at Microscopic Opera this summer

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Speed Dating Tonight! in Pittsburgh



It was a pleasure to run down to Pittsburgh to see Microscopic Opera's clever and fun production of SPEED DATING TONIGHT! They produced the show in the garden of a private home and all the audience members were given dating numbers and rotating table numbers as they came in. Cast members mingled with the crowd prior to the show so it was hard to tell who was performing and who was coming to watch. The new orchestration (clarinet/flute, vibraphone/percussion, piano, bass) worked well. 

Up til now, productions have been in traditional theaters or recital halls. But this fall, Poor Richard's Opera will put the show on in a couple of bars in Philadelphia. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TOSCA in Buffalo

TOSCA is coming up in Buffalo at Nickel City Opera. It is such a pleasure to revisit Puccini's robust and complex score.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

And beyond: 17 solo shows in 5 days


Spent last week in Southeastern Kansas participating in a humanities program based at Coffeyville Community College. Opera is great fun, but its collaborative nature is both a blessing and a curse. Performing songs--some of which you wrote--by yourself with your own gear, although a bit of a pain, is very much a chance to succeed or fail on your own merits. Miss a note? Lose the audience's attention? Nobody to blame but yourself. Get'em singing along or wishing you'd come back--take all the credit and enjoy it.

Some of the highlights of the seventeen performances for a high school, the community college, and a bunch of retirement homes:

* lady in a special care unit who shouted "That's me--I don't get around much anymore," after I played that Ellington tune.
* Staffer who said "That's my husband" when I did one of my own about guys obsessed with power tools.
* 99 year old man who said he played the Hawaiian Steel Guitar.
* Teens who responded to a writing exercise based on by Guthrie's "Ain't gonna be treated this way" and wrote "School lunch is too healthy and too small," or "I'm tired of dealing with haterz everyday."
* Folks who couldn't talk anymore, but you could still tell were enjoying it by the look in their eyes.
* Man at my last gig who came up with tears in his eyes, game me a hug, and insisted on giving me a tip.

And now back to TOSCA and THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE.



Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Visit to Tennessee, but not Memphis or Nashville

This week, I'm going to Crossville, Tennessee. A friend and soprano colleague, Brenda Frye, has gotten me involved in a celebration at Uplands Village, a unique retirement community there. They have commissioned a choral setting of a poem by James Clark. It will be part of a big concert.  The poem, "The Call" has a section that goes:

Come up higher, Come up higher.
From the lowlands and the mire,
From the mists of earth's desire,
From the vain pursuit of pelf,
From the attitude of self,
Come up higher, Come up higher.

Pelf? I didn't know what that meant... Money. Dishonorable gains. Anyway, the setting gives the many residents and audience a chance to sing in the piece, with a line separate from the onstage choir. A big sing-a-long! Crossville is also home to the amazing Cumberland County Playhouse.

Oh, and if you're in North Carolina, go see GIANNI SCHICCHI and my BUOSO'S GHOST on the 28th and 29th at UNC-Chapel Hill.




Saturday, October 26, 2013

Amarillo opening of SPEED DATING TONIGHT!


Thanks to David O'Dell and Amarillo Opera for giving Dean Anthony and I the chance to do the second production of SPEED DATING TONIGHT! Over twenty singers participated--everyone who auditioned got a part. Some voice types and genders were changed from the first production. A small and effective cut was introduced and the position of the Coordinator's song was changed for the better. Dean changed some of the order of the show from the first production. The show plays well in Chamber Music Amarillo's space in the Fibonacci Building. Thanks to Tim Winn, Amarillo Opera is making their usual high quality video of the show for a delayed broadcast. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Amarillo: Opera like it oughta be

sign in Amarillo

There are plenty of places where opera might be fancier or more expensive, but there aren't that many that do opera as collaboratively and with as much heart as Amarillo. The run of two performances of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR was utterly satisfying from an artistic point of view. The singers all cared about their performances and gave committed, passionate characterizations. The orchestra tried their hardest, concentrated, worked not to cover the singers, and really did an outstanding job. The chorus has a wonderful attitude, great leadership, and the men aren't afraid to sing. The theater is comfortable and modern. The crew is friendly and professional.  And General Director David O'Dell and his staff work hard to support their artists. And you can't go too many other places where they feed everybody before the last four final rehearsals. 

The best experiences are when everyone is pulling together and trying their hardest. The collaborative nature of opera is really challenging and can be discouraging; but when it all works, it's a pleasure and makes you ready and willing to do it again.

I'm really looking forward to getting back there soon for SPEED DATING TONIGHT! 



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Speed Dating Tonight! premiere at Brevard


SPEED DATING TONIGHT! had a great premiere run at the end of July at Brevard. It was lovely to see friends from Iowa, Arkansas and North Carolina who came over to see it. There will be lots to report on this show which is already getting performances this fall. Here's a duet sung by two of the performers, Patrick ZurSchmiede and Rachel Policar. Many thanks to producer and director Dean Anthony for having the chutzpah to do a new work in his first season as the director of the Janiec Opera Company at Brevard.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A fun run in Buffalo


conductor cam

The run of three performances of DON PASQUALE at Nickel City Opera, June 28-30, ended up being great fun. The director, David Grabarkewitz was a great collaborator and his 30s/40s setting of the show was lively and fun. Zulimar Lopez Hernandez sang the role of Norina with great assurance and style, making her easy to work with. I always find that a conductor needs to understand what a singer wants/needs, learn it, and then give it back to them in the conducting. This was very easy with Zulimar. Nickel City's founder Valerian Ruminski was very funny in the title role. Ben Brecher (Ernesto) and Jim Wright (Malatesta) were both talented as well. Unlike the challenge of last year's LA BOHEME, the orchestration of PASQUALE, in a reduction by Anthony Barrese, was the right size for the Riviera Theater's small pit. A highlight of the show was Barrese's use of an accordion in one aria to replace a trumpet and brass section. The accordionist--Al Schlisserman: eye surgeon by day and accordionist by night--always made the number a highlight. Of course, this was along with Ben Brecher's singing! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Musical read through of SPEED DATING TONIGHT!

This week, the young singers at Brevard started working on SPEED DATING TONIGHT! I'm up in Buffalo, working on DON PASQUALE with Nickel City Opera and can't join them til mid July. Sounds like they are off to a great start.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Duet from Speed Dating Tonight!

Here's a duet from SPEED DATING TONIGHT! The Bartender and Waitress are taking orders and mixing drinks. While they work they talk about the speed dating. The bartender, a romantic, is skeptical. He says, "It's not like seeing someone across a room. You're eyes blink, she looks away but smiles..." She is more sympathetic, saying "I can see why they sign up. Nothing ventured nothing gained."

This duet definitely blurs (or maybe just plain crosses) the line between opera and musical theater. Singers for the premiere at the Janiec Opera Company have been given their assignments. There's a show on July 26th and one on July 27th, with a preview on July 25th.

One company has signed on to do the show in the fall. More about that soon!