Archive for the ‘the stage’ Category

Animated Holiday Greeting: from jcm to you!

Dear Readers & Friends,

 

Please click on the image or link below (and kindly turn up your volume) to enjoy my holiday greeting to you:

Winter Gifts


Many blessings & best wishes to you and yours!

Soprano Rhoslyn Jones’ Official Website Launched!

Enjoy the newest in my “Diva Website Series” (that’s tongue-in-cheek…well, perhaps it shouldn’t be?):

www.rhoslynjones.com just went LIVE!


Visit this new website to keep up and connect with San Francisco Opera Merola & Adler alumni, “The delicious diva,” soprano Rhoslyn Jones. Experience her amazing artistry, musings, repertoire, acclaim, and don’t miss out on her upcoming performances!

Your clicks will also help her site more swiftly climb to the top of the search engine results…so, thanks for clicking around!!!

(I designed and built it on the squarespace.com platform.)

Enjoy!

Dramatic Soprano Heidi Melton’s Official Website Launched!

I’m ecstatic to announce the launching of Heidi Melton’s Official NEW Website!

Click on the image or link below to visit her site. Once there, review her upcoming performances (book your flights!), sample her incredible artistry (via multimedia), read her blog musings, and more! She’s taking the opera world by storm. GO HEIDI!

I designed and built the site from start to finish (using the SquareSpace platform). It’s an honor be her friend, FANatic, AND web designer.

www.heidimeltonsoprano.com

A Koken’s “Butterfly”: Chapter 2

The Adventures of…


“Look! Up on the stage! It’s a samisan, it’s a parasol, it’s SUPER-KOKEN!
Slower than a drifting glacier, more stealthy than a leopard on the hunt.
Able to spin the turntable in a single hook.”

Further Feats: 40 minutes of standing in a demi-plié, 6 child’s poses, 30 minutes in a forward yoga lay, 16 turntable rotations, 1 death-defying silk drop catch, and more!

But, don’t all superheroes have baggage? Thus, I deliver my diagnosis of the Koken: In need of treatment for OCD and chronic inefficiency. These Kabuki-inspired characters in San Francisco Opera’s Madama Butterfly (of which I am 1 of 6) unfailingly offer up perfectly aligned prop placement and table settings, and impossibly measured, controlled movement. SICK!

From a serious perspective, I love exploring and learning different kinds of movement (and dance). Ours requires us to be very in sync, and move nearly as one, in an energized, yet internalized way (like the Tai Chi we trained in). It’s been the best workout I’ve gotten in ages (boy, those pliés are GREAT for the inner thighs!). I’m also savoring the meditative, spiritual practice I’m experiencing through the incredible presence this technique requires.

Given that our all-black costumes are very much like those of a ninja, our presence lends an air of intrigue and gravitas to the unfolding of the proceedings.

 

From left: Yvette Rosedale, Ronna Alexander, Joan Dickson, Paul Ziller, Eliza Fox, Sherman Lee, (Not pictured: Helen Lew; Photo by Betsy Kershner)

 

Demystifying Illusion & Stagecraft (WARNING: SPOILERS)


I’m amazed at how transforming the art of illusion and stagecraft are, when used so masterfully. Up-close and unlit, the set shows its almost 30 years, and doesn’t really “sing”…BUT, when lit, and from the house, it emerges full bloom into a seemingly living and breathing world. The fiber board panels with overlapping green carpet look like REAL stone and earth. The perforated metal panels that up-close look too thick and heavy-handed, appear exactly like paper screens. GENIUS!

The technological trick that enables the crew to rotate the turntable a calculated amount each time is a crafty system that includes UV painted numbers on the TT rim, that when black-lit from the side are visible only to the offstage crew. This ensures exact placements every time. WOW! Yes, the cat’s outta the bag, the Koken only pantomime the TT rotation, but it’s still a workout to make it look real, with right degree of physical tension.

Continue Experiencing a Koken’s Butterfly —>

“Toi Toi Toi” on SFO “Butterfly” Opening Night!

Inspired by a comment from La Cieca on one of my recent facebook statuses…here is the opening of my greeting to all my fellow Koken, cast, and creative staff tonight, on Opening Night of San Francisco Opera’s Madama Butterfly:

NorCal (Less Tragic) Parterre Gathering: Part the Second

Casta Divas

The City* might have been fogbound and frigid, and parterre.com may continue to offer up the occasional chill (via the Comments’ peanut gallery…aka The Real Housewives of Parterre?), but there was plenty of warm sunshine and good cheer still to be found in Petaluma.

On Oct. 2nd, Batty Masetto and Frank hosted an intimate, operatic-themed sit-down early dinner on their veranda, beneath a glorious specimen of a redwood…with Norma conceivably worshipping Irminsul just a mistletoe sprig away. Emanating from their home were live Callas selections…but, of course! jumping clapping man sang along with his best Callasian coloratura runs and disembodied high notes, from Ophélie’s Mad Scene to Abigaille’s “Anch’io dischiuso.”

 

The masterful Cassata alla Melba, a multi-layered ice-cream dream.

 

Cher Public Shares

An attempt to urge a garden-side duet (“Mira, o Norma;” “Sous le dôme épais;” or at least the Barcarolle) from Ching (an operaphile and sometime Parterrian) was unsuccessful. Meanwhile SF Guy shared details of the treasures in his extensive video library (dvds cleverly transferred from dusty Beta videos), including the original mounting of the Hal Prince Butterfly that I’m opening in next Tuesday at SFO! It was televised via Great Performances, with Anna Tomowa-Sintow and Peter Dvorsky.

The food would have made Alice Waters salivate, and the English garden turned Ina Garten green with envy. It was fresh, divine, AND oh so very operatic! Kudos to our hosts for their inventiveness, culinary skills and generosity!

* referring to San Francisco, NOT NY, however difficult that may be for a New Yorker to swallow.


Menu

Preludio:

Trittico di antipasti:
• Il Signor Bruschetta
• Ciliegine alla Martina (“Madama Butterballs”)
• Carciofi alla Callas (vinegar and honey)

Atto primo:

• Spaghetti alla Norma

Atto secondo:

• Bracioline di maiale alla “Scotto”-dito
(based on a traditional Scottadito, meaning “finger-blistering” or “burnt fingers,” and meant to be eaten hot, with the fingers)

• Finocchio al parmigiano (fennel)

Finale:

• Cassata alla Melba


Genius, Batty, Genius!!! (Batty conveys his apologies to the Italian language.)

Our first meeting was Parterrians @ the Pagoda, this time Parterrians in Petaluma. There were whisperings of the next gathering being in Oakland. That’ll need some alliterative help. Wanna be on the guest list? Drop me a line. Until next time…

Creating Kabuki Illusions in San Francisco Opera’s Upcoming “Madama Butterfly”

Honored & Humbled

I’m about to embark on one of my most exciting stage opportunities to date. Tomorrow night I dive into rehearsals for the San Francisco Opera production of Madama Butterfly. It’s the acclaimed 1982 Harold Prince (Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, etc.) production from Lyric Opera of Chicago, most recently seen in LOC’s ’08/09 season.

I’ll be one of six Koken, a Kabuki-style performer and stage assistant/
attendant. Traditionally, their duties include assisting the leading cast with properties and costumes, helping create special and supernatural effects to propel and enhance key plot points, and acting as puppeteers. Although done discreetly, all of this is done onstage, in plain view.

From Behind Black Cloth

We’ll be clothed in all-black costumes, including a robe with cloth belt, partially transparent, veiled hood, cloven boots, and gripper gloves. They are not unlike tailored, ninja costumes to my eyes. In my surfing (aka research), it seems as if our costuming may more accurately define us as a Kurombo (meaning “black fellow,” for the costumes), rather than a Koken (meaning “assistant”). They serve the same function, but are typically costumed differently. Read more about Kabuki and Koken history here, here and here.

Apparently, in this production, the Koken are onstage for most, if not all of the performance. There are extended sections in which only the Koken are onstage, including a 30-minute ritualistic pre-show, involving the set up of various props, which will also be repeated at intermission.

The production also features a turntable that rotates over 25 times in both directions. The Koken connect sturdy hooks on thick ropes to slots on the turntable to simulate its turning. Thank goodness this one is ALL illusion! (Although, it sounds like I’m going to still have to have really good knees.) I don’t want to reveal any of the other illusions, lest I spoil the surprise element. There is an effective, almost jewel-box-like intimacy to this production, as you can see in the photo above, perhaps necessitated by the turntable.

Tai Chi Preparation

In order to help us master the specificity of movement required, we will be training in Tai Chi. with Cory Chan of Kei Lun. Training in a 700+ year old Chinese martial arts practice for a Japanese-themed opera, you ask? (I asked the same thing.) Well, I’d never done Tai Chi, but the small sampling of it I got in the audition whet my palate, as it seems the perfect balance of meditation and dancer-like movement. It’s a great way to really “get in” one’s body, and the intricate sequences will help prepare the mind for the staging sequences that will be asked of us.

Our Production

Performances are October 12th through November 27th. Buy tickets here. Our cast will include Svetla Vassileva / Daniela Dessì (Cio-Cio-San/Butterfly), Stefano Secco (Pinkerton), Quinn Kelsey / Brian Mulligan (Sharpless) and recent Adler grad Daveda Karenas (Suzuki). Nicola Luisotti / Julian Kovatchev will conduct, and SFO regular Jose Maria Condemi will direct this remounting.

Here goes…I’m ecstatic! How lovely to be able to add a Puccini opera to my previous experiences in a Verdi, Wagner and Philip Glass opera. This opera has never been one of my favorites (other than the few obvious musical highlights), but I’m sure this experience will spark a new love affair with the score.

I leave you now with arguably the most famous selection from the opera, sung by a legendary Cio-Cio-San:

My Favorite Divas of This Generation

My responses to La Cieca’s quizzes and inquiries are often worthy fodder for re-posting here on jcm. Her current call for nominees is for “your favorite opera diva of this generation,” from which the surpreme list of ten will be crafted.

The acceptable career range is onstage between 1980 and 2010, BUT I took it upon myself to discluded any divas who had a large part of their primes BEFORE 1980 (begrudgingly discluding the queens of my Diva Totem: Price, Caballé, Ludwig, etc.), because they are really Golden Age holdovers, NOT really divas of THIS generation. For each the notable attributes are highlighted.

Here goes…they are essentially in order of my nomination, but I felt they were just too equal to assign a number to. Which of your favorites, or other truly deserving divas (OF THIS GENERATION!) have I left off?

Ileana Cotrubas
Limpid tone, truly affecting pathos.

Agnes Baltsa
Blazing coloratura, firm tone, balls-out ferocity.

Continue Meeting jcm’s Divas —>

“Turn the clock to zero…”

I have no idea which interpretation of this Sting song will hold true for me on this most important of days, but it inspires me to start anew, continue looking and building forward, and choosing love and truth:

“I’m thinking in a brand new way…
The river’s wide, (I’ll) swim across.
We’re starting up a brand new day.”

Thanks Sting!

(Here are the complete song lyrics.)

Tales of an Opera Standee

The Omniscient Mussel, hostess of the famed OperaPlot contest is writing a piece about opera standing room culture, and has put out a call for standees’ tales on the experience. Below are the my submitted musings.

Standing in San Francisco

I’ve enjoyed standing room at San Francisco Opera many times over my past 17 years in the Bay Area. My first experience of it at The War Memorial Opera House was from the rear Orchestra at the ’95 Die Walkure, starring Jane Eaglen and James Morris. It was also my first-ever live Ring opera. Having only familiarized myself with a few recorded highlights, the score was surprisingly lyrical, and Jane’s approach refreshingly bel canto.

The first half flew by, and I nearly forgot I was standing, so captivated I was by the evening. Plus, given that opera singers work SO hard, standing for hours themselves, whilst exhibiting a mastery of language, character, vocal technique…it’s a worthy trade. Cupid struck my heart with this taste of the Ring and I haven’t looked back since.

OK…I confess, I did that night what many daring standees do, which is to trickle down into a seat left empty by someone who bailed during the intermission. SO, I got an Orchestra seat for the price of standing room, at least for half the performance. However, I rarely try that stunt these days, and the ushers, perhaps understandably so seem to be more stern guardians these days.

Photo by Yutai (Flickr)

My most recent standing room at SFO was from the rear Balcony at the Verdi Requiem. It was a gala performance that served as the farewell to Donald Runnicles as Music Director, and featured Heidi Melton and Stephanie Blythe.

Below are some excerpts from my blog review of that performance that reveal some benefits of standing in the rear Balcony:

“After my friend scored a single last-minute seat in the Orchestra, I scaled the heights to find the last standing room spot in the Balcony (aka “nose-bleeds”)…

I was reminded that where I stood was the real acoustic sweet spot of the house, and nowhere else can one hear such fine textures in the soundscape, far better than in the rear Orchestra, where I first scavenged for a spot. It does seem to favor voices over instruments, as the chorus actually seemed to overpower the orchestra a bit…but I’m certain that’s just a slight acoustic imbalance, and was hardly a problem.”

My verdict? The rear Orchestra offers the better standing room views, but the rear Balcony offers the finer acoustics…it’s a trade-off. Perhaps the deal breaker in favor of the rear Balcony is that I’ve observed many of the senior standees sitting or laying on either the floor or a bench near the back wall, enjoying just the aural pleasures alone. I have a special admiration for them, as they hearken back to the days of gathering around for an old radio show, creating one’s own visuals with only a ripe imagination.

Read Further Tales of an Opera Standee —>

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