Posts Tagged ‘Anne LeBaron’

Marcel Duchamp said that the audience completes the work, and we got a taste of how our work would be completed with our invited dress rehearsal. We had about 100 people attend the rehearsal, and watching the audience interact with the production was an enormous joy–mostly because watching the audience is a significant part of the experience from every angle of the show. Whether you’re walking or seated, the rest of the audience is part of the performance in this configuration, and I love what that does for the audience’s engagement with the work.

My pictures of the audience are not particularly good but here’s Olga Koumoundouros’s Dive Bar in its proper state at last: populated by audience!

I was particularly encouraged by how exciting it was to be on the Pedestrian Pathway. I absolutely loved the ability to walk freely through the space as the performance happened and see the action from constantly different perspectives, leaning against the wall, passing my fellow audience members, catching a bit of action that is not the “main focus,” and so on. This walking path was in some ways one of the biggest experiments in a process full of experiments–and yet I think it’s a real success.

Here’s a shot of the team behind the Dive Bar: Anne, Olga, Timur, and me, courtesy of Dana Ross:

Opening night is finally here!


We all spent Monday getting finishing touches in place to make the warehouse feel more like a performance space for Thursday’s opening, so the photographs are not particularly compelling…Luckily, Timur asked his friend, photographer Dana Ross, to stop by on Sunday, and he took some fantastic pictures:

The orchestra and the singers came together for the first official time yesterday to play through the entire opera from about where they will be in performances: the orchestra in the loft and the singers among the installations. It was the first time for all of us to hear it together, and Marc did an incredible job keeping it all together under extremely challenging circumstances:  singers scattered all over the place with no direct eye contact with the conductor; lots of electronica; brand-new and at times fiendishly difficult music that has only had three previous rehearsals; and a first integration of amplification. We all had our first opportunity to hear what the sound reinforcement would be through Martin Gimenez’s design. His system has a lot of power and a great ability to create surround effects, which will be great when we get to the wild electronic numbers, but the space also has a presence and intimacy that allows us not to lose the acoustic beauty of the natural voices.

The scenario is nonetheless a bit of a composer’s nightmare, since the perception of sound is radically different depending on where you are in the world of Crescent City. So Anne was listening all around, and amazingly always seemed to have a smile on her face!

It was a whirlwind of a day in Crescent City today as we power through the opera scene by scene, and focusing on three individual, virtuosic turns. Today we made it through the first half of Gwendolyn Brown’s monumental first scene, complete with her exciting first entrance in the cemetery:

We then proceeded to explore the bitter drag queen in Timur Bekbosunov–made complete with 7″ heels that he quickly felt right at home in:

The scale difference between the towering Timur and me (of mere average height) made for a pretty entertaining rehearsal:

And finally moving on to the stoic, powerful music for Cedric Berry, who looked so fantastic in and around Mason Cooley’s Shack.

At every step, I am awed at Anne’s primordially powerful and wild score–I think the audience will be astounded at every turn at her musical imagination. I know we are doing our best to match it visually and spiritually (in terms of the performance)!

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.

Marc Lowenstein has been running a tight ship at the Kasimoff-Blüthner Piano Co.  and yesterday afternoon we got to hear the fantastic results: a full run-thru of the opera. It was all of our first time hearing the piece as a whole, and it was quite overwhelming, mostly because I could see that we have assembled a dream cast: every single one of them exceeded my hopes for this piece, and them as a group is part of what makes this project so very exciting:

Tenor Jonathan Mack asked me, “I’m curious to see how you’re going to do some of this.” My response: “Me too!” Because if I knew, we wouldn’t really need a rehearsal process, now would we? But the play-thru was a great way to start visualizing the opera with our installation getting closer to completion, and I drew a few schemas for rehearsal during the musical run, which I’m sharing here if no one holds me to actually fulfilling this:

Anne LeBaron has been so busy finishing the orchestrations that she has yet to have had a chance to see our giant work-in-progress. Yesterday she finally made it out to see how the sounds in her head are going to be realized visually, and it was a thrill for all of us. It reminded me and all of us there that the city we’re building will still be a vessel for Anne’s amazing music to flow. Her music was the first inspiration for all of this, back when Wet first crossed my path at New York City Opera in 2006. And now we are less than a month away from the full production!

This photo may look somewhat posed, and I know it may be hard to imagine that such a challenging project would find us all laughing and enjoying ourselves, but with Anne there yesterday, we were all genuinely so excited and giddy at the thought of the staging rehearsals to come–which finally begin in the space on Monday!