Wolf Trap Opera

The Future of Opera

Colleague Spotlight: 24-Hour Opera Project!

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As we scramble madly to put the pieces together for our 2013 season announcement this weekend, I am grateful to my colleague and partner in crime Lee Anne Myslewski for today’s post!

People often ask what we do during the “off-season,” that mythical time between the last day of the season and the first day of the next season. Well, we do this big ol’ scavenger hunt – maybe you’ve read about it? It’s like America Idol, but the songs are less-well-known and WAY harder to sing.

And then we scramble to put together a season – most companies plan 2-3 years out, so for us we’re trying to pack in 2-3 years of work into, oh 4.5 months.  Just the two of us. (There’s a reason we often refer to ourselves as Lucy and Ethel…but instead of chocolates on the conveyor belt? We’ve got singers and artistic staff and coaches and orchestral players and interns…although we do have our fair share of chocolate, too.)

24hourSometimes, during our ‘off-season,’ we get away from the ranch to do some operatically fun things. I had one such opportunity this past weekend – I visited the the Atlanta Opera (http://www.atlantaopera.org/index.aspx) . One of their most interesting projects – the 24-Hour Opera Project – is spearheaded by Emmalee Iden Hacksaw (a colleague of mine in the Opera America Leadership Intensive), and is a brief but intense foray into the world of contemporary opera.

Friday evening: a composer and librettist are randomly paired, and each picks a prop that will both serve as inspiration for their soon-to-be-written piece, and will be featured in the subsequent performance.

Late Friday/Early Saturday: writewritewritewritewrite.

Early Saturday: turn the piece over to a cast of 3 singers, a music director/pianist and a staging director.

Saturday morning into the afternoon: learn and stage an opera. (Piece of cake, right? Hahahahaa!!!) Make sure you use the props that the composer and librettist wrote into the piece. Blocking, words, entrances, melodic lines, harmonies…you’ve gotta get them all packed in quickly, because…

Saturday evening: perform said opera in front of a packed room and five judges.

Saturday, 9pm: Sleep, presumably? (Boy, I hope so – it’s a grueling schedule!)

As with all live theater, there were last-minute snafus – mostly due to singers dropping out from illness or transportation difficulties. But – without exception – the final projects were gutsy, passionate, and quirkily entertaining. I have to commend all of the performers for bringing their whole selves to the project, and for presenting such polished, inventive, interesting works!

We talk about honesty and bravery a lot when we work with emerging singers. The topic comes up time and again because it’s important – having an authentic voice, a strong personal perspective and the courage to fight through the tricky spots? Well, they’re not optional character traits for a successful career in our field.

Bravi, tutti.

(If you’d like to see the videos from the performance, they’re available here.

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