Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chorus Rhearsals

Music preparation for the Otello chorus has begun! In the Brown rehearsal room at ARTSPACE, Dr. Phillip Brisson and Dr. Mozelle Clark Sherman teach the Kentucky Opera chorus their parts and diction for the upcoming production. The chorus only has 6 music rehearsals to learn the very challenging score prior to the arrival of Mo. Steven Crawford on Sept. 5 !!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Notes from Saturday, August 3rd 2008.

I have an easy day planned today. My flight out of Albuquerque leaves at 2:55pm which allowed me the pleasure of sleeping late, past 9:00am, and planning a leisurely morning prior to my drive to the airport at about 12:30pm. One tradition in Santa Fe that I have not enjoyed in recent years is a weekend breakfast at the Tecolote Café on Cerillos Road. With a generous supply of strong dark coffee and the tallest, fluffiest pancakes you’re likely to find, this is one place you gladly wait for the next table to open. Fortunately, this morning I was solo and given an immediate place at a large table in the middle of the café specifically reserved for single diners. Huevos Rancheros with beans easily complimented a morning read of the newspaper and small talk with a lovely group of fellow Tecolote admirers gathered around like a big, extended family. Satiated and satisfied with another productive trip to the summer pilgrimage to the adobe capitol that draws so many of us each year, I headed south to my connection back home to Louisville.

NOTES From Friday, August 1st, 2008

After staying up late to pack up my Fiesta Room at the Bobcat Inn, I slept little and woke up out of sorts at an all too early hour. While my assistant back in the Eastern Time zone, two hours ahead of the New Mexican time zone, was earnest in her desire to get work done on a Friday morning, her early call did nothing to clear my head. An hour later, at 8:30am MST, I was enjoying a fresh cup of Amy’s brewed coffee and more wafting smells of grilled bacon. I kept the breakfast repose light this morning because I have a 10:00am meeting with an agent friend, Ana de Archuleta, at the Tesuque Market, just down the hill from the opera house. Shaded from the bright morning sun, Tesuque maintains its hidden charms as a favorite breakfast or lunch escape for meetings. Following a cup of good joe and a great plate of American Fries, Ana and I wrapped up some quick business and proceeded back up the hill for the second day of the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Auditions.

Now for a couple of thoughts on last night’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. Having gathered a strong cast for this production, one of Britten’s most tragically intense opera’s, Santa Fe Opera baited our anticipation as they sought to make their mark on this powerful and complex composition. The cast, led by the lyric baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, and joined by Richard Stilwell, Timothy Nolen, John Stevens and William Burden, absorbed their roles and created the ensemble necessary to manifest the tension in the relationships that fatefully move the conflict forward. They didn’t perform Britten’s masterful score as much as they became willing partners with the music, losing themselves in the passion and drama, in such a complete manner that pulled the audience into the fray. All onstage, including the accurately prepared men’s chorus, deserved the ovation they received at the end of the performance.

I finished the auditions on Friday a little after one, offered several surprises, particularly with the baritones. I headed back to Santa Fe for lunch with my dear friends, David and Lucy, at the Santa Fe Bar and Grill, which serves a wonderful southwestern Cobb Salad and the best grilled cheese sandwich. If you go, get a table outside, under the shade of the canopy. This keeps you and your guests comfortably cool while enjoying a sun-filled Santa Fe afternoon. I first met David and Lucy when I worked with their son (and now Director of Production of Kentucky Opera) at Opera Theatre St. Louis in the mid-nineties. Beyond his passion for opera, David, the elder, has developed an artist’s eye for photography and is rapidly developing an impressive portfolio of his travels with Lucy and his archival production shots for his beloved Opera Theatre St. Louis. We are fortunate to have him join us in Louisville this fall to photograph the Brown-Forman 2008 Fall Season productions. Although we had minor business/travel arrangements to discuss at lunch, the bulk of our lunch-time conversation consisted of dear friends catching up in a far-off land not overwhelmed with humidity or the Ohio River Valley mold count. David and Lucy also have a residence in St. Louis, with the Mississippi River feeding an equally high mold count for them. No wonder they spend their late summers enjoying the dry mountain air in Santa Fe.

Later in the afternoon, I met up again with my friend, Franco, to set off into the hills above Santa Fe for a much appreciated hike. Another of the rich pleasures of northern New Mexico is the abundance of mountain trails, some rugged and best reserved for the experienced adventurer and some tailor made for a brief escape away and a quiet conversation with a friend. This particular series of trails is just off Bishops Lodge Road overlooking the north side of Santa Fe and Highway 84/285, which heads to Taos, Los Alamos and my favorite hide-a-away, Tesuque. Within minutes we were at the trail head and hiking up to a beautiful overlook of the city, as well as the valley stretching to the south. Both Frank and I were impressed with the solitude offered by the relatively short trek up into the hills while we reflected on the intense vistas of the ever expanding city below us. In a brief hour our sturdy pace led us back to our rental car and we were driving back, refreshed and ready for another night at the opera.

While much could be said about Friday evening’s production of Handel’s Radamisto, controversial it was not. Vocally, one could describe it as stellar fireworks with countertenor David Daniels exceeding all expectation in the title role and supported by a truly exceptional cast of unparalleled vocal beauty. This writer would be remiss toward the tremendous talent in this production if I left unmentioned all onstage rose to challenge Mr. Daniels’ pure artistry in the act one, including: Lucas Pisaroni as Tiridate, Heidi Stober as Tigrane, Laura Claycomb as Polissena, young bass Kevin Murphy as Farasmane and finally, mezzo Deborah Domanski, a sudden replacement in the role of Zenobia. Kudos to all. One final comment about the evening’s event: the stage director of this production has a reputation in the industry for being unconventional, perhaps at times controversial, but certainly, no one would expect to see the usual in his work. That said, I was disappointed in how unemotionally moved I was throughout the first act of this production, neither connecting with the dramatic intent nor repelling from a contentious interpretation. It just wasn’t, and in that, I felt satisfied in having experienced an incredible performance of baroque opera by an exceptional group of artists, and headed out for a nightcap of Woodford on the rocks.

Photo: by Garry Smith, Seattle Opera's Billy Budd

Posted by David

NOTES from Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Woke up this morning to the enticing aroma of fresh brewed coffee and sizzling bacon emanating from the Bobcat’s kitchen. Amy has a talented for stimulating the appetite of those of us who swore off breakfast long ago. While fresh fruit and yogurt are always served in abundance at her table, I generally leave those as a garnish to her handsomely prepared dishes containing carbs, dairy and protein. I ran a couple of miles on the desert highway last night to prepare myself for this morning ritual at the Bobcat. By 10:30, I was driving down St. Francis on my way to the opera house for auditions of the Santa Fe Apprentices beginning at 11:00am. Not only is this an exceptional opportunity to hear the best of the young artists coming up in the field today, it is also an opportunity to connect with other peers, agents and artists in our industry, exchanging ideas and negotiating future plans. While this is not the time or place to be signing the bottom line on deals, one can’t help feeling inspired by the energy and creativity that swirls through the conversations at these auditions.

At 8:30pm last night, Adriana Mater made its American Debut on stage at the Santa Fe to a sold out audience. With the critical success of L’Amour de Loin in the 2002 season, composer Kaija Saariaho was welcomed back to Santa Fe with a passionate, congratulatory ovation. Along with her collaborator, writer Amin Maalouf, she has crafted a poetically beautiful composition that reveals the emotional path of four characters seeking redemption for one moment in time that tragically bound them together. The cast of four broke through the misplaced visceral if not down right ordinary staging with emotionally compelling performances only to be outmatched by their vocal and musical prowess. Kudos to Monica Cooper performing the title role of Ardriana Mater, Pia Freund as her sister Refka, Matthew Best singing Tsargo the father of Yonas, Adriana’s son, performed by Joseph Kaiser, and finally to Maestro Ernest Martinez Isquierdo who masterfully led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra through this rich, new score.

Tonight we are all looking forward to the new production of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd.

Next Post: NOTES From Friday, August 1st, 2008

posted by David

Monday, August 11, 2008

David Roth's Santa Fe trip

NOTES from Wednesday, July 30th, 2008:

On Tuesday afternoon I arrived in Albuquerque via Burbank, compliments of Southwest. Easy flight, with this traveler happy to use the online check-in that allots a boarding number in lieu of a seat assignment. The Sunport airport in Albuquerque has perfected the art of getting travelers to their rental cars with the most efficient shuttles. In minutes, I was on the road to my favorite B&B in the world, the Bobcat Inn, located one driveway away from the Bobcat Bite serving the world’s finest hamburger. Since I hadn't eaten through the day of transit and it was now working on 4:30pm, the aroma of grilled beef wafting across the highway called to me and my stomach. I'm pleased to report neither were disappointed. After a quick nap in my room at the Bobcat, I freshened up and headed off to the opera.

This time of year, because of its open auditorium design and the late arrival of sunset, curtain time at the Santa Fe Opera is 8:30pm. The offering on Tuesday was Giuseppe Verdi's final opera Falstaff, based on Shakespeare's comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor. Verdi and his cherished librettist Boito took the essence of Shakespeare's play but focused their attention on the ladies’ ardent admirer, Sir John Falstaff. My ol' university pal, Franco Pomponi sang the role of FORD, while Anthony Michaels-Moore was making his debut in the title role. The cast did not fail us, vocally or dramatically, with a delightful ensemble that brought playfulness and spontaneity to the evening’s proceedings. In general, the sets by Allen Moyer were quite effective except for the final scene in the forest that was seemed surprisingly unmagical and sparse compared to the creative scenes that came before it. Paolo Arrivabeni made his American debut, leading the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in a well paced, colorful performance that matched the lively performances of the artists onstage.

Tonight, Wednesday evening, I will attend the American premiere of Kaija Saariaho's new opera Adriana Mater. At this time, I’m off to the Coyote Cafe on Water Street for lunch with Franco , his wife Chris and parents Joe and Gila visiting from Northbrook Illinois. Joining us for lunch will be Maestro David Jackson from New York.

Photo from Diana Ross concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

Next Post: Notes from Thursday, July 31st.

posted by David

Friday, August 8, 2008

From the Pirates Costume Designer

We have entered the final third of the summer build. Where did June and July go? However, a grand milestone has been achieved. The last mockup for the chorus ladies was fit last Wednesday! And we fit the last chorus gent for the summer. Plus a had a very productive second fitting with Natalie Krupansky, our Ruth. She was a sweetheart and drove in from Lexington just for us. As ever, Margaret’s patterns were right on, and the stitching was super. A few minor adjustments, and we will see Natalie in October for a final check and to fit some boots. Now it’s on to finish assembling the children’s costumes, which we will fit again in October when we are closer to performance and the children will have grown all they are going to before Opening Night.

Posted by Holly

A note from Heather: I did take some video of this fitting (it was all proper and G rated) and as soon as I can work out some editing details, I will post the video here.