Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Mice and Men Extras!

Rod Nelman as George Milton and Michael Hendrick as Lennie Small in Carlisle Floyd's OF MICE AND MEN which Kentucky Opera will present at the Brown Theatre on Friday, October 30 and Sunday, November 1. Photo by J. David Levy.

Kentucky Opera has been very busy with "Of Mice and Men" and the excitement is mounting! Composer, Carlisle Floyd was able to join us last night for the student dress rehearsal. See samples from the opera meet the composer.

Today, Mr. Floyd was in the WUOL studio with Daniel Gilliam chatting with fellow composer Jake Heggie (who was in Louisville for last year's composer workshop). Listen to the entire conversation here.

Also, if you haven't picked up this weeks LEO, do so. Bill Doolittle wrote a great article!

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Heavy Set!

The Of Mice and Men sets have arrived and the stage hands are busy putting the pieces together.

I just chatted with the stage crew. Apparently the bunk house wall weighs 2,400 pounds. Vern, the leader of the pack, says he's never had to deal with something that heavy. Even the helicopter in Miss Saigon wasn't that heavy. I suppose if the ranch hands have to get in the beds that they need to be pretty substantial.

Vern seemed a bit worried, but I have faith!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Composer comes to town!!

He is considered the Father of American Opera. Contemporary composers across the country and the globe admire him for his contributions to the craft.
His works combine penetrating social commentary with acute psychological insight. In 2008 he became the first composer to receive the National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honor award. And he's coming to Louisville.

Composer and librettist, Carlisle Floyd, will sit amongst the students of Louisville high schools and colleges on Wednesday night at the Brown Theater to watch the final dress rehearsal of one of his most successful operas, Of Mice and Men.

He has quite a busy schedule for the short time in town. Thursday morning he will chat with Jake Heggie (who came to town for the Kentucky Opera Composer Workshop last year) and Classical 90.5 FM's Daniel Gilliam. The entire conversation will be available later that afternoon online at

He will also conduct master classes with Kentucky Opera studio artists and students from the University of Louisville School of Music. Very special patrons will be able to dine with him at the President's Council Dinner before he attends the Of Mice and Men opening night performance on Friday, October 30 at the Brown Theatre.

Join the composer for the performance on Friday at 8pm. Call 502.584.7777 for tickets.

If you missed it:
See the Lunch & Listen recorded at the WUOL performance studios on METRO TV (Insight channel 25).

Thursday, October 22 4:30 pm
Friday, October 23 12:00 pm & 11:00 pm
Saturday, October 24 4:00 am
Sunday, October 25 – 9:00 pm

The weekly Metro TV schedule is available on line here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Our most intimate contact with civilizations long since dust has been through the art which has survived them. Carlisle Floyd

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inside the Composers Workshop

Click image to see more Jan Abbot photos of Enemies, a Love Story

It's appropriate following Andrew Adler's article in the Courier Journal on Sunday, that we hear from one of the participants of this very important program. It just so happens, that one of the Louisville Orchestra interns, Jenifer Thomas is a student at UofL's School of Music and has participated in the Composer Workshop for the two years the program has been going on. She was able to give a bit of insight on her experiences.

Now, after two years of Composer Workshops, I am hit with two huge realizations: 1. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with these living composers, and 2. I am amazed at how much talent composers today have.

Jake Heggie, last year’s composer, was an enthusiastic, personable, and anxious to work with as many students as he could. His love for his music, obvious ability to write for the voice (a task not easily done), and desire for the singer to break out of his or her shell and truly embrace the music were the major tenets of his master classes. He had the singers jumping around the room, shouting, singing directly to other students, or other tactics to allow freedom and expression in singing.

Ben Moore, however, had very different tactics. His background as an actor (as well as a painter, composer and lyricist) allowed him to embrace the more subtle nuances of his songs. His music is more lyrical than Heggie’s, perhaps edging towards musical theatre- which makes sense, of course, since he has written several musicals. The lyricism, however, does not detract from the underlying sadness of many of his songs. His approach to interpreting the pieces was also inspired by his acting background. Singers were asked to identify a feeling that was in harmony with the song, and recreate it. Perhaps this is the influence of method acting? Regardless, it allowed for more understated, gripping performances in the singers- a vast difference from Heggie’s more external style.

Nonetheless, both composers provided tools to be used in performance from this point on. I feel honored to have been able to work with such talented men, on their music, from their point of view. And what a positive outlook modern opera has! With such talented composers out there (with Heggie and Moore being only a small sampling), new operas are compelling, musically interesting, and based on stories to which audiences can relate. What a lucky group of singers (and audience members) we are, to have such talent at our fingertips!

Jenifer Thomas

Along with students from UofL's School of Music and the Academy of Music at St. Francis in the Fields, Kentucky Opera Studio Artists also participate in the Composer Workshop program. To audition for a Studio Artist position with Kentucky Opera, visit the website for forms, schedules and so much more!

KY Opera Mice and Men QUOTE OF THE DAY: You’re the tiger and you’re the dragon, so you are crouching and you are hiding. Michael Cavanagh

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I went to M&M rehearsal today and captured video. Unfortunately I am unable at this point to edit. Once again thwarted by technology. D-:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Getting ready for Of Mice & Men cast/staff Lunch. Adler just finished chatting with our Lennie and George. Its gonna be a great Opera.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of Mice and Men cast is starting to arrive. Alise has been back and forth to the airport ALL DAY. She still manages to get her work done!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not sure how I feel about Ping yet. I will let you know.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Studio Artist Update

Studio Artist Music Director, Lisa Hasson; Madama Butterfly Stage Director, Thomson Smillie ; and Clark Sturdevant as Goro

Kentucky Opera's Studio Artists are hard working "kids."

They spent all of September working on La Traviata. Last week they worked on Ben Moore's new opera, Enemies, a Love Story. (Photographer Jan Abbott took pictures of the Enemies program Saturday, October 3 at Comstock Hall. Check out the work here.)

Now these very industrious singers have Madama Butterfly AND Of Mice and Men for the rest of this month!

Right now they are in the rehearsal space downstairs busy working on Butterfly which will be presented with the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra on November 6 & 7. More details on this performance to come.

Sarah Klopfenstein as Suzuki and Clark Sturdevant as Goro

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dear Opera Lovers,

Ahead of me stands tall once more the most impossible of all tasks…expression of a divine performance through the limitations of written word. I have spent hours and hours contemplating if such a feat can be accomplished and hour after hour I have come to the same conclusion…simply impossible!! Yes indeed, many literary scholars, critics, poets and writers will captivate you, enchant you or illuminate your imagination with their abilities to transform your surroundings and provide you with images that transcend your human limitations. If I will be allowed to say, however, (to the point of being dragged out in the city square and be stoned to death as a blasphemer) none has been or ever will be able to come even close to describe as grand of a production as the premiere of LA TRAVIATA by Kentucky Opera.

What a phenomenal spectacle, a performance so absolutely captivating and deeply rooted in the depths of our own human existence that it is impossible to conceivably describe if one failed to be present inside the Brown Theatre. I will declare this for years to come that this performance was a feat of determination, perseverance and hard work by the dedicated staff and board of directors of this amazing Kentucky Opera company (major congratulations should be given to David Roth and his illustrious staff for their impeccable ability to be visionaries and get the JOB DONE!!). The principal artists that Kentucky Opera was able to attract for this performance left no room for doubters. A cast that could deliver with such force and grace, not only in their operatic vocal crescendos, but also with their abilities to act out beyond a static, paperback, cliché reproduction of what Verdi intended. Elizabeth Futral is a star that needs no introduction but inside the Brown Theater proved in all her grandeur why she is one of the most notable Violetta’s in the operatic scene today. Her voice soared in the theater and her acting captivated even the most hard to move patrons. We felt her passion reach out to the audience as she gasped for air and begged for another day to see the ray of light alongside her beloved. Her singing can move even a siren!! She is truly a performer who “lives” her role to the fullest. Sebastien Gueze is a real find and has a brilliant career ahead of him. He could deliver his singing with incredible force and gusto while mesmerizing the audience with his very convincing acting… when he was happy, one could feel happiness, when he was angry, anger and when sorrowful, sorrow. Donnie R. Albert was once more a baritone who knows how to deliver to his audience with considerable technical ability, just like he delivered in last year’s production of OTELLO. KY Opera could challenge any other company with such cast and definitely WIN!

The congratulations, however, do not end here. Just pick up the program and you will realize the entire bill is indeed worthy of major Bravo and Brava!! Our Kentucky Opera Studio Artists were brilliant and I have to admit this year the Studio Artist Program has some of the strongest residents I have ever experienced. They deserve our warmest applause and support since their hard work colors in such an elegant way every performance. Conductor Kelly Kuo did great justice to Verdi’s score and provided a full bodied and nostalgic performance with the Louisville Orchestra. Everything, from the costumes, to the set, to the lighting design was impeccable, imaginable, and lush which provided a time capsule where the audience could travel from the comfort of its seat back to 1850’s Paris. And to make things even better, the Brown Theatre proved the perfect venue for Kentucky Opera with its beautiful renovations, expanded pit, close, intimate setting and formidable acoustics. The new motto seems to be “there is not a bad seat at the BROWN”. So, with $78 for a season subscription I am stunned you are still reading the rumblings of an insanely emotional operagoer and you have not reached for the phone to call for your seats for the next 15 seasons to come…I am still not able to hold back my tears as I weep uncontrollably listening to my recording of LA TRAVIATA and remembering the night at the BROWN. I am sure Giuseppe was looking down upon us from his throne in operatic heaven, also weeping from deep exuberance knowing this production was exactly what he had in mind when he first conceived his brilliant masterpiece.

Christos “The Wagnerian” Dimitriadis