PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.
During Don Giovanni, a 15-year-old friend of the opera, Natalie Karcher, was inspired to draw us a diagram of the action which was both hilarious and incredibly accurate. We liked it so much we asked her if she'd be interested in making one for Tosca too. She obliged, and IT IS AWESOME. If you have any questions about the plot, this probably will clear them up.
Great, right? She nails it. Natalie is attending our Thursday evening performance and hopefully will be reporting back on her experience.
A quick and dirty overview of the 2013-14 season
On Thursday, January 15, we announced our 2013-14 season! I'm one of the lucky folks on the staff who's in on the secret of which operas we're programming (or considering), which is both exciting and challenging -- it's so hard to keep quiet! This year it was particularly difficult because I am so, so excited about the season. We'll have much more info about these shows on our webpage soon, but in the meantime, I thought I'd give you the quick and dirty summaries of our 2013-14 shows.
Portland Opera's Big Night
If you haven't been around for previous years' concerts, there's a street fair outside the Keller where you can eat hot dogs and ice cream and maybe learn how to swing dance, and then we have a concert of great opera tunes! If you don't get a ticket for inside the concert, you can sit in Ira Keller park (they turn off the fountain so you can even sit in the fountain) and watch the show, which we broadcast onto a giant screen on the front of the Keller. Afterwards we show a movie on the screen. I always wear a very good dress, observe:
Lucia di Lammermoor
Lucia is basically a Hatfields & McCoys/Capulets & Montagues-type tale about two families in a long feud. The fortune of one of the families is dwindling, so the lovely but sort of off-balance Lucia is married off by her brother to a dude with a lot of money. Only secretly Lucia has fallen in love with, and sworn to be married to, a member of the opposing family. Unfortunately she is a lady at a time when ladies didn't really get to choose for themselves, so regardless of her wishes she is married to the wealthy guy. She gets married, but then as all the guests are downstairs at the reception, Lucia stabs her bridegroom and then comes down to the reception hall covered in blood, clutching a knife, and sings an amazing (and famous) aria, colloquially called the "mad scene."
Then her brother (the one responsible for marrying her off) and her lover fight a duel, and in the middle of the duel Edgardo learns that Lucia has died (presumably of grief. Or maybe of crazy?) and so he pulls out a dagger and kills himself. Typical cheerful opera!
We're back in biblical times. Salome is King Herod's pretty hot stepdaughter. Herod has captured John the Baptist (called Jokanaan in the opera) and is keeping him prisoner in a cistern, because Herod is afraid of Jokanaan's prophecies. Salome becomes weirdly, creepily fascinated with the prophet, and when he is brought up from the cistern (at her command), she goes on at length about how she is essentially lusting after his skin, his hair, his eyes. Jokanaan is not interested and decries her before going back down into his cell. Herod then tells Salome he'll give her half his kingdom if only he'll dance for her. So, she does. If you're interested, you can see it here, with Catherine Malfitano and Bryn Terfel. Fair warning: there is no actual nudity but Malfitano is wearing sheer clothing which can in a few places be seen through on top.
Then, when Herod asks Salome what she wants in return, she says she wants the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter. THE BEST. You just keep on with your crazy self, girl.
Herod is obviously horrified, but, bound by his vow, he orders Jokanaan's decapitation. When the head is brought forth, Salome makes out with it, to the horror of ...everyone? To put everybody out of their misery, Herod has the guards crush Salome between their shields. And that's the end of the opera!
Great, right?!?!?! Granted, I tend to like my opera bloody and scandalous.
The big question when anybody does Salome is, will she or won't she? That is, will she take off all the veils, and be totally naked onstage? The answer: we don't know yet. We're creating the production from scratch (our first new mainstage production since Cenerentola!) and we haven't ruled out nudity yet. It's hard to say.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Britten opera! A Britten opera on the centenary of his birth!! YAY.
Midsummer is, as it would seem, drawn from the Shakespeare play. The libretto was adapted by Britten's partner, Peter Pears, but draws straight from the original work. The plot is convoluted and actually kind of hard to summarize, so if you're not already familiar with the play, I'll just tell you that there are fairies and human lovers and a troupe of bumbling actors, and there are love potions and misadventures and everything turns out all right in the end. The Metropolitan Opera has a great in-depth synopsis if you're not familiar with the play.
This will be our Resident Artist opera, staged in the Newmark, and as usual built from scratch for this production. Kevin Newbury, who directed Galileo Galilei, will return to direct. There is a lot of beautiful orchestration, a children's chorus, and MAGIC. Seriously, guys, magic.
The Pirates of Penzance
Frederic is a young man who was given over to a band of pirates as a young child, sent to be their apprentice until his 21st birthday. When we meet him, he's just about to celebrate his 21st year and leave the piratehood. The pirates he lives with are pretty nice guys, and so he feels bad that duty requires him to hunt them down and get rid of them once he's no longer a pirate. Bummer, pirates.
Their ship comes ashore and Frederic, in the midst of a nice afternoon walk, accidentally stumbles into a cluster of pretty ladies who think they have the beach to themselves. He explains that he really needs a girlfriend to help him recover from piracy, and after a little bit of debate among the girls, Mabel steps forward to take the job. In true theater style, they immediately fall in love. The pirates arrive and attempt to take the ladies prisoner, but their quick-thinking dad (the Major General) lies and says that he's an orphan, because he knows the pirates have a soft spot for orphans, and they let him go.
Then it turns out that Frederic was actually born in a leap year, so even though he's been alive for 21 years, he still has 63 more years of servitude with the pirates. He begrudgingly agrees to go back (telling Mabel to wait for him!), but before he can, the pirates, intent on smuggling away all the pretty ladies, lay a siege on the Major General's house, only to be badly thwarted by the local police. Eventually it comes to light that the pirates are all actually noblemen gone astray, and everybody lives happily ever after. Theater!
That was kind of a long synopsis, sorry. It's hard to be brief with these things. Gilbert and Sullivan are comically convoluted. Pirates is coming to us from Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where it premiered last year. It is SUPER charming and a wonderful way to close the season.
Phew. So that's a wrap. I am really excited. The orchestra can't WAIT for Salome, which is so tricky that I've agreed to let them have the music this spring, so that everyone has ample time to learn the part. I honestly can't decide which of the shows I'm most excited about.
One more thing
I have a great dress for Tosca and we're taking votes on our facebook page for how I should do my hair. Help a girl out.
Next week on the blog: More from Tosca, and a chat with our current Chorus Master/Assistant Conductor candidate, Francesco Milioto.