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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Opera Project Columbus Cavalleria Rusticana Rehearsal Diary Fifth Entry

Laura Pederson (Santuzza) Jesus Daniel Hernandez (Turiddu) Susan Millard Schwartz (Mama Lucia) Jamie Hartzell (Lola) Robert Kerr (Alfio)  photo: Ken Snow


Last night was our first rehearsal in the performance space, the gorgeous McCoy Performing Arts Ct., in New Albany. Watching the piano stage run through with on stage furniture,  it really happened. Oh my but our chorus sounds splendid. Santuzza marked and was more powerful than most artists at full throttle. Out tenor is a hunkmeister a l'italianita and he sounded great. Everyone was great. What a blessed production.


Chorus moves were simplified. It had been my intent to avoid choral stand up and sing at all costs. We've worked around that be harping on each chorister playing their own character. Write a back story. Who are you? Are yo married? Employed? How many children? Are you widowed? Do you screw around?  Do you love your children? Do you hate your mother? Und so weiter. That and encouraging focal points for the chorus, which inevitably keeps he audience's eyes on them.

When  I began staging opera scenes I had people running around and moving all. the. time. Now I've learned the best lesson. Less really is more. If the opera is strong the music will do most of the work.

If you keep people running around and you ignore the music you risk running over into Christopher knowing better than Mascagni/Verdi/Mozart/Puccini/Wagner/Strauss. From there its a short walk to ignoring the opera and staging what you want the piece to be, instead of what it is.

Yeah I know, you are euphoric the morning after. Tonight is the orchestra sitzprobe. We heard the orchestra last night for the first time. They rehearsed in a separate space. I looked in. It seemed like a small band but they played big. Not loud. Loud is easy. Anyone can play loud. Look up 'loud' in the dictionary and damned if you don't see my picture. This orchestra played, big and played with meaning. It's as if each played had internalized the beauty of the music and the brutality of this opera's plot.

Out conductor had a wonderful newspaper profile last Sunday. There is unending interest in him in this community, and the paper will fan these flames.

I despair  of people in my own life who insist "Opera is not for me." Yes it is. Opera is for the world. It's a tough stereotype to crack, this fat people screaming nonsense. Has it ever been true? I don't think so. I've been going to the opera since 1968. Yes, there have been large people-but do we need Sutherland, Pavarotti and Horne to be skinny? I heard e'm all and will never, but never forget them. The great 'legends' really were great in person. Their voice has all the presence, power and warmth only hinted at in recording. Sutherland in Norma would knock your tits off. You can listen to the recording and marvel and the great singing, but live in the theater you'd marvel and be knocked back just by the sound.

Here's an example of fat people who never move screaming at one another: Not.



Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi in Tosca, Royal Opera, London, 1964.


Our stage manager, who has worked in the theater for 40 years said to me last night "These people are really actors who sing." That's a nice compliment. Just what an opera like Cavalleria needs. Our principals and our chorus really believe this story, and it shows to the eye and to the ear.

Cavalleria rusticana began life as a sort story by Giovanni Verga. Verga adapted his tale into a play. All of this before Mascagni wrote his opera. It is the opera that lives on today. Over 100 years ago, the play stayed in the repertoire along side the opera.

I want you to look at this face:

Eleanora Duse

Duse as Santuzza
The actress Eleanora Duse Duse (1858-1924). She was the first Santuzza-in the play. To Mascagni's public, this title meant Eleanora Duse, a great actress, not an opera singer. Many people had probably seen her in this play. If you look at  the photo on the right, don't you SEE Santuzza on her face?  That face is what Mascagni strove to capture in his music. He did, while creating a character with another  dimension, music.

Get your fannies to Cavalleria Rusticana..THE OPERA!-June 26 and June 28 McCoy Ctr., New Albany.

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