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Monday, October 26, 2009

Opera Columbus: This is what I would do

RANT ALERT!

What follows is only my opinion. We all know what opinions are like.

After an okay staged concert performance of Pagliacci with a grievous error in sight lines that pissed off the public and embarrassed the company. After producing one opera when they should have done two-no Cav-no nothing*-after staging the opera in such a way that many upstairs couldn't bloody see it...well...

Look, Opera Columbus does not need to be doing Pagliacci. They don't have the chops to compete in the big boy Italian repertoire that depends upon vivid-and rare-singing actors. A mediocre Pagliacci plays mediocre, (a mediocre Boheme can still break hearts) not exciting and does no one any favors. And Jesus God almighty, did NO ONE know that the show couldn't be seen from a number of the upstairs seats? How was this allowed to continue? The whole thing playedlike an attempt to further a few careers on the backs of a company. Cut it out. Right place right time and luck help us all but Tullio Serafin is not conducting in the Ohio Theater. There's no reason for this company to fold finally-finalmente-because of ill advised artistic choices and stupid mistakes.

Revive the Columbus Light Opera. Do a spring or summer festival. Month of May or June....perform every three day weekend.. Fri Sat night, Sunday matinee. Stick to G&S Offenbach, Romberg et al; cast locally with the terrific people who packed em in in the Light Opera days.(And stop saying "Opera Columbus Center" when you answer the phone. Center of what? for Pete's sake. Phony.)Do this for two seasons and build back your audience. If the Southern is unavailable use the Lincoln (Go ahead! I dare ya! It's beautiful) Use the Riffe Center and collaborate with Ohio State at the Thurber. THEN start adding a Boheme, A Barber of Seville, A Figaro, a Traviata with more adventurous-if you will-casting. Study the writings and films of Walter Felsenstein. Invite Nic Muni up to supervise. I'd work for him for nothing, just for what I could learn. So should you. Get serious. Give the audience a lot of what is proven and THEN surprise them with lovely, fully integrated operatic productions on a reasonable scale. And yes I think new work is crucial but I'm talking about restoring fiscal sense first.

Anyway, that's what I would do. Nobody asked me.

*I don't want to hear about it. LA and Washington can get away with Pag alone when Domingo sings. Otherwise, its cheap.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

it's easy to throw barbs from the cheap seats......(and I don't mean the theatre).

Christopher Purdy said...

Constructive criticism is throwing barbs, Mr. Anonymous? You couldn't throw anything from the cheap seats because the show couldn't be seen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying what needed to be said. Whether or not the powers that be at Opera Columbus are listening is another subject. Given this economy, I fear that if the Opera goes down for the third time (after coming close to extinction in 1990 and 2006), it may not rise again. It would be a terrible loss for opera fans, and a terrible blow to the arts scene in Columbus. I hope your call is heard and acted upon.

Jeff Wyckoff said...

Being defensive with no cogent argument one way or another is not discourse and not productive, referring to the first anonymous comment. Actually, what Purdy says makes a lot of sense to me. I certainly don't want to lose our Opera Columbus and they do some wonderful things. But this "Pagliacci" looked like amateur night. It sounded great both the orchestra, and all of the singers, but it looked, well, cheesy. And, rather than be accused of taking cheap shots from anywhere, I want to back up my comments with an offer of my help as a volunteer. Jeff Wyckoff

Anonymous said...

If only others had your passion and good sense about opera. Over the last 20+ years my enthusiasm and attendance for Opera Columbus has dwindled. Not that I don't love opera, but too many disappointments... And with HD from the Met and overseas, I go for what pleases my eyes and ears. La Puritani was certainly a feast. I hope you've seen it.

Anonymous said...

I hope you have seen the operas from emergingpictures.com. They play at the Rave at Polaris.

Christopher Purdy said...

I love the Met HD presentations but they are not the authentic 100% experience. We need to get behind and support our local opera co. I want the artists who live in this area to be working and paid to produce good opera for all of us.

Anonymous said...

AMEN to that! I loved going to OLO in Wooster, but you are right. Why can't this be done locally also.

David Weaver said...

Christopher, thank you for always being a champion for the local singer, especially those who came together and performed under the banner of Columbus Light Opera. It is gratifying, as one of CLO's co-founders and its first managing director for nine years, to know how the company, its performers, and productions are still so fondly remembered. I know that Opera Columbus, even though it had to cancel last June's production of THE MIKADO for economic reasons, remains committed to bringing back light opera, and I am certain there will be a large and loyal audience ready for it when they do.

Susan Millard-Schwarz said...

Christopher and others, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I would like to sincerely thank the artistic staff of Pagliacci for their very hard work and ongoing devotion to this company. I don't believe these people went into this project thinking it would be anything other than successful. It takes guts and talent to do their jobs, and I want to wholly acknowledge it. I also can vouch for their awareness and concern over sightlines, because I witnessed it during a rehearsal. Obviously, that element still didn't quite work. Fine. Let's move on and trust it was a lesson learned.

I will leave the question of whether we should have done Pagliacci to others. But I truly don't understand why it has taken O/C so long to reinstate a lighter form of repertoire. In my view, The Mikado should have been the LAST choice for cancellation. I'd rather see our company take out one of its main productions than drop a light opera show -- for numerous reasons. And speaking of, why can we not venture into some tried and true American musical theatre? It would be STUNNING with legit voices. I'll bet I could walk one block of my street and come up with 10 people who would commit to seeing The Sound of Music or Carousel.

That said, Christopher, while I much appreciate your prompting O/C to use local talent, I'll go a step further and say that many of us are not only light opera material. I feel more of us could and should be considered for mainstage roles. I try to be without ego regarding this issue, but I do feel it is a complete waste of resources not to use some of us. I, myself, have to audition anywhere but here to obtain work.

Finally, I'd like to put in my two cents' worth about the notion of acting in opera. I feel O/C needs to beef up their expectations for what singers do in their individual characters and the ensembles in which they are embedded. I don't feel we do this consistently, and I am not convinced that it's integral to our artistic goals. We know that people come to the opera for beautiful, excellent music. But they also come to experience it as THEATRE. I'd love to see us extend that requirement of excellence to the aspect of acting, as well.

Thanks for obliging me in my own rant of a response! :)

Anonymous said...

I must say that I was in the balcony on opening night when the announcement/apology was made to offer free seats to Sunday’s show for whoever experienced sight-line issues. I personally had no problem seeing any of the action, and assume that the well-meaning announcement only served to fan flames of discontent already burning in the hearts of some portion of the arts lovers in the audience.
To recommend Nic Muni’s involvement with Opera Columbus in the same paragraph where you advise the company to do only Light Opera and bread-and-butter opera seems odd – to be fair, I am only familiar with his work with Cinci Opera, and he seems like the polar opposite of light, standard fare.
After a recent season where OC produced Traviata and The Merry Widow, criticism in the Dispatch rang out that it was not being a true opera company to produce such light fare. In my opinion, the company deserves high praise for producing real Italian operatic repertoire in a time of economic turmoil, and I Pagliacci seemed like the perfect choice for a mounting of this style. I am honestly surprised to hear an opera lover complaining about a regional company being adventurous when the opposite is so often the case.