Wolf Trap Opera

The Future of Opera

June 27, 2014
by Kim
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It’s the Day of the Show!

Cesare-53

The Giulio Cesare cast and crew survived tech week in style and are enjoying a day to catch their breath before opening night. It’s a wonderful show, meticulously crafted and beautifully sung. I’m particularly proud of the fearless way this cast has embraced the challenge. This music is naturally attractive and virtuosic, but it only becomes truly meaningful when approached with commitment and courage. These people are “all in,” as they say, and we are the luckier for it.

A bit of good news for those of you who have been asking me where the other podcasts are… Act II is up and running on the podcast page. Not sure if Act III will make it before closing night, but I haven’t lost hope. I adore talking about this music and sharing it with you, but the days have been overflowing and the poor podcasts have been edged out :)

On a lighter note, please enjoy this little video, made by our Technical Director and crew, with the help of Google Glass. (Rome wasn’t built in a day, but obviously, Alexandria was.)

Production photo by Teddy Wolff

June 25, 2014
by Kim
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Giulio Cesare: An Early Look

There’s some seriously beautiful and exciting singing going on at The Barns. Can’t share any of it with you just yet, but here are some early dress rehearsal photos to tide you over. And if you don’t have tickets yet, you really should.

(Flickr slide show below is flash, sadly. If you can’t see it, click through to the album here.)

June 22, 2014
by Kim
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Handel’s Giulio Cesare: A Classical Conversation

Screenshot 2014-06-22 22.47.25Giulio Cesare is almost upon us! My recent silence was caused by nothing more than an abundance of good things to manage here in this corner of the opera world. But a few big projects have been completed, and I’m back in the blogosphere to share the excitement of our upcoming production. Photos, videos, and commentary to come. Today, a lovely interview with conductor Antony Walker and WETA’s David Ginder. Enjoy!

 

June 10, 2014
by Kim
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Music and Art, Year Five

In advance of next Thursday’s Vocal Colors concert at The Phillips Collection, the museum has featured their collaboration with Wolf Trap Opera – now in its fifth year! – on their blog.

American Art in Music” promotes the upcoming June 19 performance by soprano Tracy Cox and tenor Robert Watson, and it also features a link to a 2013 performance by former Filene Young Artist Andrea Carroll. Andrea paired Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Troubled Woman” with Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series (above), and an audio recording of her performance is now part of The Phillips Collection’s new audio tour!

June 9, 2014
by Kim
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Julius Caesar Comes to Egypt: Podcast Act 1

GCiEMy Winterreise podcasts from last spring were so well received that I’m jumping back into the audio business!

Curious about what Handel’s Giulio Cesare sounds like? Need some help or encouragement in sorting out the characters and clarifying the plot? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax while I talk you through musical and plot highlights of Act 1. (Acts 2 and 3 coming shortly!)

 

 

May 28, 2014
by Kim
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In Search of Opera Newbies

Do you know someone who’s curious about opera? Wolf Trap Opera is seeking “opera newbies” to participate in our New Audience Study. Participants receive free tickets to the 2014 season operas!*

If you’re interested, write to us before June 15. If you’re already a fan (and you likely are, if you read this blog…), take this opportunity to introduce a friend to opera. The email address: opera@wolftrap.org.

* Operas & Dates:
Handel’s Julius Caesar (June 27, June 29 or July 1)
Bizet’s Carmen (July 25)
French Double Bill (Poulenc & Milhaud) (August 8, 10 or 16)

 

May 23, 2014
by Kim
3 Comments

They Ran the Show

A look back at June 2013, when a fantastic group of Studio Artists ruled the Gigli d’Oro Inn and Spa. (a.k.a. Downton Abbey meets Rossini at The Barns)

Can’t wait to meet this summer’s artists. Never a dull moment.

May 20, 2014
by Kim
3 Comments

Let the Fat Lady Sing

I guess it’s time for another round of the operatic fat fights. In this corner, a culture that places increasingly intense value on youth and thinness. In the other corner, an art form that is slowly being pushed to undervalue its primary unique asset (the glory of the human voice.)

I won’t do a lot of linking in this post, but these two are important for context. First, the catalyst. Second, an important response. Click through if you have three minutes. If you don’t, here’s the tweet-length version:

A talented young mezzo sang the pants off (sorry…) the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. The press chose to remark first and foremost on her appearance (“dumpy”) and secondarily on her singing.

This has touched off a small social media firestorm, inspiring responses both professional and highly personal. One might think that this is unrelated to opera’s other recent drama, that of the shuttering of companies in recent years. (Sidebar: This week’s good news is that the San Diego situation is turning around!) But I believe they are both related to a problem to which we are having extremely unhelpful reactions.

The problem? We are losing market share in a world in which entertainment choices are ridiculously abundant. The reaction? We desperately attempt to twist our art form in such a way that showcases only its most palatable pop-culture assets.

Why? We are constantly in recruitment mode, attempting to convince consumers that opera is just like mainstream popular culture music. Look! Shiny sets and flashy lights! Attractive patrons! Sexy singers! We’re just like Beyoncé. Until we’re not, and the bait-and-switch hurts us. It’s not a sustainable long term strategy.

What we do is deep. It takes a long time (to make and to watch), it requires sustained attention, and it pays big rewards for those who invest in it. Opera can be enjoyable for the uninitiated first-time patron, and you definitely don’t have to be a part of the subculture to be fascinated by it. But you do have to be willing to give yourself over for a few hours. And the flashy sets and sexy singers won’t hold your attention for quite that long.

Thankfully, there’s more. And a big part of that “more” is the gutsy glory of the naked human voice and its potential to inspire, entertain, shock, and soothe. Other forms of vocal music share some of this, but they don’t fully exploit it and rely on it the way we do. And the people who embody these voices come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they look like the people whose stories they sing; sometimes they don’t. In a recent social media post, a fabulously talented singer put it this way: We are mesmerized during an opera performance in spite of the fact that there is a grown woman pretending to be a boy in a play where everyone sings, and a man in a pit waves a stick in front of 65 other people blowing into tubes and sawing on strings. And in the middle of all of this glorious mess we are offended because that woman looks “dumpy” in her trousers?

I should quit now, and if you’ve stayed with me this long, I thank you. All of this is personally important and heart-rending because I not only care deeply about the health and future of my art form, I am responsible for playing a role in guiding the young professionals who are shaping that future. They come with a huge variety of assets and liabilities – some have amazing pipes but little artistic curiosity, some have breathtaking musical instincts and flawed techniques, some have natural talent yet little drive, some have great enthusiasm and a poor work ethic, some are compelling musicians and terrible colleagues. And some have many of the assets I just listed, unfortunately combined with bodies that our culture kicks to the curb.

It is one of my jobs to help emerging professional musicians polish up their assets and acknowledge then minimize their liabilities. And I’m torn. Do we value intense dietary scrutiny and time in the gym above internalizing foreign languages and wrestling vocal technique to the ground? To do so would indicate that we buy into the skewed relationship our industry has with pop culture. And not doing so could create a false sense of marketability in our young singers. Of course, we want them to be healthy; to take care of their bodies, minds, and souls. But how critical should it be that they are (in the words of one of our artists who called recently about our organization-sponsored gym memberships) “HD-Ready?”

And now I turn my attention back to our little corner of the opera world, where we are ready to welcome the cast of this June’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto. We will soon revel in the sounds of some of the most beautiful vocal music I know, and I sure hope some of you can join us.