Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There Will Be Opera

What is this? A blog entry…on a Tuesday? Yes, readers, today marks the beginning of BI-WEEKLY updates! There's so much going on that I can't fit all the awesomeness into one weekly entry. So stay tuned Tuesdays and Thursdays for yummy opera goodness.

Why today? Today was Production Meeting Day – the day when the production staff gathers in the Opera Colorado offices to go over all sorts of opera details. Like what? (I'm glad you asked.)

Cuts for The Tales of Hoffmann
Operas are rarely performed entirely as written. Why? Well, in this case, because the opera would be 6 hours long! So many versions of the opera have surfaced since Offenbach's death and new pieces are being found to this day. Not to mention that some opera companies perform certain sections as spoken dialogue and others as sung. The two co-producing companies, Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Boston Lyric Opera, each chose different pieces of the music to cut. Likewise, we've had to made decisions about what to keep and what to cut. (Yes, the "Barcarolle" will still be there. Are you nuts? That's my favorite part!) But never fear, the cuts don't include anything major or well-known. After all, what would this opera be without the famous Doll Song?

The Artists
When they're arriving. Where they're staying. Where they're rehearsing. When they get days off. When they go for costume and wig fittings. When they attend donor events. When they go to Colorado Public Radio for an interview. When they do photo shoots. When they come to the Tattered Cover for the Meet the Artists panel (October 28 – I'll see you there!). Whew! All of this needs to be coordinated – and most of it already has been. You'd think, "opera singer," they just get on stage and sing. But there's so much more that happens.

Before the Opera Begins
Before every opera, there's a talk discussing the history and plot. For this opera, we're lucky enough to have Denver's Betsy Schwarm as a guest lecturer. This lady knows her Hoffmann – she's spent twenty years as a classical radio announcer and producer, including local stations KCFR and KVOD. She writes program notes (she wrote an article for ours!) and gives pre-opera talks at a variety of groups. I'm looking forward to hearing her.

Before the Opera REALLY Begins
There will be more pre-opera awesomeness. A few minutes before the show – after the pre-opera talk – you'll see several chorus members on stage. They're marking the anniversary of Offenbach's death (ok, he died 129 years ago yesterday) and are at the unveiling of a statue commemorating his life and works. This bit of history woven in helps set the stage for this production, which casts Offenbach as a character in his own opera – he's desperately trying to have it performed as he intended. So get there early – you won't want to miss it.

We Don't Need Pants at the Opera
"Those guys don't need to wear pants." What? A bit of silliness derailed the meeting briefly when discussing costume needs. Apparently, a few male chorus members in the Giulietta scene will in full tuxedos…but without pants! (They will have boxers on.) Remember, Giulietta IS a courtesan, and the scene takes place in a brothel. Back then, a brothel was a place a gentleman could go to sit down, relax, have a cigar, and enjoy the (ahem) company of some lovely ladies. This all reminds me that opera, for all its (mis)representation as being stuffy, is really quite sexy. And this opera is no different. I think you're going to love the places it takes you: love, passion, despair, betrayal…what more could you ask?

As the meeting adjourned, I was left with an overwhelming appreciation for the sheer magnitude of what goes into producing an opera. And hopefully you, dear readers, have a small picture of what goes on to making it all happen.

See you next week…I mean, see you on Thursday!

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