Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Final dress rehearsal tonight.
God bless the Columbus symphony hear them sing the Mefistofele prologue is worth the price of admission. Kudos to them and Ronald Jenkins.

 (This video is dated but gives a few notes of the splendid CSO chorus)

This is going to be a hit.

I don't want to give the rest away.

I DO hope you will come to pre-performance talks with Edwaard Liang, Peggy Kriha Dye and Peter Stafford Wilson (and me!) one hour before each curtain on the 4th floor mezzanine of the Ohio Theater. I was asked to put these together several weeks ago. I'm delighted to comply, since these folks separately and together are the local taste makers and as you will see after each show, they are doing a superb job.

And there seems to be no promotion for these talks (ahem!) which is a shame. My guests always have interesting views and are smart and articulate in expressing them.

Me, I just try not to upset the horses.

In the middle of the night I got up to watch Janacek's From the House of the Dead. I told you I was off my meds! This opera based on Dostoevsky is something I have always wanted to direct. Janacek's searing opera is light years away from Twisted in style and in tone, but not in beauty.

I was told emphatically "Use the cards!" I wrote the narration for Twisted and will be delivering it from the stage. The occasional riff last night would, if I do say so prove a joy to the audience but "interrupts the flow". I'm not convinced but will cheerfully un riff. Nobody'ds fault that I need glasses to read the cards and find them cumbersome. My attempts at memorization have not been very successful. That I am urged to use cards is actually quite generous on the part of the producers. I will say on the record that I could be the Grampa of many of the artists on stage, and I once had great eyesight and a steel trap memory.

Them days are gone.
I love the staging of the Carmen Habanera, the Cenerentola, and he lovely treatment of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte. (The perfect opera, what else to say about a title that translates, "That's what they all do")
s a swing on stage. Years ago I saw a great soprano of some girth on a swing duringaAct I of something, and of course one night down on her fanny she went. (She's in heaven now) Never missed a note. THAT is a diva, boys and girls!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Great Gold Curtain
There I was this morning, up early for a doctor appointment-serves me right for running low on the zoloft-then to the gym, then home looking forward to a free morning til the orchestra sitzprobe at 3.30. Frantic were the messages, somebody, not me misread the rehearsal schedule and I was called for 11 a.m. At 11.45 I arrived, thanking God the parking meters take plastic. It was a piano tech rehearsal and "we need your cues." that was nice.

Withal many of the artists on stage were in costume. Muted earth tones and they all look wonderful under the lights. Word is the show is selling like hotcakes. If this show were to be a bust I would tell Columbus to throw in the towel for the arts. As it its, I suspect Columbus will be making huge bath towels for decades. Twisted will be that good.

I don't think the Columbus Symphony is being celebrated enough. With no disrespect to the superb
singers and dancers -I still walk around asking How do you DO that?!?-the Columbus symphony has fought the good fight for sixty years. I intend to lead the cheers during the performances. Peter Stafford Wilson conducts three orchestras and the Tulsa ballet because he knows what he is doing.
The Columbus symphony chorus is a local treasure. Buy tickets for Twisted and find out why.

Something grand
I despair of opera productions today featuring a few pretty people is modern dress--raincoats and shades for God's sake with the occasional I-phone--for Aida, Carmen La traviata you name it. The "great gold curtain: the house curtain no where to be seen, robbing the evening of the nth degree of magic. I'm happy to report that the Ohio theater curtain will be raised (by me!!) and lowered in all its glory. It is so good to be involved in making music-dance-theater complete with a curtain and the ambiance of something grand.

Jimmy Orrante does a splendid job of staging the Act 2 ensemble form Rossini's La cenerentola (Cinderella)-with a few chairs for pros. The staging of the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras 5 is likewise and sad.he Carmen sequences is beautifully sung by Katherine Rhoerer, and you will not soon forget the red fan.

I'm in dressing room 4, fitted to within an inch of my life into simple black and white. I mentioned wearing a small undershirt, cheap spanx and the wardrobe people were unimpressed. I'll  wear it any way. It's better than holding my breath all night.

Piano Tech tonight. 

Monday, September 22, 2014


Production week begins today. If things are going to become harrowing, this is the week. Tech rehearsals tomorrow historically involve a lot of standing around while lights and levels are set. I learned from the wonderful Steven Anderson at CATCO. "Do not piss and moan. People are working hard to make you look good." Steven was more elegant but no less emphatic.

Some very good local news coverage. I got a PS as a broadcaster. Jeez.

I've been plagued by allergies, sneezing, nasal nastiness, bitch of an itch for months. It's all back with a vengeance the past few days. This radio guy who rejoices in crummy thrift shop clothes and pepperoni pizza is entering the week preparing to be seen feeling overfed, sneezy and unlovely.

The dancers will be great to look at though. Their discipline in people so young is intimidating. People may leave the theater raving about the dancers and no one else. That would be a mistake. (I love the dancers) The singers give the evening soul and the orchestra is the beautiful and sometimes ferocious engine. The Columbus Symphony, battered and beaten in recent years through no fault of the players-quality was never an issue-sounds fantastic.
It would have been great to hear the CSO play La mer and maybe have some pantomime behind a scrim, something sensual reflecting the music. Next year. Twisted II.

This is the irst music the audience will her. I don't have the Columbus symphony conducted by Peter Stafford Wilson. You will when you buy tickets. Meanwhile, Bayreuth will have to do:

Meanwhile I've been told to own the stage more (!) I think my detachment is troubling the producers. I'm no good trouncing about with no audience. Come the first night I'm confident no one will be disappointed. Pissed maybe, but not disappointed.
One of my favorite parts of Twised is the lovely Bachianas Brasilieras 5 5 by Villa Lobos . The music is simple seeming and erotic:

To see the choregraphy you have to come to the show!

The very kind stage manager has had the script printed up on small sheets with enter/exit directions
just for me. Last Saturday while hosting the Columbus Dance Theater at Columbus Commons, Tim Veach and I found we had matching $2 readers...ain't no point in my trying to read anything without them. I HAD tried all last week...and wasted a lot of time. Cardinal sin in the theater.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


My script for Twisted began with thumbnail stories of the operas and kudos to each organization: Ballet, Symphony, Opera...and their Artistic consciences: Peggy, Edwaard, Peter. I thought, what could be better and how in the hell is this going to work with these scenes sung, played and danced. I was gently told my script was no good. Then some rehearsal footage-pardon the pun-was made available to me. I saw beautiful people dancing beautifully but did not know how to connect this with what Mozart, Puccini, Bizet et al and their librettists wrote.

There is no way. That's the point! Three art forms have coalesced to make something...else. Something new and beautiful. Audience may be not get it at first but stick around. Mozart will always work his magic, but Mozart danced and sung will create an extra dimension of beauty. So it will be for the entire program. Trust me. I want people to leave the theater with full hearts saying "Only in Columbus..."

Yesterday I was asked to walk the entrances and exits and continue a bit of work with our Don Giovanni. This shouldn't be complicated on the nights (!) What worries me is the need for memorization. I had despaired of being expected to read the script from a music stand, $2 readers firmly clasped on. We all know that wouldn't work-and I'm not going to be in one place all the time. So memorizing the new script (they like this one) it will be. I get to escort a lady from the audience, chat up a singer I love and flirt with two Carmens (not one but two Carmens!)

There's a young woman among the singers, striking looking with a luscious voice. I told her does anyone tell you you look like Maria Ewing...She said you're the fifth one today! She has more voice than Maria Ewing did, talented as she was.

Edwaard told the singers, in your movements on stage show us what is going on with you. With YOU. Become yourself. And don't be afraid to change every performance. Nobody feels the same all  the time. Why should the audience?

I told Edwaard that thirty years ago a buddy and I crashed Balanchine's funeral, at the Russian Cathedral on E. 93 St. in New York. Edwaard told of a dancer he knew who kept a piece of lasagna in her freezer. Balanchine had eaten a bit of it. So every year this dancer would shave off a touch of this lasagna and eat it. Balanchine's lasagna. You gotta love the arts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Ballet Met Guys Dancing
Yesterday was my first rehearsal for Twisted.

The first thing you notice is that everyone in this show is nineteen and buff.
I hope to God the costume department at Ballet Met has a full set of spanx or man girdles handy
I expect they'll have to order out for some of us whose best dancing years were in the Carter administration.

Edwaard Liang in rehearsal
I was one of those people who said Huh? when the idea of Twisted was first explained to me. Silently I was railing. These people are negating the stories of the operas and the wishes of the composers. What is this ignoring the story just because skinny pretty people can skip around. And what about the Columbus symphony? Are they just the back up band.

No no and no. Stagecraft is the only area in my life where I am conservative. I'm learning a lot from this rehearsal process. All composers have the flexibility built in form their talent so there music and words and dramaturgy can be adapted, or not.

The trio from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte is so sublime, what's to ad? A swing, dancers and singers and the image of a Fragonard painting. Beauty added on beauty. Beautiful it certainly is, and Mozart front and center. Everything I've seen so far enhances the CSO and the music by Mozart, Puccini, Delibes, etc. The ballerinas are Mozart, lovely like flowers.

I spent time yesterday working on the bit leading up to Don Giovanni;'s Serenade as he invites a lovely to come to the window. Deh, vieni al la finestra. You listen to this music and you remember that Mozart was known to pinch his sopranos on the fanny during rehearsals.

I learned as a stage director that when else fails, get a hunky tenor to go out into the house, find an old lady and sit in her lap and sing his big aria. Never fails. We'll be selecting a lady from the audience to come on stage to be seduced. I even get to say, "Not you sir! Put your hand down!"

Then the finale to Mefistofele was rehearsed by Edwaard Liang, with  what looked like the full corps. And the singers. The music is apocalyptic. The angles wrestling Satan to the floor and winning:

From the eternal music of the spheres, in cerulean space immersed/emanates a paean to love supreme, that rises to the thee, through great and sweet harmony. Hail! Hail!

Edwaard Liang's choreography is sexy and reflects a very human chaos, movement and stillness, touching and not touching-the uncertainty of salvation delighting the bodies of the dancers. Remember there will be a large orchestra in the sections on stage and the splendid 100 voice Columbus Symphony Chorus.

Monday, September 15, 2014


TWISTED is  a show. I could get all snooty, but Twisted is a show. Three of our premiere arts ensembles, the Columbus Symphony, Ballet Met and Opera Columbus will take the stage of the Ohio Theater together September 25-28. You need to be there.

Here's why. Each of the above named organizations have earned positive press nationally in the past several years. Through social media and certainly through the press. Ballet Met knocked 'em in aisles at the Joyce Theater in New York. Opera Columbus's rebirth has been celebrated in print. The Columbus symphony long ago proved they can play anything, anytime no matter who is music director. Conductor Peter Stafford Wilson leads three orchestras in two states but will home in Columbus to domin--er, conduct.  

Locally, there is  A LOT to celebrate. Twisted gives us the opportunity, while having a blast. Let's get over this prophet without honor nonsense. Three elements will be twisted together, at points of agreement and more excitingly at conflicting points.

I have some involvement with this. I'm going to be keeping a blog-diary here as the process develops. First up, what happens when you get the leaders of three different arts organization in the same room?  Wars, strikes or at least a fair amount of hissy fits. That has not happened in Columbus, yet. As rehearsals begin this week,  we are at the exciting phase. Nobody is exhausted yet. They will be, but it will a good exhaustion.

I was asked to write the script. I think they're afraid of my going "off book". No problem. Finally, weeks into this after several drafts, I was given an outline, an exact play by play. That was helpful. I just filled in the blanks. They don't want me to say "Look at these gorgeous dancers. You wanna yell EAT SOMETHING"

And you know my great line, As St Peter said to God when Joan Rivers arrived: The bitch is back! is gonna go.

Now, I could do detailed talks about the dramatury of  Figaro, Carmen and Lakme, and demonstrate some dalcroze eurythmics (that'd have them in the aisles) but you don't want a snooze-fest from the audience.

 Here's Peter Stafford Wilson:

At a meeting yesterday Ballet Met's Artistic Director Edwaard Liang explained in detail his vision for Twisted. There will be favorite arias sung by wonderful local singers. Carmen, La boheme, The Barber of Seville yadda yadda yadda. The singers will be integrated with the dancers of Ballet Met in several of the pieces. If you're familiar with these pieces you'll get a new perspective and a sexy spectacle. If not, you'll be especially enthralled. As an old hand, I 'm eager for Edwaard's take on Carmen!
The only alarming news from yesterday is the need for me to report to Ballet Met to be measured for a costume! No Snickers bars can pass these lips until then.

Look at Ballet Met in Edwaard Liang's 

The stage set up will be nothing like you've seen before. The Columbus Symphony plays the entire evening. Music from Wagner's Lohengrin and Britten's Peter Grimes will add passion to the evening. 

Peggy Kriha Dye

...has chosen the vocal selections and the singers. The 'farewell trio" from Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte is one of those moments you will remember from first hearing.

Come September the arts in Columbus will have an unprecedented extravaganza on one stage, the Ohio Theater. Chorus, orchestra, ballet and opera and me, somewhere. Look for the fat guy.
More later. Save the dates.