Friday, October 30, 2009

The Silence of the Operas

Opera fans are dedicated. Especially the 30-some people who braved the snow and ice of Wednesday to come to “Meet the Artists” at Tattered Cover. In attendance were singers Julian Gavin, Pam Armstrong and Gaétan Laperrière along with stage director Renaud Doucet and conductor Emmanuel Joel-Hornak. Director of Artistic Planning Brad Trexell moderated (since General Director Greg Carpenter has been out sick.)

It was another lovely afternoon of listening to the artists – both their answers and voices. We even had a guest ask Renaud another question because “she wanted to hear more of his [French] accent.”

Highlights included:

-A discussion of just how difficult this opera is to produce (the answer: VERY difficult!) Director Renaud Doucet explained that since Offenbach died before completing the score…and pages of his original notes are still being found…and there are quite a few “alternate versions” to certain scenes…and there are different musical versions of certain pieces…not to mention that companies have to decide whether they’re going to perform the opera with the spoken dialogue or the recitative….it’s amazing that any opera company even does this opera at all. (Though I’m glad we are!)

-Learning from the Maestro and director how much of this opera isn’t from this opera at all! The Barcarolle, that heart-tugging duet between Nicklausse and Giulietta, was originally written for Offenbach’s Les fées du Rhin (The Water Nymphs). Additionally, Dapertutto’s aria “Scintille, diamant,” was based on a tune from the overture for Offenbach’s operetta Journey to the Moon.

-Pam explaining that while singing three roles (and performing the role of Stella) is vocally challenging, it’s emotionally challenging, as well. The women are so different – Olympia is an empty-headed doll, Antonia is a genuinely sweet girl, and Giulietta is a two-faced manipulator – that it’s a challenge to go to those extremes all in just three hours.

-Hearing about the importance of Stella – a main character in her own right, but who is often overlooked. Maestro Joel-Hornak even noted that in some productions Stella does not even get her few lines at the end of the opera, but that those are sometimes given to Hoffmann to say. Certainly Stella’s actual role in the opera is smaller than her counterparts. “At the end of the opera, the diva does not even get to sing,” said the Maestro. “This may have been a final joke on the part of Offenbach.”

There were so many other wonderful discussions and ideas shared by the artists. It’s always rewarding to hear from the artists their thoughts and perspectives on a work. If you’ve never been out to a Meet the Artists panel, I encourage you to come. (And if the weather prevented you from making it out, I encourage you to come to the pre-opera talk. It’s free to all ticket holders and is held one hour before curtain time in the parterre.)

See you next Tuesday!

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