Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Mack’

Among Erin Thompson’s many brilliant contributions to the show, maybe none of them were as dead-on and necessary as the frozen treats she brought for all of us yesterday. It was right up there with Ivy’s Margarita Mondays (which became Tequila Tuesdays):

For the penultimate rehearsal, I sat in the Skybox, which I think is really a spectacular place to see the show. Right from the beginning you have tenor Jonathan Mack ascend to your level for his aria to the sunset:

I also loved the ability to see so much of the world splayed out in front of you and watch the intersecting lines of the cast’s choreography through the space. What you can’t quite see is very satisfyingly filled in via video monitor.

Scott Timberg for The Los Angeles Times printed a fantastic feature story with a lot of pictures. I really love that he sees one of my values as “instability,” which to me might be equated with a sense of “potentiality,” “openness,” and eschewing of fixed values. That is indeed of tantamount importance to this project and to what I believe in for opera (and, for that matter, life) in general, so I’m glad he picked up on it.

I think I speak for everyone when I say: it’s all sinking in that there is only one rehearsal left!


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:

In the swirl of activity surrounding our first orchestra dress rehearsal, in which we pulled off an entire run of the opera with very few stops, we weren’t able to take too many photographs, but a few are offered here.

For these last few rehearsals, I’ve decided to dedicate my view to one fixed seat to see how audience members on one side of the warehouse will experience the show from beginning to end. It was actually refreshing to have only one point of view after moving around so much over the course of previous rehearsals. The good news for me was that having one perspective never felt like I was missing part of the show, even when something was happening out of sight. This is in large part due to Jason Thompson’s fantastic work with video design, with robotic and hand-held cameras roving around the space, offering surprising and disorienting views of the action as it happens.

From the seats on the west side of the warehouse–that is, between the cemetery and the Junk Heap–you get a kind of epic view down the crossroads, and all the processions and parades I’ve staged throughout the opera look incredibly powerful, like the line in the libretto: “Roads to nowhere leading nowhere…”

The climactic scene of CRESCENT CITY involves a boat floating over Alice Könitz’s Swamp. We’re almost ready to start rehearsing that scene, and Eric Nolfo has made enormous strides towards us getting there:

We kept working away at reviewing and continuing to refine scenes, and Elizabeth is right there to keep layering in lighting:


We had two quite full sessions and continue to move swiftly through the piece. Today we touched upon a couple climactic scenes–the “High Noon” (or in this case “High Midnight”) confrontation between the voodoo barons Carrefour (Cedric Berry) and Samedi (Jonathan Mack):

The showdown between Marie Laveau (Gwendolyn Brown) and Samedi as they fight for the fate of the city:

And Samedi mounting the Cop (also Jonathan Mack!), in a fiendishly difficult Jekyll & Hyde scene that we made good headway on:

And finally, the big Reveler hootenanny number, “A Storm It Is A-Brewin’.”


I knew today was going to be a good day when I won a free burrito at Hugo’s Tacos in Atwater Village! In monumental projects like this one, little victories like this one almost make you want to cry with joy.

The rest of the day was very productive, including a pretty revelatory rehearsal of the scene in which Marie Laveau invokes the voodoo gods, begging them to save Crescent City. The concept I had in mind was for the voodoo gods to be on the video screens looking into the city, as if looking down at Marie from the clouds. This arose partially from the practicality of trying to get the fantastic ensemble singing Anne wrote for the Loa as unified as possible, and partially from wanting to make the scene in the Swamp as powerful as possible. So we started the rehearsal introducing the singers to the loft area:

But then we started rehearsing the scene on the ground level, and the results were just too much fun to not try and include into the full performance:

So we decided that at a certain stage in the scene, the voodoo gods would descend into the space and pick up their offering from Marie. The path they took ultimately seemed to have one ideal option: through the Swamp.

Alice and I always talked about the Swamp as being the home of the gods, the murky place where the land meets the water, so it seems like the perfect ladder from the sky to the earth for them to descend into the city like a fog. Now that there is an intermission, I couldn’t let all of Act I go without any introduction of the swamp at all, so it seems like this is the ideal way to hint at the importance the Swamp will play in the final scene of the opera.

In short, the lesson of today was: It’s amazing what a free burrito can do to your creative impulses!

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.