Making opera at WTOC is a continual dance between process and product. The same could be said of life in any opera company, but here it’s more central than most other places.
We focus on the process because our mission is to develop and promote the skills and artistry of our young professional singers. We want to churn them out the other end of the summer with their chops even more refined and their career readiness enhanced. And we focus on the product not only because we want a high quality, enjoyable and thought-provoking experience for our audiences, but because the experience of taking part in a successful production is part of the training we offer our artists.
But, as you can imagine, this calculus is never clean. Sometimes an artist might be best served by continuing to experiment in a laboratory-like environment without the spectre of opening night looming, yet we have to call halt to the experimentation in order to get things in order for the performance. Sometimes the road to a spectacular production is tempting but too claustrophobic or demanding, and we have to temper it in order to create some breathing space in the rehearsal process.
In these last few days, there’s been a crescendo in the tension between these two goals. Ryan Kuster and Craig Irvin have been sharing the roles of Giovanni and Leporello, and the ways in which this has illuminated the opera, the characters and the story have been wonderful. The role sharing was a wonderful idea, put into play not only for its potential value to the production but also for the opportunity it offered these two fiercely talented young men. Unfortunately, in recent days, it’s become clear that the process of exploring the opera this way is now at odds with our ability to deliver the product we desire.
The short story? Ryan will sing Giovanni, and Craig will sing Leporello for all four of our performances.
Although we’re not able to see this through to what we thought would be its conclusion, all was not wasted. We all learned a lot – about Giovanni & Leporello, about how far we can reach, and about knowing when to let go of one goal in pursuit of another. Even though our audiences won’t get to see both guys in both roles, some of what you’ll see in Ryan’s Giovanni will be informed by his experience in Leporello’s shoes, and there will be new understanding of Giovanni in Craig’s Leporello.
A practical note for patrons: If you’re one of those loyal WTOC fans who bought tickets to two different performances with the goal of seeing both casting permutations, we are happy to refund your ticket(s) for one of those performances. We’ll be contacting you over the next few days, but if you read this before you hear from us, just send us a note at email@example.com and let us know how and when we should contact you.
And finally, I think you might enjoy this video from last week’s Little Lunch Music concert for Wolf Trap Foundation staff: a unique take on Leporello’s Catalogue Aria. It’ll give you an idea of the strong, facile and unique collaboration between these two gentlemen – a relationship that will bear fruit in their Giovanni/Leporello characters even without the role swapping.