Friday, January 11, 2008

Those La Boheme Nights

Puccini has a way of getting under your skin, and invading your dreams. For the past few nights I have bolted wide awake with Act I of La Boheme going through my head. When singing Puccini one must count and listen like mad in order to hear a que and sing at the exact moment. This is not symmetrical form music like my beloved Mozart composed. Alas, Puccini liked to write rather unsymmetrical ensemble dialogue and arias in which he fancied lietmotifs and mood enticing scoring.

in Act I of La Boheme Puccini introduces the four main guy characters, Marcello, Rudolpho, Colline, and Shaunard, all who are poor starving artists of some variety. The complain of the bitter cold and starvation until Shaunard enters with some money & food earned from a British Lord. The sound que's are tight and sometimes sycopated, or off-beat. Repitition, I find, is the best rehearsal regime. And thus, with so much repitition the subconscious just loves to take the opportunity during REM sleep to repeat those queues just one (or ten) more times.

Yes, for the past week I have suffered an acute case of PPSD (Puccini Production Stress Disorder) and insomnia is my enemy. Almost to the minute I will wake up at 3:30 am with the lines of Puccini rolling past the scrollboard of my mind. When will it end? Hopefully soon 'cause we gotta get to learning how to deliver improvised opera next!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

CATS - The Opera

This is Narissa the opera cat. She was a stray found over 12 years ago when Portland Opera had its offices downtown. The costume shop adopted her and after not much debate it was agreed that she WOULD stay. Narissa has been queen of the costume shop ever since. She is a lovely feline who basks in affection from everyone, but is much too proud to ask for it. But that doesn't matter. Any time that someone visits the shop for a fitting she gets plenty of attention. I believe her favorite sleeping nest is a quiet corner in the shoe shelves.

I asked her what her favorite opera was. Her answer? "I very much enjoyed The Cunning Little Vixen. Making all the animal costumes was such a joy. I don't think we non-sapiens get near enough stage time."

Alas, Narissa is a wonderful member of the permanent staff, but she's been there as long as I can remember. She's a granny kitty now, but I hope she stays well enough to govern the in's and out's of the costume shop for a long and productive regime.

Long live Queen Narissa.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why, you ask?

First I ask you truly...who the hell is Sloopy anyway? I played that catchy 60's tune, "Hang On Sloopy," when I was in the pep band in high school 20 years ago and I'm still hearing it at college and professional sports arenas. Watching the BCS Championship game between LSU and Ohio St I heard the song and rushed online to find out why. Ok, so Ohio as adopted the song as it's "Unofficial" fight song. But after all these years I still don't know WHO THE HELL IS SLOOPY?

Ok, back to opera.

Day 4 - the "Stumble" through.....

There comes a time after all the staging has been unchronologically sketched out, scene changes and transition assignments have been preliminarily assigned, and that unforgettable motivational speech, "you better start remembering your frickin' music!", after all that fun it's time to put it all together, block upon precarious block.

Today was our struggle through day for Boheme. We started from page one and struggled through each scene and act transition until we got it right. This talented and learned team of singers was given three days to be presented with the directors vision and staging ideas. That doesn't give much time for deliberation. Yet, we are a talented and philisophical group. The consumate acting questions were still brough up like, "why would my character make such a move?" "I don't feel that my character would be motivated that way." "I'm sorry, it's just difficult to sing on pitch when I'm suspended upside down." The usual constructive dialoge one hears during staging.

I have been acting and singing on stage for 23 years, professionally for 20 of them. I have learned when to ask the important question, "why", and I have learned friendly cooperation is the BEST quality between actors and creative staff. Sometimes you just have to take what the director says and find the motivation to do it, even if the direction makes no coherent sense at all. Case in point, The Flying Dutchman, aka "STOMP" the musical, I wrote how absurd it for 25 men to stomp around on stage looking like a bad marionette show. But, we find a way to make it work. We find the motivation and just do it. Or, we don't find the motivation and just do it anyway, 'cause that's what the genius avant-garde director wants.

Believe me, if I were preparing a role for a major Broadway tour show or a premier at the Met, I would be asking a lot of questions. I would want to get everything right. But for this production of La Boheme I know it is a Readers Digest condensed 50 minute show aimed at Jr. High & High school audiences on a portable set. I take my direction and staging with a smile and find my motivation. Let the big boys handle the tough questions.

Tomorrow dress a 40 pound coat. Oy!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Benefits of learning new roles

Day 2 - Thursday

Rehearse rehearse rehearse. 7 hours of staging and reviewing. Gotta get this little opera on it's feet ASAP! I have performed Boheme before as Schaunard in Italian. I have filled in last-minute for this project to perform Colline and Alcindoro in ENGLISH. It's certainly a different learning curve memorizing an opera in English that once was completely learned in Italian. Performing Colline is a bonus to me, I feel, because as a Bass-Baritone I get to utilize the nice low notes, and have yet another role under my belt for this popular show. Later we shall be performing a concert version of our La Boheme in Italian with orchestra, so having another role memorized in Italian is bonus.

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New Year, New Life, New Project

Day 1 - Wednesday

Here we are and here we go! Today I begin a new adventure as a member of Portland Opera To Go (or, affectionately labeled "POGO"). Met and gret the 5 other cast members of POGO's Boheme and proceeded to get down to business. We have a talented cast with varying experiences. The soaring music of Puccini resounded in the rehearsal studio. Ah, Puccini. A performing artist who is fortunate to listen to Puccini all day for a living is truly blest indeed. After a few hours of music rehearsal we spent a good 5 hours staging acts I and II on our portable and compact set. As a seasoned performing artist I can tell you that staging that many hours at once is exhausting. I went home and after a quiet meal I fell asleep by 8pm. An early night for me.

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