Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brementown in Bytown

First off, it has been a very long time since I have updated the old blog. Almost a year since I returned from Sarasota. It has been a wonderfully busy year, high-lighted by the birth off our second daughter, Maeve Sophia, back in October.

Now that I'm back, though, I'll be updating more frequently to let you know about all the exciting project coming up. Right now, though, I'll mention the wonderful workshop we had for my latest opera for young people "The Brementown Musicians". Brementown was commissioned by Opera Lyra Ottawa and is being produced there in the Fall. OLO hasn't done much new work, but I have to say that their commitment to the workshop process has been first rate.

I spent 5 days in Ottawa from March 17-20 workshop the score of the opera which lead up to a public reading on the final day. There's something wonderful about the way this opera is coming together. It isn't always this easy. I guess the fact that the libretto was written in 8 hours sitting in a Tim Horton's in Gander Newfoundland (No, not eight hours straight, that would be a hellofalotof timbits...spread out over four days) but suffice to say it just rolled out of me.

The other neat thing about it, is that Bremen is a sister or shall I say "brother" piece to my other opera "The Brothers Grimm" as all the wicked owners of the animals are characters from Grimm. The two operas could be done in one evening as the casting is also the same.

Some pics above of my time in Ottawa. The performers at the reading were...

Mark Gough, donkey Valérie Arboit and Marion Newman, dog Christina Tannous, cat Michale Carty, rooster Christopher Mallory, the villains and Judy Ginsberg on the piano.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Roads Go Ever, Ever On...

Roads go ever, ever on
over rock and under tree,
by caves where sun has never shone,
by streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
and through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone
and over mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever, ever on,
under cloud and under star
yet feet that wandering have gone
turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
and horrors in the halls of stone
look at last on meadows green
and trees and hills they long have known.

from "The Hobbit"
J.R.R. Tolkien

Opening night was a stunning success. There was a huge buzz in the 1,100 strong audience and they seemed engaged in the show from the start. They really wanted to clap which was great (at first, I thought..AHHH! You can't hear the scene change music!!! But really...I'd rather they have the chance to express themselves. They even applauded when the dwarves climbed up in the trees (it was a good effect.)
I couldn't be more pleased with the way everything has turned out. It feels very good yo have a had such a great production sercve as my US premiere.
Back in 2004, when the Hobbit premiered at the Canadian Childrens Opera Chorus (and I must say, I have been thinking about Ann Cooper Gay and the wonderfully talented people that helped create this show)I wasn't suer when I would get to experience this opera again. That can be kind of depressing. I am happy to say, though that definate plans are underway for future productions here in the US, but also abroad. Last week, I received the go ahead to translated the opera into German for a 2009 European premiere in Hamburg, Germany. I've also had requests from France and Portugal, so I think the road will be going ever on for some time...
We have another show this afternoon, with Brooke playing Bilbo this time (Maria was last night). Both are excellent and bring different but equally wonderful things to the character. It's nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the show, but I just can't get over the annoying habit of mouthing all the words. I find myself doing it at various points in the show...really's like I'm Gollum or something. As long as I don't start refering to Maestro Inouye as "my precioussss" we'll be fine.
So roads do go ever on and it's time for this wanderer to turn, at last to home afar. I fly back to Toronto tomorrow and it'll be great to be back home. That being sad, I can't thank everyone enough here in Sarasota for the completely professional and thrilling job that they have done with my opera. It has always been my goal to push the boundaries of what children's opera is, and I think (like Bilbo and Gandlalf) that it has been a journey to remember.

Gil sila na lu govaded
May a star shine on the time of our meeting


Friday, May 9, 2008

Hobbit Video!

Thanks to all who have been checking in. Here's a video clip from the show so you can see for yourselves! Festival Video (all)/

Sarasota Hobbit Day 7 -The Big One

I just went and sat in the empty theatre for a few moments. There is a magic found in that kind of space which has nothing to do with wizards or all-powerful rings. It's funny, but one of the most thrilling moments in seeing a piece of theatre is the few seconds between when the house lights go down and the curtains come up. We've all seen wonderful performances and we've all seen performances to which I wouldn't take a brain-dead slug, but in those few moments, anything is possible. It's like Christmas morning when you're sitting in front of the tree looking at the unopened presents. The excitement is palpable.
So tonight is opening night. Hurrah! It has been a busy week, but so great, as the composer, to be more involved. I so often get asked to sit at the back, but I feel I was really able to offer some assistance here. I love EVERY aspect of the theatre (ok, maybe not fund-raising...) and so sitting in on acting coachings, working with Barney and Fred on Gollum and being a part of the production meetings has been great.
I'll try and post some photos from the show tomorrow and that will be my last entry for Sarasota Opera. I head back to Toronto on Sunday and as much as I have loved my stay here, I can't wait to get home to my own beautiful Elf Maiden, Julia, my little hobbit Blythe and my two wargs Felix and Annie.
Here is a photo of the beautiful 1200 seat theatre (sold out for tonight, I might add!!!) and a shot of the unlit stage.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sarasota Hobbit Day 6 Et Voila! Gollum!

As you can see, Gollum turned out wonderfully and the difference in the Gollum scene at last night's rehearsal was astounding. Cammie, the young girl playing Gollum totally threw herself into the part. She a small gymnast so it always looked twisty and creepy, but last night, for the first time, it looked dangerous and intense. I was riveted. This is not an easy scene. Bacically, my opera is what you would call an "opera-within-an-opera" meaning the Elves of Rivendell are putting on a show which tells the story of Bilbo's quest. So in reality (the opera's reality) you would not just be a goblin, you would be an Elvish actor playing a it? Gollum is meant to be a person playing a gollum puppet with marionette strings and several other elf charcters pulling the strings. The Puppet-Gollum doesn't even talk. Six other characters do the voice to show all the mixed up thoughts in Gollum's head.
As you can imagine, this can be a real challenge and there is sometimes a tendancy to say that young people can't do it. I disagree 100%. Young people are capable of STUNNING things on stage, the equal to any adult performer. Sometimes is might take a bit longer, but you can't sell young people short. Now we have seven young ladies who can do something they couldn't do before...who have ramped up their performing abilities for every other show they do in their lives. Watching them last night made me feel really good. (PS If you're one of those seven reading this--KEEP IT GOING, DON'T GET COMFORTABLE, IT COULD BE EVEN BETTER!!!)

By the way, I say this "traffic sign" backstage to remind people to stand back when others are exiting the stage. I got a kick out of it. Good advice for any hobbit on stage...or in Middle Earth!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sarasota Hobbit - Day 5

We're back in the theatre and had our second last dress rehearsal, now with the full orchestra, last night. There are many little details falling into place. You'd be amazed at how many notes come out of these run throughs. When you consider all the elements: lighting, costume, sets, orchestra, performers(80 of them at that), there's a lot of room for small things to go wrong.
We are working on using a microphone for the person singing Smaug, the dragon, to give a more "dragony" booming sound - even with a bit of echo. Sounded really good, though ther are still some things to work out. Evryday the dragon puppet has more splendour and last night it even spewed smoke from its mouth. COOL!
The dragon puppet was made many years ago by the set designer, Jeff, but the props manager Marlene (from Quebec!) is the one who is jazzing it up. She also made many great swords, spears, clubs and countless other props. You can see some of them above.
Barney is the head costume designer and you can see a rack of his spider costumes and the ornate shield of Thorin the Dwarf. This is a picture of Barney working on a new Gollum mask. Our Gollum is doing a great job, but there isn't enough time to do a big make-up job on her, so we're going to help the situation with a Gollum mask (her nose and mouth will be visible when completed) an a bald cap with string hair....ooooh, creepy...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sarasota Day 4 -ITALIANA

I actually started the day working on a project that I am writing for CBC radio. I have a little office her at the opera company and it has a baby grand piano, so after I picked up a large coffee at the local coffee shop, I settled down fora morning's work. It went very well. SO well in fact that after lunch I abandoned the piano and biked to the beach which is only around 15 minutes away. Hey - I am in Florida...

The big work of the day was an acting session with the people involved in the "Gollum" scene. My Gollum scene is a bit different as it is done as a puppet theatre with 6 elf maidens operating strings attached to a person playing a Gollum puppet. SOunds complicated, I know, but when it works, it is great. This is a challenging scene, however, and there isn't much music so the girls really need to rely on their acting skills. It's definately moving in the right direction, but they really have to let it all go and not worry about making their faces look hideously ugly. (HEAR THAT any students reading HAVE TO LET GO, BE BIG and BECOME the character you are playing...)

After that we had the Italiana, which you can see in the picture above. A full reading of the opera with all the singers and the whole orchestra. It fely MASSIVE and was thrilling. This is really the largest forces I've ever had fo an opera of mine and it really feels like we are doing a big mainstage opera.

Anyway, it's Tuesday morning now and I'm here in the office to do some more writing. Tonight is the first Orchestral Dress rehearsal, so basically the full show with acting costumes. lights and sets on stage. I'll try to take some pictures of the props back stage. The swords other weapons and armour are all VERY cool!