A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Thursday, May 6, 2021

How to learn about Speed Dating Tonight!


by Michael Ching (Composer and Librettist)

based on a concept by Dean Anthony

SPEED DATING TONIGHT! is what I call a "new numbers opera." Much of traditional opera is based on musical numbers: arias, duets, ensembles, finales. SpDT! is similarly structured but with some twists. First connecting material such as recitative is minimized. As for the songs and ensembles themselves, most of the material is not gendered and not limited to one vocal type. Even the order of the pieces is up to the producer. The cast needn't be based on a 50/50 gender balance. (It doesn't need to be binary either.) In the over 130 productions the smallest cast has been four and the largest around fifty. The goal is to have one hundred options, with the idea being that you use only the material you want for your cast. Currently there are 95 options--I count a true duet as two options, for example, but a piece with only a couple of response lines, counts as one option.

The opera starts and ends with a frame and premise that isn't varied. At a local pub, the bartender (B), server (M),  Dating Coordinator (S or M), and busboy (mute or any voice) get ready for the event and greet the daters as they enter. We are introduced to two nervous characters ("I could just die") and Dater #22 (B). He's got a singing birthday card. The actual speed dating starts and the show ends when everyone has had their song, duet, or trio. There are a few subplots to hold the show together. The finale starts with the server commenting in a Brechtian manner about the event ("Daters are a lot like singers"). Dater #22, a failure so far, gives it one more try, and in a parody of the Pappageno/Pappagena duet, finally finds his true love, a fellow cell phone addict. The daters exit and the bartender and server decide to go have a coffee. Alone, the busboy, dances with their broom.

So, the traditional show requires:

                        Quinn, Bartender, baritone

                        Stephanie, Server, mezzo

                        Kaylee, the Dating Coordinator, soprano or mezzo

                         Busboy, mute or any voice type (can be cut entirely)

                         Your group of daters, number completely variable

Since the first production commissioned, produced, and directed by Dean Anthony at the Janiec Opera of the Brevard Music Center, SpDT! has been done over a hundred times. The episodic, inclusive structure of the opera proved very useful during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021. Brevard commissioned a ZOOM SPEED DATING TONIGHT! which is essentially the same show, but one that concentrates on the daters, de-emphasizing the bar milieu.


DOWNLOAD THE PIANO VOCAL PERUSAL SCORE. On the right hand side of this blog, there is a link for a free download for a perusal score. I try to keep it up to date within a few months--remember new pieces are getting written all the time. 

Then you should probably watch a video. Remember, the order of the pieces isn't ever the order in the piano vocal score, so don't try to follow along with the music.


If you have time for only one video, I'd recommend the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It was done literally the night they had to shut down for COVID. Live audiences were forbidden and the video was their performance. It is with piano accompaniment and music directed by the brilliant Hal France. It was produced and directed by Shelby VanNordstrand. There's a medium/large cast.

We haven't talked about this yet, but there is an optional orchestration to SpDT! which includes clarinet doubling flute (one or two players), piano (preferably your rehearsal pianist--can be the conductor), bass, and percussion--drum set/vibraphone. This great production at Kennesaw State University shows the band off really well.

As I mentioned earlier, SpDT! converted well to the social distancing demanded by COVID-19 quarantines. The first ZOOM SPEED DATING TONIGHT! from Brevard features the wonderful Caroline Worra in the role of "Host" instead of Dating Coordinator. There is a stage manager role (speaking), but the Bartender, Waitress, and Busboy are gone. The Zoom approach ends up sacrificing many of the duets, and ensembles, but the up-close nature of video really brings up the interaction between the singing dater and the listening dater. Another reason to check this version out is Dean Anthony's direction. He's directed the show a half dozen times and has some pairings he likes to do such as the cat lover (#8) and the Car Man (#19). You are free to do your own pairings, but some of his are classic.

Another great production during the COVID pandemic was at Arizona State University. Produced by Brian DeMaris; Directed by Janine Colletti; and Music Directed by Randi Ellen Rudolph, through the use of greenscreen and video, this keeps the original Bartender, Server, Busboy configuration. So it achieves both the up-close visuals and the original scenario. This allows for more use of the ensembles.

During the summer of 2020 L'arietta productions in Singapore had to postpone their SpDT! production. They commissioned a series of pieces that are incorporated now incorporated into the opera as options #76-#83. Here's a link to their beautifully produced series of videos. These were directed by Eleanor Tan and Aloysius Luke Fong was music director. 

Every producer has the option of commissioning a date or two for their production. The University of South Dakota commissioned two for their ZOOM SPEED DATING TONIGHT! production. (Probably) the last socially distanced production of the pandemic, it has the notable benefit of the experience of producing three others before it. It is wittily directed by Tracelyn Gesteland. The MIDI accompaniment files from all of the zoom productions are available as rehearsal and even performance tracks for an additional fee.

If you are curious about how to do the opera with a very small cast, check out this video (at a bar) from Fargo Moorhead Opera. Another small cast professional company with a very good quality video is Shreveport Opera.

Once you've watched one or two of these videos, you will want to check out the opera's
SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST and YOUTUBE PLAYLIST. These have the pieces in numerical order, which makes it an easier reference than combing through too many videos. These playlists are continually updated and if something doesn't appear on Soundcloud, it is hopefully there on YouTube and viceversa.

The opera has a facebook page which is easily found and can update you about the latest shows and songs.

This is a LOT of information, so don't hesitate to get in touch directly. 

Oh... a note about prices. In 2023-24, the license for SpDT! is $700/$850/$1000 depending on the size of your cast. The orchestration is $400/$500/$600. Rehearsal mp3s are available for the solos for $100. When you consider you don't have to buy any piano vocal scores, this is very reasonable. 



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Zoom Speed Dating Tonight! at University of South Dakota

 This weekend Zoom Speed Dating Tonight! at University of South Dakota was released. It was wittily directed by Tracelyn Gesteland. 

This is likely the last of the zoom versions. The first was Janiec Opera at Brevard Music Center. This was followed by versions at University of Tennessee and then NYU-Steinhardt. All of these were produced by Jo Sandler. There were other online versions, including one at Arizona State University.

There are several notable things about this production. First is Brian Rasmussen's presentation of "Checklist" followed by a newly commissioned song "Open to flaws" (#88) sung by their alter-ego drag persona, Carmen. It's at around 54:00 in the video. At 1:01 you can hear another new song, "I'm in the pep band," (#87) performed by Annika Holdusen. Another notable performance is a swing version of #4, "Dancer" performed by Ellie Whitehead. At 9:00 there's an especially fun version of #27, "Carrie," which really takes advantage of the video format. Performed by Denisse Balandran.

There are several pieces from L'arietta productions "All Dressed Up (No Place to Go)" integrated into the production. I've been pleased about the popularity of these pieces, written during the summer of 2020 and premiered a week at a time during lockdown (they called it Circuit Breaker in Singapore)