Monday, November 29, 2010

Mountain Mamma

Here I am in Virginia at the home of my folks. I came in for American Opera Theater's "Butterfly" and "Harawi", which have been cancelled. the tickets were already purchased and it was a chance to be home for Thanksgiving I came anyway. I haven't been home to Christiansburg in a long time, actually, and it is as beautiful as ever no matter how much changes, the essence still remains. I'm also supposed to be using this time as a chance to dig in "La Voix Humaine", a piece for which I'm gaining a great deal of respect and with which I'm stumped for answer, and also to start work on "Two Caravans", and opera to be based on the awarding winning novel of the same title. It is a funny and poignant look at the horrors of immigration in the UK.

I have to admit I haven't started on any of that. I've piled myself down with book I should have read long ago and never got to: "Pensees" of Pascal, "The Consolation" of Boethius, "Inferno" of Dante, "Orlando" of Virginia Wolfe, and poems of John Donne. It is also COAA time, and we are chosing singers and making offers. I have yet to actually be there for the auditions, so I work remotely with Sophie to choose numbers and particulars. This year we are going to run a similar program in Lucca. It is called Accademia Europea Dell'Opera, note the acronym please (a prize to whoever can tell me what it is). The program will be half North Americans and half Europeans, and so we are making the N.A. offers now.

Busy times and I can shake the feeling that I'm being lazy and not getting much done. Argh!!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More signing

The first is a poem without translation, the second with. Very beautiful...I suggest watching it without first.

Opera Signs

Today I'm wrestling with something new...something I've never thought about and am not sure if it could or will go anywhere. I'm wondering about the use of gesture in opera. Anyone who has seen my work knows that I use gesture a lot, I find the body an expressive tool. I was reading this morning about poetics, and something the struck me in this article was insertion of the absurd (in a literal sense, ie. something that is intentionally non-logical within the given context) into a poem creates a level of concentration in the reader/listener. Could it not be the same on the stage? That the use of gesture is an absurdist element that focuses the audience member?

That isn't really what I'm wrestling against, but rather the notion of the use of sign-language in opera. I can't even tell you what I mean by that. I'm sure it isn't a literal use of ASL or ISL or BSL or any SL. Opera is an art form for the hearing, it can't be argued otherwise, so the gestures used have to communicate with a hearing audience. And yet an essential element of signed linguistics, and especially of signed poetry, is neoglism, or the creation of new words. Essentially meaning that the contemporary state of sign language is such that new signs have to be created all the time, it is common practice. And, in looking at signed poetry, signs are al the time adapted to make them more beautiful or flowing within the poetic context and/or experience. So surely I could develope a gestural language to move in and out of sync with the textual language of a production. But how...I don't know yet. That is what I'm working on.

In the meantime I found this video. It is some highschool performance, and of a terrible song from a terrible musical. BUT, the gestures are beautiful, I almost would go further and say stunning. And though I don't know ASL, after some research into the common signs for many of these words, this pair of students have made heavy use of neoglism to create an art that is between dance and signing. I find it compelling and encouraging.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Die Soldaten

I went last night to the general rehearsal of Zimmerman's "Die Soldaten" at the Netherlands Opera. I've wanted to see the piece for a long time. It is one of those giants of the 20th Century, both famous and infamous, but never done because of how difficult it is and how large are the forces. There is a fairly famous production that Mortier started first in Germany and then brought to the Lincoln Center Festival at the Park Avenue Armory. There is also a filmed version by Graham Vick (or David Poutney...I tend to get the two confused).

This production was by WIlly Decker, who I sincerely believe is one of the great directors of our time. That was a curious experience for me. First things first, I found the score extremely compelling, sometimes horrifying, provoking a physical reaction in my gut...both disgust and terribly remorse. The piece is, to over-simplify, based on a 18th century play and is about the fall of a young woman at the hands of herself, but also a group of soldiers. The themes are the horrifying psychological and spiritual costs of war. Deckers The singing was remarkable (particularly the soprano singing Marie), and the orchestra deserved the largest ovation that it, indeed, received at the end of the night. Decker's production was perfect. It was thoughtful, remarkably well executed, in tune with the music, never boring. And yet, absolutely soulness. I felt watching it guilty for falling into cultural stereotypes, but it was just what we've come to think about German culture. Everything was in its place, everything "right", but without any humanity. Clearly this is what Decker was going for, and that I respect, it was not by accident. Still, I longed for a piece that would ultimately move me, and this definitely did not. A piece like this should be moving, I should come out changed and speachless, but I found the whole directing style made it so easy for me as an audience member to disconnect, to remove myself from Zimmerman's equation. Decker wanted to alienate, but for me it made me long to be invited into the conversation.

It was a good wake up call to something I had always felt, but never articulated. In finding one's own style that is important. I took a lot from Decker, the cleaness, the precision of the execution, the connection to music and ritual (which I've long gravitated towards), but I ultimately reject his post-WWII emotional void. I want to make art that asks the audience to consider themselves part of the message, part of the experience wholly. I guess that is the way of things...stepping on the shoulders of a great man like Willy Decker, to reach ever closer to new ways to communicate eternal truths.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back in Business (and ain't it grand)

Wow...we FINALLY got internet at home! What a concept. I know I probably now seem like the bad boyfriend saying "I swear honey, it will be different this time" but, I swear it will be different this time.

Here are some photos from Opera York's "La Boheme" that I was proud to have directed (but sad not to be able to see). In any event, I hear it was a great success and I was so touched be the cast and total team there. I look forward to growing the concept and the detail of the piece of the rest of my life.