Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leave it to Opera

I have fantastic news! Our final dress rehearsal for La Bohème tonight is completely sold out! What’s the final dress rehearsal, you say? It’s the last time the performers and orchestra will run through the opera before Saturday’s opening night. The performance is done in full costume, lighting, make-up, the works. And what I really like about this dress rehearsal is that we open it up to schoolchildren across the Denver metro area.

So tonight, hundreds of future opera lovers from ages 8 to 18 will converge on the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. They’ll be dressed up and excited, pointing out the chandelier, the mural, the artwork, everything that makes the Ellie such a wonderful home for opera.

For some, it’s their first experience ever hearing opera. You remember that magical moment you saw someone open their mouth and heard such amazing music come out? Some kids tonight will get that moment.

For others, it’s their second, third, even fourth experience with opera. Our Education department goes out into schools to present a variety of programs, and each time a child gets to experience opera, the more likely they are to grow up to buy tickets.

Opera’s been around for a long time. But today, it isn’t really taught in schools. It has a lot to compete with: movies, theater, concerts…so programs like our dress rehearsal for student audiences helps ensure that opera keeps going for another 500 years.

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whole Lotta Opera Goin' On

Today’s Wednesday Whatever I Find Interesting was our opera luncheon, held earlier today in the Chambers Grant Salon at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. If you’ve never been, they’re a wonderful time – yummy food AND opera music in the middle of the day? It’s decadently delicious!

A good time was had by all. One of our Young Artists, soprano Christie Hageman sang “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka (coming in February) and did a terrific job. Sari Gruber, who will sing Musetta in La Bohème (beginning THIS Saturday!), talked about her opera career and was just charming. We also had raffle tickets to win a trip to Prague available (they’ll be sold in the lobby at all performances).

Plus Lyziwraps was there to sell Opera Colorado tote bags. This was what I found really interesting – they take our banners from past performances and make them into tote bags – big, small, and in-between. They also sell gift-wrap alternatives – reusable fabric that comes from non-profits like us. (Part of the proceeds even come back to us to support our Education programs.) Go green AND support the opera? Sounds like a win-win to me! (Learn more at their website...)

The next luncheon is February 9, so mark your calendars – I’ll be giving more info as we have it.

Ciao for now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Opera

So I’m flipping through a libretto of La Bohème and I notice something interesting. Mimì is referred to as a gristte and Musetta a lorette. My brain didn’t know either of those words, so I did some research.

The term gristte has been used for a while, but in early 19th century France, is referred to young women who were seamstresses or worked for hatmakers and could often be found in cafés and other bohemian venues. They often had…let’s say “arrangements”…with these artists and served as models and inspiration. The grisette was often seen in French fiction, such as Fantine in Hugo’s Les Misérables to Mimì in Murger’s Scènes de la vie de Bohème.

A lorette, on the other hand, refers to a woman is solely supported by her lovers, devoting her days to pleasure and luxury. Her lovers weren’t the highest in the city – they were usually kept by an upper class bourgeoisie or lower level aristocrat. She may have nice clothes and a well-appointed apartment, but her social standing was very, very low. She might look like highborn ladies, but was seen as public property – a thing to be acquired or admired.

I learn something new every day!

Ciao for now!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Behold the Power of Opera

It wouldn’t be a Bohème blog without mentioning RENT. I love RENT. I saw it before seeing Bohème, and it’s hard for me to separate the two in my mind.

For those of you unfamiliar with RENT, it’s a musical theater piece by Jonathan Larsen that’s based loosely on La Bohème, but set in the 1990’s. The story revolves around four artist friends who encounter love and loss in New York City (like Paris, another haven for those bohemian types.)

Rodolfo the poet becomes Roger, the songwriter/musician. He still struggles with his love for Mimì (who keeps her name but is an exotic dancer with AIDS, not tuberculosis) but knowing she doesn’t have long to live. Marcello the painter becomes Mark, an indie filmmaker whose girlfriend Maureen (Musetta becomes a bisexual performance artist) has just left him for Joanne, a lawyer (who plays a much bigger role than Alcindoro). Larsen modernizes the story further by creating a couple in Schaunard and Colline, who become Angel Dumott Schunard, a gay drag queen percussionist and Tom Collins, a gay philosophy professor. Even the landlord Benoit is represented in the character of Benjamin 'Benny' Coffin III, the bohemians’ landlord and a former roommate of Roger, Mark, Collins, and Maureen.

What is so striking about the update is how much is still the same. Both works frequently rely on recitative singing, a form of rapid dialogue exchange in song, to show people arguing or heated discussions. RENT opens with Roger and Mark burning a manuscript for heat. Much of the opera incorporates phrases from the opera, especially the meeting scene between Roger/Rodolfo and Mimì. The meeting occurs under near identical circumstances, as Mimi knocks at the door, hoping to receive a match for her burned-out candle. Some of the dialogue between the two characters is actually the same as in the opera, as they fumble to find matches and discover they like one another.

RENT premiered 100 years after La Bohème, but so many of the themes are the same: the fleeting nature of life and love, the struggle for artistic independence, the desire to find a place in this world. This is why opera is so touching and long-lasting – centuries after those stories first graced the stage, we are still inspired by the music and characters today.

Ciao for now!