Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Songspiel reviewed in the Baltimore Sun

Here is a link to Tim Smith's Baltimore Sun review of "Songspiel".

Sylvia On The Radio


Here is a link to WYPR's Maryland Morning iinterview with Sylvia McNair. Tom Hall did a fantastic job of highlighting her past, present, and future. Check it out.

(If you have any problems - right clink on the link, and "save target as" inorder to listen)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Images from Songspiel








AOT's most ambitious production yet opens tomorrow. Here is a sneak peak (these fantastic images are by Jesse Hellman).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sun on Sylvia

I'm been pretty swamped, and when that happens unfortuntely the first thing to go is writing on the blog. Apologies...But this week has been utterly amazing. Sylvia McNair has been in town, and the she is beyond words amazing. Songspiel really is going to be AOT's best show yet, and you have to check it out. This week Tim Smith interviewed her at length, and that interview appears in today's Baltimore Sun.

Story Here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A short visit home

I'm in Virginia enjoying the shortest of visits with family before continuing on. We had a two fantastic performances of "Annunciation + Visitation". I'm currently overseeing the construction of the sets for "Songspiel" and the costume design, which I enjoy being part of since color, texture, and harmony are so integral to my staging. It is good work though, a way to be creative in a three-dimensional space when I'm used to working creatively in my head mostly. Tomorrow I will leave for Detroit and then to London, Ontario where I'm teaching masterclasses and meeting about a new opera project there which looks very exciting. Then onto Amsterdam for four days of dramatic coaching at the Netherlands Opera Studio. In the meantime, I thought I would post one of my favorite Sylvia songs!
video

Friday, October 9, 2009

Annunciation + Visitation


So, I've been so busy with rehearsals that I haven't had much of a chance to write about the project I'm working on. I'm here in Bloomington, Indiana creating a new production of two one act pieces that are vaguely connected. The project is called "Annunciation + Visitation". The former uses songcycles by the American composer George Crumb, and the latter the Tenebre lessons of Francois Couperin. After last nights dress rehearsal I can officially say that the production is going to be amazing. A main element of it is the infusion of not just projected video, but interactive media. Cameras in real time record both the singers and even the audience, and incorporate that information into a real time project effect. It is a bit beyond my understanding, but the visual is really cool. As I don't have enough time to write about it in full...I will include my program notes here in hopes that they will be interesting.

Annuncation + Visitation
Some brief thoughts....

“Annunciation + Visitation” takes its title from two biblical episodes in the life of the Christian matriarch Mary. The former is the announcement of her impending pregnancy and her ultimate reception of that message from the Angel Gabriel. The latter is her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, at the same time pregnant with John the Baptist.

The production you will see tonight bares only a very tangential relationship with those scriptural references, and instead uses the imagery of an idealized woman (in this case Mary) as a starting point for the exploration, through music, movement, and video projection, of multiple conceptions of female sexuality. As inspiration the creators take the figure of Simone Vespucci, the Florentine model for almost all of Sandro Boticelli's female paintings. In this way Simone has been immortalized as both the prototypical virgin (Mary) and the prototypical sexual woman (Venus). In her eternal assumption of those roles, she has virtually lost all self identity, as little else is known about this enigmatic figure.

“Annunciation” explores the idealization of the female as mother, using imagery from the biblical annunciation. Through stylization the work meditates on that mysterious story, and this prototypical girl becoming a woman through her assumption of the role of mother. The piece traces her through childbirth and the inevitable, and ineffable separation that occurs between mother and child. While using the figure of the Virgin, this woman represents at once a sort of every-woman, and an idealized woman that can not possibly exist.

“Visitation” is a janus-face to that first piece. It looks at the objectification, and even more the consequences of that objectification, of the woman as a sexual body. In contrast to “Annunciation”, “Visitation” portrays a very real women dealing the aftermath of being a victim of sexual violence, sexual objectification that ends in rape. Together with her cousin, these two women embark on the journey to find their way out of the depersonalizing and demoralizing effects of female idealization, whether in the form of a virgin or a venus.

Two disparate composers separated by a common voice.

The choice of using, let alone combining, music of 18th century French composer Francois Couperin and 20th century American composer George Crumb, for this performance will no doubt seem strange. Their compositional processes, perspectives, aspiration, and objectives could not be more different; and as for both performers and audience members, they share very few. And yet in their music (and for Couperin it must be admitted that these notes are uniquely relevant to the three Tenebre lessons) there is something that for me seems common. It is the enigmatic and the eternal. Both musics exist in a sound world of the infinite, both stretch aurally toward the furtherest reaches of man's understanding of the universe, and inadvertently come close to Eastern musics which function more as ritual and less as performance pieces.

The peculiar nature of lecons de tenebres (a genre of composition common throughout the French late-Renaissance and Baroque) pushes them towards the eternal quality that is so much more obvious in Crumb's works. Each strophe in the Couperin, taking its text from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, begins with a melissmatic intonation of a Hebrew letter. This peculiar aspect gives the music a ritual and ancient quality that makes it unique. With its overall affect reasonably static, the music begins to resemble the slow unfolding sounds of Crumbs own world, perhaps not in the literal aural experience, but at least in the sensory imagination that aural experience elicits.

Textually, the pieces are not so far from the conception of this performance as they may seem either. Crumb's “Apparition” comes from Whitman's “When Lilacs Last on the Dooryard Bloom'd”, a funeral ode for Abraham Lincoln. Read out of context, however, the poem really is about impending doom; not dread, but rather doom in the sense of the unknown coming upon one. In this way, the poem's images lend themselves to an interpretation where the proverbial girl enters, ritualistically, into the mysteries of adult womanhood. By the same token, “Ancient Voices of Children”, taking its many texts from poems of Federico Garcia Lorca, has texts that can be understood to explore separation, perhaps from mother and child, and perhaps even the post-partum experience. Even the change of language mid-performance is not so incongruous. The girl, having received the most divine experience imaginable, slips into a new paradigm of consciousness, and even her language is transformed.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah offer ancient meditations on the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. Read in a non-literal way (perhaps even intended this way?), they can easily be read as the mourning of a woman who has been invaded, who has lost her innocence, and her precious self-identity. The verses resound with the self-guilt, anger, blame, and exultation which abound in post-rape psychology. And, the author's choice of the female for his description of “Jerusalem” exhibits the very objectification this work attempts to explore.

A telling paradox happens with this understanding of the text and concept of “Apparition and Visitation”. Very contemporary secular music is used to tackle a look at the ancient and sacred understanding of Mary's birth of the Messiah. The ancient and sacred music is used to portray a most modern and profane experience. It is, in its way, a sort of unification, perhaps even reconciliation in both artistic and social worlds.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

From the vaults!

I just found this amateur archival video made of a rehearsal of AOT's "Dido and Aeneas" earlier this year. We will be touring with this show next summer to a number of festivals, and then bringing it to Baltimore next year!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Practicing Healthy Living in London

I'm in Heathrow Airport...and have been here for about 6 hours on a layover between Amsterdam and BWI. It makes a great chance to catch up on work, but also makes me anxious to get going. Last night night I went to a performances of Dido and Aeneas by Opera Zuid in the Netherlands (the performance was a run out into the Hague). It was a coproduction with the Netherlands Opera Studio and had Canadian mezzo Catherine Daniel in the lead (she has just finished the young artist program in Montreal with my good friend Chantal Lambert, and will this year be coming to the opera studio here in Amsterdam). The production was directed by Hans Nieuwenhuis, who in a real masterstroke combined the piece with Purcell's funeral music for Queen Mary and staged it as a funeral for Dido's first husband Iarbus. A really nice touch...it is always a problem figuring out what to pair with Dido. We are trying something very interesting with the piece next year...but more on that later. I'm particularly keen on the opera studio, because they have asked me to do some guest teaching and directing there this year in a number of projects.

What I really want to be doing is posting a blog on my real thoughts about Francesco Zefferlli....a so-so director, but perhaps the greatest window dresser in the world. In reality I admire his work in a certain empty-but-beautiful way, but it is him as a person and public figure that really gets to me. No excuse for that kind of behavior. But, I'm resisting the urge to a diatribe...and will sate myself my posting another video of the wonderful talents of Sylvia McNair. I'm off to Bloomington right now to start coaching some Weill with her. Can't wait!!!!
video

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A little Sylvia Jazz in the morning

It is an overcast day here in Amsterdam. I returned from London yesterday, after an amazing performance of Harawi, which will be appearing in some London festivals next year after being seen in this premier. I had a great meeting with Hans Neiuwenhuis here yesterday, who runs the respected Netherlands Opera Studio and does a fantastic job of it indeed. They have a Dido on now in the Hague, and I will go tomorrow and give a full report.

In the meantime...I have long said the Sylvia McNair is one of the few opera stars that can sing jazz convincingly...here is a little sample!


video

Sunday, September 27, 2009

HARAWI

Tonight is the premier of my new piece, "HARAWI"...which Messiaen's epic 1945 song-cycle, fully staged as a "cabaret on eternity". It is an exploration of the idea of transfiguration, a concept that exists in all cultures and is that moment and mankind reaches out into the infinite, the eternal. My fantastic performers (soprano Sarah Barnes and pianist Ido Ariel) and I have been working at the farmhouse of Steve and Cherry Large. These are remarkable people that lost their daughter Sophie in a car accident nearly 10 years ago. They honor her by their foundation (patronized by Dame Judi Dench) which supports young artists and their creative work. They have turned their barn into a theater where we workshopped the piece all week and gave an informal premier on Friday which was fantastically received. Now we are in the big city and will give the work its London premier tonight at The Space. Then back home to Amsterdam tomorrow!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The incomparable...

My next series of posts are going to be on the divine Sylvia McNair. Sylvia, outside of being a beautiful friend, is one of the great sopranos that American has ever created. She has a huge recording career and has won two Grammy aways. I fell in love with her first for her work on Mozart and Handel, and that is where I will start my posts. Here she is singing Susanna's aria from the last act of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. What a voice and what an artist!

I'm going to mention this again and again, but this heavenly voice is coming to Baltimore to perform with AOT November 6th-14th, in a Kurt Weill staging designed just for her. It is a HUGE honor, and it is going to be the hottest opera ticket in Baltimore in years. She is truly beyond words, and Kurt Weill's music is among some of the most memorable of the 20th century. Tickets are limited and still available (though going fast). They are available here.


video

Friday, September 18, 2009

Photos from Sardinia


I'm back in Amsterdam and hard at work for a few days before going to London to work on a new project, a staging of Messiaen's "Harawi" with dynamite soprano Sarah Barnes. Here are some pictures from AOT's trip to Sardinia. None of the production unfortunately. The first is work beginning on the theater, a long way from finished. Then Maestro Simone Luti from La Scala that led the production musically with Sophie Roland who was our Carmen. The two Fiats kissing, a picture we just couldn't resist. Then at the bottom you'll find a series of photos from our day at the beach (some of you might recognize soprano Bonnie McNaughton who sang a beautiful Micaela with us). There is a free pair of tickets to the show of your choice to the first person that can tell me which opera I'm scoping the site out for to make AOT's first filmed opera...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ignoti Dei's Stabat Mater

Off tomorrow to return home to Amsterdam for a couple of days before beginning a new project in London. But before that, one more concert in Sardinia...the Pergolesi Stabat Mater and some fantastic Italian 18th century chamber music.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Success in Sardinia

Two performances of "Carmen" successfully completed to sold out houses of enthusiastic crowds. The production has grown a lot since its Baltimore premier and I look forward to bringing it back with some new cast members and a greater honed artistic vision. In the meantime, AOT has been invited back to the festival next year as part of a larger European tour of one of our Baltimore home grown shows.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Le Cabaret de Carmen" Tonight!!!!

AOT will open "Le Cabaret de Carmen" as part of the Ente Concerti festival in Iglesias, Sardinia tonight. Artistic Director GianLuca Eriu has done a fantastic job of organizing this festival. It is a thankless and gigantic task, and all of us at AOT are very much appreciative of his efforts. The show is in great shape and looks fantastic in this very unconventional space. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to continue developing its concept and realization. It is a real pleasure as a director to be able to revist these works over and over again. Unlike other theatrical forms that develope a show over a long rehearsal period and then it is set, in opera a show is put together over a relatively short period. It is only changed of years and years of remounting. It is a slowly evolving creature that has continuous dialogue with an entire history of composers, directors, opera stars, and myriad designers. It is a fantastic thing to be cog in this process!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sardinia with or without my clothes

I made it to Sardinia, and despite all my good intentions to keep you up to date...there is VERY little internet here. Things are progressing for a fantastic production though. A baritone has been lossed, replaced, lossed again, and now replaced with Adonis Abuyen, a fantastic American bass-baritone living in Berlin, but who will also be singing in AOT's next two Handel productions (Jephtha and Giulio Cesare, both in 2010).

My clothes however...they seem to be enjoying a nice vacation in Palermo, and in no rush to rendez-vous with me in Cagliari!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Waterloo


Anyone else thinking of the ABBA Eurovision contest?????
Thats right, I'm at the scene of one of the most famous battles in world history. But, I'm not here as a tourist, and I even skipped the tour of the battlefield...something I'm sure I will regret, but I am hard at work on the orchestrations for "Songspiel", and with "Le Cabaret de Carmen" starting rehearsals in Sardinia next week I have supertitles to translate, lines to learns, and blocking to remember. Alas...

Tonight my good friend Reinhard Andries will conduct Kantores at a wonderful festival called Le Nuit des Choeurs. It is novel idea where each of many choirs performs 20 minutes of music and the audience rotates between the performance. I'm happy to bring my piano chops to it, but I'm afraid they are rustier than I would have them be. Alas...again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brugge


I'm off today to probably the most beautiful city in Belgium. I'll be in Brugge for a couple days rehearsing with Kantores, a wonderful choir directed by my good friend Reinhard Andries. We are doing several performance at a festival in Wallonie, and I look forward to reporting more from there. Then off to Sardinia next Saturday to beginning putting together AOT's first international performance, our "Le Cabaret de Carmen". There will be a lot to do, turning a warehouse into a theater, lighting, restaging, and musical rehearsals. In the midst of the Ignoti Dei will perform a concert of sacred Italian music from the 18th Century. But, there will also be good friends, lots of exotic and authentic Italian food, and the best wine in Europe (we won't tell Sophie Roland, AOT's General Director that, she is under the impression that the French have the best wine!).


I look forward to giving updates as to the progress of the production. I hope the fact the Sardinia has remained detached culturally from the mainland won't mean it is too hard to find internet access. Besides work on "Carmen", AOT has two other large projects on the horizon: our Crumb/Couperin show in Bloomington, IN (part of the New Frontier Project demonstrating the future of technology and opera and using two of AOT's regulars, Rebecca Duren and Emily Noel), and of course of Kurt Weill presentation with Sylvia McNair. Busy times for everyone involved!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cleaning house


Its one of those days where I spend lots of time clearing the dust off of AOT's e-sources (ie the website, the blog, the facebook page, and now the flickr page). It is a steep learning curve for me, but healthy none-the-less. It is the way AOT eats its veggies!


Tomorrow I am leaving for a brief performance at a festival in Belgium, and then AOT's first international performance in Sardinia. We are doing "Le Cabaret de Carmen" as part of the Ente Concerti festival in Sardinia. That should be a blast, but it takes me away from home (and regular internet access) for a number of weeks. So I'm in a rush to get everything done before I leave!


(Notice the new Facebook gadget on the side of the blog! If you're not yet a Facebook fan of AOT's...sign up now to get all the updates on us you could ever want. I have also posted the 2009-2010 season here finally, and made my recording recommendations.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Last Thing Before I Go...

I'm leaving this coming Monday to move our stuff from Antwerp to Amsterdam which will now be home. Before then though, I will be spending the weekend at first staging rehearsals with the dynamic-duo sopranos Rebecca Duren and Emily Noel. In October they will be performing a new concept piece called "Annunciation + Visitation" at Indiana University and funded through the New Frontiers Foundation. The music is in two parts, the first being song cycles by George Crumb and then the Tenebre Lessons of Francois Couperin. SO...that will keep me pretty occupied this weekend.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Artscaped

I never went to Artscape until this weekend. I always thought it too hot and, in what now seems cynical folly, always thought that is was either light on the arts and heavy on the funnel cake, or too esoteric. I'm happy to admit I was wrong, and I'm super proud of my city. Artscape, from the perspective of the AOT booth, was a great melting point. I got to meet folks from all different backgrounds and all different ages. Right outside our booth on Sunday an African drumming circle and I saw people of different races, ages, and creeds dancing with each other. For all the talk that goes around the opera community about reaching out to new audiences, this weekend I felt we were really doing it as all sorts of people visited us, expressed their joy at opera surviving in Baltimore, and signed up for tickets for next year. Even more, at our, admitedly difficult, performance on Sunday the diverse group of young and old and black and white and rich and poor that were enthused by the performance gladdened my heart. So, I can't believe I'm going to be so hokey as to write this, but BALTIMORE BELIEVE!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Artscape Away

I am sitting at a Cafe enjoying a few moments of quite before the last day of Artscape begins. I love being part of this enigmatic festival that brings together so many people from so many diverse backgrounds! AOT has been able to tell literally hundreds and hundreds of people about what we are doing this year. Time and time again we hear "I thought opera was dead in Baltimore." And it is my delight to tell them about whats going on.

Today we will present two short performances of "A Pilgrime's Solace" at 2pm and 5pm. Come out to Artscape if you can - great weather for the first time in years!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Artscape and in the news!

Here is a great little picture that was sent to me recently. It is from the cover of a magazine that had an article about the workshop I was honored to be Artistic Director of with Sophie-Roland...and here we are having a great time. It is also a perfect AOT image because it shows the two directors of the company doing what we love to do most, have fun.







I'm in the midst of rehearsals for "A Pilgrime's Solace", which is AOT's offering in Artscape this year. This is a collection of 12 songs by John Dowland, the 16th century singer-songwriter that wrote songs of unparalleled deep of emotion. I've compiled these songs roughly into a piece that explores the human grief cycle, for mezzo soprano and guitar. I'm thrilled to finally be working with Monica Reinagel, who has performed so much in Baltimore, but not yet with AOT. Andrew Dickenson, a Peabody alum (and incidentally from my home town!) is our guitarist. We finished staging this weekend and it is a powerful and moving piece. It is only 45 minutes, and 45 minutes that fly by, but the ocean of feeling explored is deep indeed. There are two performances on Sunday the 19th, at 2pm and 5pm. They are both free and I hope to see you all there (Corpus Christi Church across from MICA).



Incidentally Dowland is one of the great poets of all time. I'm going to try to share some of his poetry here in the days leading up to the performances.



Now Oh Now I Needs Must Part



Now, oh now I needs must part,
Parting though I absent mourn.
Absence can no joy impart:
Joy once fled cannot return.



While I live I needs must love,
Love lives not when Hope is gone.
Now at last Despair doth prove,
Love divided loveth none.



Sad despair doth drive me hence;
This despair unkindness sends.
If that parting be offence,
It is she which then offends.


Dear when I from thee am gone,
Gone are all my joys at once,
I lov'd thee and thee alone,
In whose love I joyed once.


And although your sight I leave,
Sight wherein my joys do lie,
Till that death doth sense bereave,
Never shall affection die.



Sad despair doth drive me hence;
This despair unkindness sends.
If that parting be offence,
It is she which then offends.




Dear, if I do not return,
Love and I shall die together.
For my absence never mourn
Whom you might have joyed ever;



Part we must though now I die,
Die I do to part with you.
Him despair doth cause to lie
Who both liv'd and dieth true.



Sad despair doth drive me hence;
This despair unkindness sends.
If that parting be offence,
It is she which then offends.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thats what summer is for...

Here I am back in Bloomington. I finally arrived this past Tuesday, but this is the first chance I've had to write. My last days in Canada were great. I had a wonderful time getting to see my friend Timothy Vernon who is the conductor and artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria, which now also performs as Opera London. I saw their Magic Flute with some fantastically talented young singers and Timothy and I got a lot of time to chat. Now I'm here at IU for a series of meetings about AOT's collaboration on Appartition/Visitation (staged songcycles by George Crumb and Francois Couperin) that we will do here in October. There is also exciting talk about future collaborations (perhaps even John Adam's El Nino) that have me busy here.

In the free time I am working on putting together a version of Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande" for performance in Amsterdam next Winter. Peter Brook did a version for two pianos (which is actually just a splitting of Debussy's original one piano reduction) that lasts about 90 minutes. After spending some time with the score, however, I'm not altogether happy with the changes he made. A lot of beautiful, and important, material was cut, including the sung lines of Yinold which are a fantastic addition. So it looks like I will do my own version. Also I'm orchestrating the songs for our Kurt Weill program with Sylvia McNair (who is here in Bloomington and I am happy to get to spend some time with again). And somehow I'm managing to help the Summer Opera Workshop with some acting classes for their students. Oh...and learn Dutch.

Happy Summer!

Monday, May 25, 2009

All the men in my life...

Well, COAA (that is the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy for those of you that missed my last blog) is finished. It has been an intense three weeks that culminated this past Saturday and Sunday with a performance of 15 scenes (a marathon performance of large scenes from everything from La Calisto, to Jephtha, to Rusalka, to Rigoletto, to Albert Herring, to Pelleas et Melisande, to everything inbetween). The performance was completed full, had to keep adding seats, and the audience was blown away. Then on Sunday, a repeat of many of the scenes with Orchestra London. Today was a postmortem and the program seems to have been a huge success. There are exciting things in the works for it next year, even bigger and more extensive, but I can reveal those just yet.

And now about those men in my life. They are John Dowland, George Crumb, Francois Couperin, Olivier Messiaen, and last, but not least, Kurt Weill. I'm hard at working with the dramaturgy and staging of the John Dowland cycle AOT will present as part of Baltimore Artscape with Monica Reinagel. The Crumb/Couperin are part of a large and well funded production of several pieces that has lots of video and multimedia, with two of AOT's sopranos, Emily Noel and Rebecca Duren. The production isn't until October, but I need to map out all the elements now so that the video design lab can start creating the technology to make it come to life. The Messiaen is for a staging of his songcycle Harawi that I'm doing in London in September, and of course the Weill is for Songspiel with Sylvia McNair. It is all the way in November, but I have to select the songs, the order, do translations of those not in existence yet, and orchestrate them all for our band.

One the other hand, I can't think of five men I would rather spend this last days in Canada with....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Alice Through the Looking Glass


My thoughts recently have been heavily on the experience of the artists performing opera. Being a director is extremely rewarding, it is a chance to allow the human imagination to run wild. It is also safe emotionally, we get to ask singers to do things we ourselves never have to do, and sometimes we forget what that experience is like. I go out on a limb saying that it is something unique to singers, more than even instrumentalists and actors.

One of the scenes I'm directing here is from Dvorak's "Rusalka", a piece of epic emotional power, and I am thrilled to get a wack at the end of Act II. The scene begins with an aria for Rusalka's father, continues through Rusalka's dramatic second act aria, and ends with the Prince and Princess' duet and the rejection both of Rusalka and the Prince. It is heavy stuff, and I have developed a concept that is even heavier. My four young singers are excellent. Even more, they are brave to go to these places with me, to explore some of humanities darker elements. It is scarey for them.

The other evening in rehearsal, my wonder Rusalka was giving a drop-dead performance, and collapsed during the area sobbing and unable to go on. It was a profound moment. I often talk to the singers about needing to go to far in order to know the right place to play the scene and still be safe. Well, she did, and I was very proud of her. Later, in an email, she told me that she has been lately working on opening up the physical mechanism of the voice, releasing tension. That, she said, has also left her open emotionally, and singing this scene with the concept I have asked for became too much. It is a beautiful and true idea that we sometimes forget, this profound connection for singers between their instrument and their psychology. I am honored to work with such a group of talented and committed young artists. I helps to remind as all why we do this.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I have been out without word again for a long time! My apologies. The production of Venus/Dido was a huge success. It was a revival of AOT's first production, but with five years of experience to improve upon what is already a very inventive, moving concept. I couldn't have been more happy with the experience, and it was so nice to close a show and then have the company in town the next day for my marriage! Dan and I were very happy to share that day with artists who have over the years become great friends, it was so special.

Now for two weeks I have been in Canada for the past two weeks. I am co-Artistic Director of the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy in London Ontario. This is the first year of the three week intensive workshop for young singers, that focuses on all the arts that go into making opera. It is a remarkably busy period....everyday dance at 8:30, then musical rehearsals, then masterclasses that range from vocal work, professional studies, stage combat, and finally staging 16 scenes in the evening. There are 27 vocalists, 4 collaborative pianists, two stage managers, and an assistant director. I am very impressed with the level of the students, fantastically high and a diverse group of voices. It is allowing me to stage some big scenes. I am doing 9 of the scenes and they are from Falstaff, Figaro, Rusalka, Calisto, Jephtha, Pelleas, Ariadne auf Naxos, Rosenkavalier, and Don Pasqaule. Just wonderful! And we have an impressive list of guests that include Stephen Blier, the famous coach and founder of the New York Festival of Song, and Chantal Lambert of Opera de Montreal, and Timothy Vernon of Pacific Opera. A great group and a great program that is already funded and in the works for next year.

That is keeping me busy though. We did have a wonderful gala evening on May 1st. Due to a family emergency Sophie Roland could not join us, but baritone Ryan de Ryke rose to the occaision, and he and I performed an hour long program of cabaret music, including his now infamous rendition of the Toreador's song from our Le Cabaret de Carmen. I am so appreciate to our wonderful board of organizers: Alex Ledbetter, Dana Johns, Jesse Hellman, and Stephen Campbell. Thanks for a wonderful kick off to AOT's new season...more to come on that this weekend I hope!

Friday, April 17, 2009

I feel like a plate of tapas...

That is because I have had little more than three hours sleep in the last 36 hours and am getting ready to crash before it gets too late. Barcelona is beautiful this time of year, and it feels great to visit old friends. But, also to meet new ones. Today I have lovely conversations with Calixto Bieito, Pierre Audi, Sir Brian MacMasters, and Thaddeus Strassbourg. It was a full day, with a lively and interesting conversation on opera, creativity and innovation. I decided not to go to the dinner reception at the royal palace tonight, and to instead stay in and prepare for the competition tomorrow. I will duly report on what goes on.

One really nice thing was to sit in on a discussion of opera criticism by young people under 25 led by my friend Peter de Caluwe from La Monnaie. Fascinating and encouraging to see so many eager opera lovers wanting to write criticism.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Where ya goin? Barcelona."

I'm off this morning to the Opera Europa conference in Barcelona, the Liceu is being good enough to host it this year. I will try to post along the way...I'm atleast taking my computer. It will also be a good chance to see lots of friends who live in the area, and to meet a whole host of personalities from the opera world. Most importantly, I will compete in the World Directing Prize on Saturday afternoon. More to come soon I hope...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

AOT's Spring Cabaret Gala "La Vie en Rose"

Home visiting family in Virginia, I finally have a chance to write a bit about AOT's upcoming Spring Gala. What better way to celebrate May Day (May 1st) than with two of American Opera Theater's brightest stars in an evening of cabaret music, fantastic food, delicious drinks, and a silent auction of goodies from all around Baltimore?

French mezzo-soprano Sophie-Louise Roland and Baltimore's favorite baritone Ryan de Ryke (the two stars of AOT's acclaimed "Le Cabaret de Carmen") will perform the most beloved cabaret songs of all time, from the musical lifes of Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, and of course Kurt Weill. The evening will be full of special guests and surprise announcements, and is a fantastic way to support Baltimore's most innovative and imaginative opera company. Presented in the intimate Hamden setting of The Elms, this is the perfect way to usher in the summer. It will be a summer evening not soon forgotten!

Tickets are only $75, and your attendance will make AOT's largest and most exciting ever a reality. You can purchase tickets online here, or over the phone at 1-800-838-3006. For more information you can call (443) 253 6825.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Back in the USA

I arrived back to Washington, DC last night for what will be a three month stay in America, except for the month of May in Canada (though my European friends enjoy pointing out that Canada is in America...yeah yeah).

Initially I'm only hear for five days beause I fly this Thursday to Barcelona to compete in the international Opera Europa directing prize. I will direct a scene from "Die Gartnerin aus Liebe" (which is the German singspiel version of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera, and I have propsed to produce the work in German with spoken texts instead of sung recitatives). Then it is back to America to direct Dido and Aeneas with AOT singers at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.

Then on May 1st is AOT's Spring cabaret gala, which I will post more in tomorrow. This is going to be a great event with lots of food, drink, and fantastic cabaret songs sung by Sophie Roland and Ryan de Ryke. That will be followed by a month teaching in London, Canada at the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy - a great new national young artist program at the University of Western Ontario, the looks to be a university music program on the cutting edges of opera.

June will be a month of catch up and preparing for next season and the season after...yes we are that far ahead! And then in July I'm absolutely pleased the AOT will be a part of Baltimore Artscape. I will have the opportunity to produce a work I've been developing for some time. It is a one-person show of 12 John Dowland songs that will explore the human grief cycle, scored just for mezzo-soprano and guitar. I'm really happy to be collaborating with one of Baltimore's most beloved mezzos, Monica Reinagle, on this project. She is a wonderfully sensitive musician, and a fantastic actor. It is great the Baltimore supports these sorts of activities each year, and I hope everyone will come be a part of these free activities.

So, it will be a Summer of posts....I will try to keep up with it all, starting with my weekend in Barcelona.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Some thoughts on Mozart (and La Finta Giardiniera)

"The fascination lies in seeing his dramatic genius in embryo, in watching him learn on the job. La Finta Giardiniera is full of pointers to the future: we recognise the characters and situations, but not yet who they really are and why they are there."

". . . I also heard an opera buffa by that wonderful genius Mozart; it is called La finta giardiniera. Flashes of genius appear here and there; but there is not yet that still altar-fire that rises towards Heaven in clouds of incense -- a scent beloved of the gods. If Mozart is not a plant forced in the hot-house, he is bound to grow into one of the greatest musical composers who ever lived."

Mozart always learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate—the whole informed by a vision of humanity "redeemed through art, forgiven, and reconciled with nature and the absolute".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A bit of sunny news from rainy Belgium!

This is on a bit of a personal note, but I found out yesterday that I have been passed through to the finals of the Opera Europa Directing Prize. There are 4 of us remaining in the finals, from an original 40 or so. The prize this time around is for a concept proposal for Mozart's "La Finta Giardiniera". For those of you that know this opera, it is a very funny piece that, despite lots of problems and awkward sections, harkens the young genius' growth to maturity. Our propsal, however, focuses on a potential dark side of the work, and looks at the issue of domestic violence in emerging economies of the eastern block. In any event, I will fly to Barcelona for the 2009 Opera Europa conference this April to present the concept and to direct a group of singers at the Liceu in the Act I Finale.

That was a great way to begin the day!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Clips from across the pond.

Here are two short clips from AOT's January production of Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg's opera "Hydrogen Jukebox". One is a trailer of the entire production. The second is the movement Wichita Vortex Sutra which ends act one. It is my favorite movement of the piece, and the one which never failed to move me every performance - it is a tremendous statement to the strength and endless capacity for hope of the human spirit.



Monday, February 2, 2009

Tis the season!

Thats right, time to announce AOT's 2009-2010 season! Next year we will present a core subscription season of three Baltimore shows. Outside of that we will have several projects in Baltimore, Washington, and New York. It is a busy season in this tough time, and I look forward to writing more about that thought soon.

AOT 2009-2010

November 2009
Kurt Weill's
AMERICAN REQUIEM
(Mahagonny Songspiel, Happy End Songspiel, The Seven Deadly Sins, The Berlin Requiem)

Featuring two time Grammy Award winning soprano SYLVIA MCNAIR!

January 2010
Georges Bizet's
LE CABARET DE CARMEN

A revival of AOT's intoxicating version of the classic opera - called "smashing...fresh, inventive, invigorating" by the Baltimore Sun.

April 2010
G.F. Handel's
JEPHTHA

Handels last and finest dramatic work brought to life in a rare and powerful staging.


Subscriptions will become available in April 2009, so be on the look out. And I will write a lot more on each of these productions in the coming months.

Other projects AOT has in the works include:

ANNUNCIATION/VISITATION
This is a staging of George Crumb songcycles combined with the Lecons de Tenebres of Francois Couperin that AOT will premier at Indiana University. We hope to bring this production to Baltimore audiences next season as well.

THE DEATH OF KLINGHOFFER
AOT recently received a large grant from the NEA to present John Adam's controversial and epic opera at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. There are a lot of details to work out still, but I am hoping to make the project a reality.

I'm currently in Bloomington, IN working on a production of Handel's most famous opera Giulio Cesare. And, because I just can't contain my excitement about these things, I will also announce now that we plan to open our 2010-2011 Baltimore subscription series with...GIULIO CESARE. A great work, with tremendous music (the greatest Handel hits), and a compelling story to tell.



Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Few Images on Hydrogen Jukebox







Here are three photos from Hydrogen Jukebox. I hope some of you got to see the performances (all shows were completely sold out and received standing ovations!). The experience was capped off by not being able to get a train from Baltimore to Washington for Sunday's performance. I had to find a way to the College Park Metro station and then walk from the Rosslyn stop across the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The energy in that city was palpable, and as I crossed the Potomac with the Kennedy Center and the Washington Monument in the distance I was struck by how special it was to be doing this piece at this time in this place. It is a moment that all of us will remember forever, and to have transformed HJ into a work the celebrates the American spirit was a tremendously exciting way to be a part of the inauguration experience. The cast worked terrifically hard, and I am honored and awed to have worked with them. It is a great piece that I hope we can do again in the future!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

HJ Continues...


Hydrogen Jukebox is going fantastically well. I hope you can all make it. It has, unfortunately, kept me in rehearsals almost 12 hours a day since we have such a short time to prepare it. I can't express how much the piece has grown on me. Glass' sensitivity to Ginsberg's text is ironic, witty, and saddly touching all at once. I am blessed with an enthusiastic, talented, and hard working cast. The set is coming together a little more each day and the costumes look great. Today I have meetings with the projection designers and the lighting designer. REALLY - you all should not miss this one, it is an extremely rare opportunity to see this piece on stage.


If you aren't sure about Philip Glass...trust me, I understand the feeling. But, this piece is different, I promise. It is accessibly and profoundly moving.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Back in the USA

Freshly arrived in Washington, DC yesterday evening and ready to start rehearsals this morning, jetlag be damned. I will try to faithfully report and even provide some photos, if I can track down a camera.