Day 17: Finding a Shape (4/17/12)

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Singers, Staging Rehearsals
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Yesterday was the first proper staging rehearsal and we got through the first two short scenes, introducing the Cop, his strange partner Jesse, and the Revelers he is battling throughout the opera. Tenor Jonathan Mack seemed to have no trouble at all traversing Katie Grinnan’s monumental sculpture, and staging the scenes means in this case giving the drama a shape that feels right within the installation.

The Revelers also peeked around, jumped off, and ran around the Heap in really exciting ways–and the addition of noise-makers and instruments gave them an additional air of menace.

We also delved into the characterizations of the two singing characters and started realizing the freedom and the challenges of audience all around you–for opera singers, this is definitely a new experience that defies their sense of directionality so often dictated by sound.

After the rehearsal, Anne, Marc and I went through the painful process of weighing what music needed to be excised as we all find the shape of the whole. This conversation is never easy, made even harder by the fact that everything that Anne wrote is so vivid and gripping, and that we have to do it without ever hearing the orchestration. And yet, as a true testament to Anne’s collaborative spirit, we were able to come up with some cuts that all of us feel enhance the whole experience greatly. Meredith Monk told me a few months ago that a true artist knows when to cut; Anne proved herself last night to be that true artist, as painful as that process can be.

On one hand you can say that it is just madness premiering a full-scale large opera without ever having a workshop process for the full score. On the other hand, I think all of us are looking at this rehearsal process in an experimental way, with everything in a state of flux towards creating a larger picture. It’s an exciting though sometimes difficult place to be–but when we start rehearsing the scenes with cuts in place, I think the effective flow will make that challenge well worth it.


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