programming and performance. I’d get in that way… fail! The response was, and I roughly quote: “Well it hasn’t changed much at all. Most of us grew up loving theater and we found opera in college so its really the same thing. We are just as comfortable doing Sondheim.” It was at that moment, I realized. We have nothing more to say to each other. Well – one more thing (I didn’t say it to him – so I’ll say it to you): Sir, you have what is undeniably a dying art form. Perhaps a few more fresh pairs of eyes might me exactly what you need. Someone who isn’t bogged down by what’s necessarily “supposed” to happen but is knowledgeable and respectful of the rules of opera. I’m not saying that person is necessarily me, but wouldn’t I be better than the alternative? The musician with no directing experience who gets one of his first jobs directing at the Met and creates one of the most bland theatrical experiences I ever had? I guess if that’s the latter is the way they are continuing to move then time will be the judge. One last thing, I was definitely one of the youngest people at the Met by a good two decades - so it seems like time already may be done judging and we’re just awaiting sentence.

 
FYI - This is the first of a two-parter about opera. I saw my first two big big operas recently. That’s a little sad and embarrassing to admit. I’d caught a few on PBS but I had never actually gone. Now that’s been rectified. Anyway, the first was Nabucco. Theoretically it was an epic tale, about the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity. I definitely loved the subject matter. Excepting that, I was pretty underwhelmed. Granted, we were sitting in the nauseatingly top balcony, but honestly there was nothing going on. The chorus would enter and exit laboriously (no wonder they were captured!) and would stand there with their swords while a single female came and ripped them away. That was her big victory. There was no real acting at all among the leads. One of my favorite moments was the baritone king singing about the skies turning red with blood while looking down. These people had NO idea what they were singing. And I know the opera voice is not my forte, but there were no voices that were really exceptional enough to pull it out of its downward spiral. We left at intermission. It makes me wonder… who got to direct this? I checked. Basically a musician with no directing experience at all. (That will be a key point for part 2, so remember that.)

I also got to see a live telecast of Philip Glass’ opera Satyagraha. (Ok, it was not AT the Met, but it was live in HD, so it may have been better than in the backIt is a minimalist opera about the life of Ghandi. It’s very abstract so a bit hard to explain. The text none of his work – in fact it is the text of the Bhagavad Gita, which is in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is meant to be heard and not read, so there were virtually no supertitles. Of course it didn’t directly correlate to what was going on either. In fact, very little happened. It was a transcendent moving picture inspired by the wisdom of India. It was striking. … it was also 4 hours. I wanted to stay until the end, but when the last hour of the show can be broken down into a man singing a scale over and over and about a dozen bits of blocking, I fell a bit victim to its more soporiphic qualities. But for what they were trying to do, the show was a complete success.

Regardless, its epic – its right up my alley. I’m looking forward to quite a bit more in my future.

 
I can’t believe how time gets away from you. Its feast or famine. Either I have nothing to write about or I’m too busy to write. I have recently directed two projects, both of which were rather successful. The first was the reading of Legend of the Killer Sheep which I have mentioned before. The process was very fun and I had a really great cast. The entire rehearsal process was at a music venue, which was a different experience. The group was very collaborative so we made a lot of great revisions as we went. Thanks to a lot to a number of my friends for coming out! I think that for a reading it was very successful. It became very clear what was working, what wasn’t and what the next steps in development would be. Actually, I think one of the biggest steps will not be an artistic one – it will be figuring out the audience and marketing to them. It’s certainly a niche musical.

Two days later I directed another piece with the Dare Project. Its always a pleasure. This piece was written by Chris Catalano and was a very dark comedy. It was a lot of fun to work on! I think that all in all it was one of the best nights I’ve seen. Every piece was really strong. The also unveiled their plan to write a full-length piece. Frankly I think it was a long time coming and I’m really looking forward to watching it develop in true Dare fashion.

After the tryptophan of my first vegan Thanksgiving wore off (I promise, you really wouldn’t even notice.) I had an incredibly productive weekend (this blog is proof!!!) I have finished preparation for Choral Chameleon’s concert Summoning Light. The running order is set, and I’m pretty proud of the program. I’ve scheduled time with the actors to work on the poems, and I begin work with the singers next week. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ll get better with the writing, I promise…