Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Back logged musings...

Still recovering from my all too recent computer crash, I have come up for a bit of blogging air. I have been juggleing several projects at once this past week. Besides rebuilding AOT's electronic infrastructure, I have been working with odds and ends each show for the coming year and beyond.

First comes "Ground". This is our very unique and moving piece which will open our season at Georgetown the weekend of September 7th-9th. It is a piece we've mounted before so the pre-work for it is different than normal. I can count on the splendid musicians (soprano Elizabeth Baber, countertenor Brian Cummings, and Ignoti Dei members Danial Boothe, Daniel Rippe, and Charles Weaver) to come with their music and staging relearned. There aren't many costumes and props that need to be replaced either. The real trick is going to be getting the word out. This isn't the first time we've performed in DC, but it is our first performance in Georgetown. The last time we performed in DC we also had the resources of the Washington Early Music Festival. So, the larget job right now is making sure we get the word out about this production. The one thing we have on our side is that this piece was rated on of the top ten performing arts events of 2006 by Ionarts. Georgetown is being very helpful in getting word out to their mailing list, and we hope to collaborate with the Institutio di Cultura as well. It is a challenge because "Ground" doesn't have the instant name recognition that some like, say, "La Boheme" does. That said, I know that we can get the Gonda Theater full of people that are tired or uninterested in the obtuse productions of larger area companies and want to see and innovative and moving work that engages and transforms. (Just a note, opening night of "Ground" will include a reception to innaugurate our residency at Georgetown and everyon is invited!).

Next comes "Messiah". Things are a bit far out to be focused on marketing (though plans are in the works to get the word out in both Baltimore and Washington DC). The staging concepts are in place, the costumes are ordered, rehearsal space is organized, and right now I am working on the musical side of things. Soon it will be time to get the string parts out to our concert mistress for bowings and before I can do that I need to carefully mark dynamics, tempi, articulations, and other expression marks. Often times people forget the with early opera, at least when one uses authentic sources, the scores are largely devoid of expression marks. Too often early music ensembles just "play the chart" which results and perhaps tight, but not terribly vivid performances. Another common trend is to leave scores empty of markings and to have the expression come out of the rehearsal process. This is a beautiful utopian idea, but can make for some hairy and non-unified artistic ideas. Also, being wearing producer shoes in addition to artistic ones, I know that this required a lot more rehearsal time. I will be conducting our performances of "Messiah" and am pouring through the score now, marking the musical decisions I've made. Lastly I am organizing the myriad of choirs we will be collaborating with: in Georgetown we will work with the university's chamber choir and in Baltimore the chamber choir of the Handel Choir of Baltimore. We have been invited to perform an additional performance at Virginia Tech, and there we will collaborate with the Virginia Tech Chamber Singers and their director Brian Gendron (Brian will also be working with us on "David et Jonathas" and in the formation of a resident choir for AOT!).

Third comes "David et Jonathas". It still seems way out there, but that will pass quickly. Right now it is finalizing the orchestra mainly. The orchestra will be one of the best period orchestra's American could offer, featuring some of the strongest players from around the country. This makes for quite a staggering budget, but it is also what elevates AOT above the rest (plus we have been awarded a grant from the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation to make it possible). We will make our New York debut at the Brooklyn Museum of Art with this piece and that means a lot of additional considerations. We need to find an alternative to our three tons of sand since we will be traveling with the productions (plus, I don't think Georgetown was TOO excited about the great weight of sand). We have to find a New York publicist to get the word out about the performances. I will be going up in late September to meet with the folks at BAM and with our partner organization, the Institute for Living Judaism. I will also be meeting at that time with Jeffrey Weiss, the talented new director of the DIA Foundation. The cast for this show is set and, since it is a revival production, I will save my stress for atleast a couple of months.

Lastly, there is all the rest...and there is a lot of it. Some of it is fundraising, always fundraising. Some of it is the nitty gritty of running a business (ie contracts, budgets, advertisements, relationship building, etc). And some of it is exciting planning for next season which will include the debut of the American Opera Ballet (headed by brilliant young choreographer Joseph Morrissey who is now dancing with Bayerische Staatsoper (one of the most exciting and provocative companies in the world), another New York performance, collaboration with choreographer Lisa Green-Cudek, a possible collaboration between Peabody and Georgetown, and our first performances of some later opera (including works by Schubert, Rossini, and Crumb...I can't say more yet, but it is VERY exciting and includes, once again, some of the great American interpreters of those composers).

With that its time to start the day. Tonight Tan Dun's "The First Emperor" will be broadcast on PBS. My hopes are not high (the Met with Placido Domingo?) and it wasn't reviewed too favorably. I do like some of Dun's earlier compositions quite a bit. I am looking forward to seeing it though, and it is part of their season for this year as well. It is no doubt be high in the spectacle arena. Like I always say, the only thing better than a good "Turandot" is a bad "Turandot"!

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