Friday, July 6, 2007

Insider Rehearsal Report: The Style of Staging

Shepherds (Brian Thorsett and Christian Reinert) embrace Orpheus (Michael Slattery).

Making a modern version of an older opera, like Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, is all about accentuating those contrasts while making them fit into a cohesive artistic vision. Director Christopher Alden is casual and approachable, but obviously knowledgable about the opera and its history.

La Musica (Juliet Petrus) waits for her cue.

In this early stage of rehearsing, the creative team divides its time between music and blocking. With any form of theater, the way an actor delivers his or her lines is essential to building dramatic tension. Conductor Antony Walker coaches the singers not just on tuning or rhythm, but on expression. "In the end I want to conduct it as little as possible and have you drive it."

Directing is very much about taking a page with some music or words on it and creating a world out of it. No two directors will create this world in the same way. Alden's dynamic staging is a far cry from what could be staged as a rather stiff court drama. Instead, there is movement going on nearly every moment. Each line of music has a clear intention behind it and Alden ensures that the singers express it in the staging.

Director Christoher Alden shows Christian Reinert blocking.

Alden shows the actors exactly what he wants by walking their parts, saying what could be their inner monologue. "'Let's get out of here.' 'Yeah, you're right; let's go now.' They're getting more and more freaked out," he said, describing the emotions that the shepherds feel when encountering Pluto, Lord of the Underworld.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day at Glimmerglass

While the Glimmerglass staff is dedicated to producing high-quality operas, it's not "all work and no play"! Every year, the company enjoys throwing its own events as well as participating in community ones.
One of these events is the Springfield Center 4th of July Parade. Interns like Brooke Cartus and Kate Foster are excited to hand out candy and operate the float.
Set Designer John Conklin and Technical Director Abby Rodd (above left) designed this year's float. Often they use discarded set pieces from the showin their designs. For example, the larger-than-life waving Uncle Sam was originally a moving puppet of Pluto, the Greek god of the underworld. Originally Gluck chorus members used the puppet, plus two others, to act out the myth of Persephone's abduction. When the creative team decided for a simpler look, the puppet was re-painted, dressed, and cut off at the legs to be reincarnated as Uncle Sam.

Besides Uncle Sam, this year's float featured metal chairs, bird baskets holding flags, and a full-size phone booth with a real ringer (to "let freedom ring").

Monday, July 2, 2007

Putting it Together: The Tech Rehearsal

Glimmerglass productions get seven onstage tech rehearsals prior to dress rehearsals with piano and orchestra. Often, this means they hit the stage while still finalizing choreography and staging, and before all costumes and set elements are completed. This schedule gives the creative team a chance to see all of the elements together, which means if things need to change, there are still two weeks to fix them. This week it's Offenbach and Gluck on stage.

Gluck chorus member and Music Intern Dan Richards was surprised that adding technical elements made such a large difference in the way the show was performed. "Before we went to tech rehearsal, we ran the show at the rehearsal venue and it really felt like it was ready to be performed, but then we got into the space and we had to make the performance fit into that space," he said. "The artistic team tried some new ideas. Adding the set, lighting, and costume made everything come together, to feel more like a whole."

Both shows open the first weekend in July, so rehearsal time is crucial for everyone, both on-stage and off, to perfect their parts. The cast, stage and lighting crew, and creative team are in rehearsals six hours a day. Meanwhile, the other crews are still working away on props, costumes, and set pieces.

During tech rehearsals, many costumes are finished. However, there are some not quite finished and some that need to change. "It's all about being flexible--it's just adding and changing every time. Sometimes we have to make adjustments on stage, so the designers can see what it looks like," Shelby Newport, Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor, said.

One thing is for certain--everyone's busy preparing what looks to be an exciting season!