Every Fall here in Barcelona a festival of what they call "pocket operas" is put on. This is sort of anyother term for chamber opera, but there is included in it an implication of opera performed in a non-traditional space (though the production I'm going to talk about is not an example of this). The type of works they include in the festival are very similar to AOT productions, so you can understand my interest.
Tonight I went to the "little theater" of the National Theater of Catalunya. The word was a new opera titled "Salo d'Anubis o L'Academia de Lili & Dante". It was written by festival director Toni Rumbau and Catalan composer Joan Albert Amargos. The opera was in Catalan, which I don't by any means speak, but which is close enought between French and Spanish so I could understood almost all of it. The conceit was that of a magic show in which a man (actually a planted tenor) from the audience is selected and throughout the shows shrinks (well actually he is cut in half, and then decapatated, etc) into death. He learns to accept death as part of life and the show ends with he and his wife performing the opening monologue, but not as the magician and his assistant.
The space at the National Theater was really charming (would be great for baroque opera) and it was all and all a nice evening. The singers were quite good (soprano Monica Luezas, mezzo Marta Valero, tenor Toni Comas, and baritone Marc Canturri). The band was also quite sensitive at playing a score that was both interesting and fit the piece well. Most of the all the effect were well produced and it was a pleasure and adventure to watch.
It was a nice break from hard-core "Messiah" work to which now I must return.
Tonal Vision, the Baltimore video and audio engineers that are our exclusive videographers, just released the trailer for their DVD of "Ground". It is a profoundly difficult show to put into words and perhaps equally difficult to put into 2.5 minutes of video. Still, I think they have done some beautiful work. I wish I could put the entire DVD up here, because they did a really ravishing job with it.
The rest of the day has been filled with "Messiah" marketing, interviews, ad sales, program designing, bio adjusting, etc. Ah, the grease that keeps the wheels of arts turning...
I have renewed commitment to keep up both of my blogs. The other has been languishing since May! Originally this blog was to be a place to give updates and plug AOT - also to satisfy curiosity as to what it is like directing a company like AOT (there are very few companies that actually follow the "company" model anymore, even City Opera doesn't seem to be as faithful to it as they once were). My personal blog is meant to be sort of an artistic diary where I can get my thoughts about various projects out and folks can get a fleeting and scary look into how my creative mind works. That said, it is probably most helpful for me - keeping everything stirring in the brain can yield some rather cramped corners. So here you may find the other blog up and running, and hopefully to stay that way!
When I lived in Bloomington, people used to call is B,town. As I went to title this entry it occured to me that the three most significant homes that I've known have all been B,towns...Baltimore, Bloomington, and now Barcelona. I returned to the latter yesterday and have hit the ground running (after having quite the confrontation with a pick-pocket in the metro - I guess with all my luggage I really looked like a tourist!). There is lots to be done here though. We have started selling ads for the program book for "Messiah". This is a great way for businesses both to support the arts and to get the word out out themselves to a wide audience. The people that come see our shows are loyal and want to support businesses that support the arts. "Messiah" is sure to attract a particularly wide swath of folks.
Also with "Messiah" are issues of the set. The look of the show is minimal as it is a reflection of medieval liturgical dramas and blurs the distinctions between concert, opera, and ritual. Still, there are some set pieces that need to be created and I have been busy designing and getting those designs off to the right people. We are trying to make sure all our ducks are in a row now since we have so many performances of the show. Also, and I hope I'm not giving too much away here, we have a quite elaborate set of wings to create and have been working with a company on the east-coast that does this sort of work.
We have also begun work on our holiday party - an invitation event that is meant to celebrate this year's accomplishments and look towards the next, and also build support for the company. It looks like it will include great food and drink, several fine performances, and a wonderful time with friends. More to come on that...
I had some great meetings in Washington, DC before leaving to return home. We are trying to develope more of a presence there and to include both Baltimorians and DCites on our board of directors. The next several years see us performing in both locals and I want to make sure that members of both communities are involved. It is wonderful to have a residency at Georgetown where we can perform shows that we have perfected or new pieces of the traditional repertoire that we can introduce. It is also great to have such loyal audiences in Baltimore where we can try our more innovative and unconventional (I know those are two words for the same thing, but it is such the case with us that I just felt I had to reiterate...please indulge me) works. Next year's Baltimore performance will be something quite special in particular!
It is also nearing time for our direct mail campaign and I have been tweaking the letter and working on the images. So many of the things I do as Artistic Director (things that should and will eventually fall to a General Director) are things I never thought I learned, and when I really think about it I should include those as blessings (however unwittingly) that have come from the company. These are things like doing design work, managing budgets, writing grants. I can't say I enjoy these, and that in and of itself is a grave understatement, but I suppose I do appreciate being able to do them.
I must admit that these blog posts are becoming increasingly frustrating. You can't imagine how much is going on behind the scenes for the next season. So much for this season is already done, or not interesting enough to write about. I fear the above may have already bored you to tears. Still, I can't announce the season yet, though I will say the blog readers will be among the first to know. Once I do, within a month or so, then I will have lots to say about casting, orchestra, concept, all the good stuff.
I will leave you with a couple of links to the Times:
The first is a great review for our friends at Opera Lafayette! (this despite my well known opinion of baroque dance...)
The second is an article on the horrors being committed to the "cover" system at the Met (I must say this Algna character sounds increasingly dreadful...and I'm afraid the voice just isn't good enough to make up for it)
The third is a an article on the incomparable Adrian Noble's production of "Macbeth". Particularly wonderful are his comments on verse, and the comments of Ms. Guleghina in the final paragraph (remember you heard me say this first!).
And finally a pictoral hint at "Messiah" (this is really THE event of the season...don't miss it)
Well, that isn't quite true, but only for a day. I have been in the US for about a week, but most of it has been spent in Tennessee with a family matter. I haven't seen a lot of this part of my family for twenty years or so. It is a most mysterious and magical thing to come face to face with one's roots. I came to Baltimore yesterday for a meeting with our executive committee and today have a meeting with some wonderful supporters from DC. Alas tomorrow I am back on a plane and off to Spain agian, but soon enough I will be back to the US for "Messiah" prep.
There are a lot of things in the mix here at AOT and I can't quite talk about any of them. In the coming weeks I will be announcing the new season. It includes some of our most popular past productions, and two new productions. The first will be a something very different and very important. The second will be a Baltimore production. I like have the opportunity to perform some of our more unique productions in Baltimore, this gem of a city that wants to experience the unusual and the cutting edge. This production will be all of these things. I just got off the phone with the fantastic mezzo-soprano who will take the lead in this production. She just returned from singing a Hoffman in Romania and the stories she tells are gripping and horrifying.
Soon we will be in high gear for "Messiah" publicity and also putting together a Holiday Spectacular event to thank our loyal audiences and to meet new friends. All these things will weigh heavily as I fly back to Barcelona, and I have to say I will look forward to my return in November to this side of the pond.
A short post from Virginia to let all you readers know that our performance of "David et Jonathas" at the BAM is now confirmed. Unfortunately it won't be in the Harvey Theater as originally planned, but in the Opera House. The accoustics there are fantastic and I don't worry about the sound, even in such a large space. It seats quite a bit more than the Harvey, so here is to selling all those extra seats. We are currently engaging a publicist to do just that (more on that later). Still, the Harvey is an amazing space and I look forward to performing there at some point.
I will soon become back to the States for some family business and I might be a little out of commission for a week or so, though I will try my hardest not to be. I did want to mention that I has a really fantastic meeting just a couple days ago with Joan Matabosch who is the head of the Liceu Opera. He was a terribly nice person and spent a lot of time with me, showing me around the house, and chatting. They are doing a mixed season of old traditional productions, but some exciting new ones as well, including Carsen's "Tanhausser", and Willy Dexter's "Death in Venice", and Bieito's "Don Giovanni". The Carsen is an revival, but the Britten is new and should be terrific (he did a very powerful "Peter Grimes" in London not too long ago). I look forward to that very much since this work is sadly not done in the US (not yet anyway...). Bieito, as some of you might know, is the Catalan director who's "Abduction" caused all the fuss in regietheater of late. He is a pretty adventurous guy, but I understand that he is brilliant with singers and I look forward to seeing his "Giovanni".
Last night I went into the country to the home of some friends here, two brothers - a violinist and gambist (both playing a lot here). The house was full of wonderful old books, 12th century instruments, and about 100 rabbits (no exageration). There was wonderful food and laughter. A perfect evening. Today we take our friend in from Paris to Parc Guell. This is the fantastical park designed by Gaudi that is truly something to behold!
I thought some of you out there might find it interesting to know how much some singers are paid for their performances. I have recently been in touch with a certain singer, who shall remain nameless, who is off some repute and certainly of considerable talent. Now this singer is probably not someone the average joe or even average opera lover knows by name. He does a lot of new music and has been in the premiers of some contemporary operas of note. He also does quite a bit of early music, though not really with period groups. He is indeed fantastic and known in certain circles, but not widly known (as he should be). His fee for one performance is $10,000. This is on the European model where singers are paid per performance and not for the rehearsal period. (Incidently, $10,000 isn't THAT much for a singer - Anne-Sofie von Otter can command $90,000 for one evening and I shudder to think what some of the media darling singers like good ol'Renee can charge). The project for which I contacted this singer, which also will remain nameless for now, is quite exciting and we might just be able to find the funds. Still, the idea of starving artist is perhaps a bit exaggerated.
Barcelona continues to amuse and amaze. Yesterday was a day for practicalities...ie buying a rug. Today, however, a wonderful violinist from Paris is coming to visit for a few days. We are going to enjoy playing music together and plotting about making some productions here in Europe. I am also meeting this week with Xavier-Diaz who, if you google him, is a plucker for Jordi Savall's many groups and with whom I hope to collaborate on a project of some sort.
Here is a picture of what I see when I walk out my front door: