Monday, February 28, 2011


Anthony Roth Costanzo takes readers into the world of rehearsing an opera, BLO's upcoming Agrippina.

This is the first in a series of posts entitled "Three Questions" where I ask collaborators from the Agrippina team about art, life, and everything in between. My first victim is our production's assistant director Crystal Manich. Crystal, an accomplished director in her own right, just finished helming Handel's Rinaldo for Pittsburgh Opera. She has directed nationally and internationally and received praise from The New York Times and The Wall Street Jouranal, among many other publications, for her extraordinary work. In addition to her engagements as a director and assistant director, she is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Opera Omnia, a company which produces baroque opera. I asked Crystal to elucidate the process of bringing an opera to life:

You've just come from directing a Handel opera and will be working on another this summer; while this composer's unique dramatic format is not new to you, does Agrippina represent any firsts, big or small?
What makes Agrippina unique is the way that Handel writes comedy. The thought that Handel put into deciding whether a text is serious or not is all based on how he sets that text to music.  Musical setting also effects whether a character is telling the truth, lying, flirting, or becoming murderous... the range of possibilities is endless.  Also, as with all Handelian operas, the singer has so much control with regard to the delivery of a line during the recitatives.  One small adjustment, emphasizing a word in one way rather than another, makes all the difference in the world.  Then, of course, one has to consider the physicalization of this text: it's a lot of work!

In your experience what role does the atmosphere of rehearsals play in the final product? Can you give us an example?
Atmosphere in the rehearsal process is essential for the success of a show.  No question.  There is an amazing connection that people build naturally.  Usually it takes less than three days of rehearsal before you feel as if you have known everyone for a long time.  The work is very intimate.  If for some reason there were to be a bad relationship between one person and another, no matter on what side of the stage they work, the performance would be greatly affected.  A positive and nurturing atmosphere guarantees a team effort onstage as well as cohesive storytelling.

As a director, do you feel you have a role in changing the face of opera or do you feel there is no change necessary? In creating productions, how can we keep opera alive and relevant?
I think that opera is just like any kind of live performance: it is always morphing.  That's what good art should do.  When it stops being spontaneous, then it isn't art anymore.  Why would we want to repeat the same staging techniques over and over again?  Puccini (as just one example) wasn't afraid to change the form, so why should we be?  With regard to creating productions, I don't believe in "relevance."  These works survive because there is something universal and true in their stories that is not specific to any time or place.  These are stories about people just like us.  I truly believe that if you present real human relationships onstage--all of the time--then it will always be relevant despite the "style" or time period in which it is set.  It's only when there is dishonesty that it becomes a mere museum piece.  An emperor is a human.  A man who has had his heart broken is no stranger to us.  The greed that is so prominent in Agrippina is recognizable in many aspects of society today.

To read more about Crystal, visit her website:  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Backstage with Anthony Roth Costanzo

Anthony Roth Costanzo
Hear from countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, featured in BLO's upcoming production of Agrippina (as Ottone). Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo began performing professionally at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and on Broadway. Anthony will share backstage insights from rehearsals and the life of a singer working for BLO. Email with your questions for Anthony!


The da capo aria is the structural foundation and the emotional heart of baroque opera, and there are no fewer than 16 in Boston Lyric Opera's upcoming production of AGRIPPINA. Da capo translates literally from Italian to mean, "from the head" or, "from the top", and refers to an aria in which there is an A section, followed by a B section, and then a return of the A section (hence, "from the top"). In the recap of the A section, it is customary for the singer, conductor, or both to come up with ornaments and decorations to embroider the original vocal line. In Agrippina rehearsals, as we begin the process of staging this parade of da capo arias, I have been thinking (beyond ornamentation) about the ways in which this strict formal construct can be rendered both extremely human and psychologically revealing. It is easy to construe these arias as undramatic in their repetitiveness, or antiquated in the way they approach narrative. However, through our work with conductor Gary Thor Wedow and director Lillian Groag, we have all been developing the journey of each individual da capo within the context of our characters' arc throughout piece. What I have come to realize is that our minds often work in da capo fashion. For example, the equivalent of an A section in real life might be the thought, "I can't believe this is happening to me". The first time we have this thought, it might be with a sense of trepidation. But our minds, especially in this day and age, rarely stay focused on any one thought for too long... and that is where life's B section comes in: "This morning's bowl of Cracklin' Oat Bran really put me in a good mood." Inevitably, we return to the original thought, but now with more perspective and perhaps a slightly different take. Instead of trepidation, we think with cautious optimism, "I can't believe this is happening to me". We could easily have two dozen such da capo episodes in any normal day, let alone a day when our world is turned upside down, as in Agrippina. Thinking of it this way, I realize that Handel is coloring our internal human processes with his prolific musical ingenuity. I encourage you all to come see how the psychological progression of each da capo aria plays out.

STAY TUNED: More behind the scenes musings, interviews, photos, and gossip to come.

- Anthony

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Comedy & Irony: 'Agrippina'

Caroline Worra

Let's take a look at the BLO's upcoming production, Handel's Agrippina. The libretto, by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani, describes the Roman queen Agrippina (CAROLINE WORRA) trying to secure the throne for her son, Nerone (DAVID TRUDGEN).  What happens next is a story full of comedy and irony. 

David Trudgen
Grimani's libretto is full of irony, which Handel reflects in the music (sometimes by having the music completely at odds with the text). His settings sometimes illustrate both the surface meaning, as characters attempt to deceive each other, and the hidden meaning of the text. For instance, in her Act I aria "Non hò che per amarti" Agrippina promises Poppea (KATHLEEN KIM) that deceit will never hurt their new friendship, while tricking her into ruining Ottone's (ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO) chances for the throne. Handel's music illuminates her deceit in the melody of the piece and minor key tonal scheme, while a simple, emphasized rhythmic accompaniment hints at clarity.

In Act III, Nerone's announcement that his passion has ended and that he will no longer be bound by it ("Come nubbe che fugge dal vento") is set to bitter-sweet music which suggests that he is deceiving himself. In Ottone's "Coronato il," the agitated nature of the music is the opposite of what the "euphoric" tone of the libretto suggests. Contrasts between the force of the libretto and the emotional color of the actual music would develop into a constant feature of Handel's later London operas.

- Rob Tedesco, University of Auckland

Monday, February 21, 2011

Check your expectations at the door.

The show had closed, I was still reeling in my seat, and finally the lights went back up. As my friend and I started packing to leave, I felt a little apprehensive. Usually I would immediately leave to start my long, arduous trek back to campus. But tonight was different—the club 28 Degrees beckoned me.

I didn’t know what to expect. Was it going to be a dance club? Get down on the floor with Harlequin and Death? I was hoping to keep my horrifyingly embarrassing dance moves to myself, and vowed to keep myself from venturing too far away from my seat. But when I got there, the atmosphere was not what I expected.

Instead of a bumping dance party, or a coalition of highly mature and arthritic septuagenarians (the demographic traditionally thought of as the average opera patron) what I found was a group of like-minded young adults, sophisticated in taste and passionate about opera. No one was like to shirk in the corner or try and hide from the crowd. I’d made a couple friends when I was at 28 Degrees, enjoying my complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and chatting up the patronage and even the actors. I talked about the show we’d all just seen, the nightlife in Boston, favorite Disney movies, best types of eyeliner. No subject was bane to the cosmopolitan group of theater-goers. I had a great time, enjoying my talks with talented and

As I left the club, what I’d really experienced started to hit me. This was the generation of arts patrons that were going to keep the opera tradition alive. These young, driven, passionate and sophisticated people are what the opera needs. And with their help, shows like The Emperor of Atlantis can still be put on. I’m glad to have met with them and can’t wait to see them again after Aggripina.

- Sujin Shin, Brandeis University

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hello! Hello!

If you missed The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits, I am truly sorry for you.
Allow me to make you feel worse via this review.

Weeks later…I’m still thinking about it. THAT’s how good it was… ;)
Prior to viewing the production, I knew quit a bit of the history behind the work. Ullmann and Kien were both captives in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where many of the “privileged” Jews were moved.  These “privileged” included a host of composers, instrumentalists, artists, writers, and intellectuals. Though the Holocaust brought an immense darkness, Terezin brought an immense light. Despite the horrors around them, these artists created works that would not only surpass time, but would be the successors of their death.
Such is the case of Ullmann and Kien who were both killed in Auschwitz.
This new BLO production is a testament to the power and legacy of their work. This new production of The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits, was in a few words brilliant, witty, and breathtaking. But, when it comes down to it, I cannot really describe the experience, how empowering or unique it was. There was comedy, drama, love, and sweet bliss and relief.
The rundown:
Singers – Every single singer/actor was brilliant. Bravo and brava to all!  Notables…

o       Kevin Burdette was, as put by fellow cast member John Mac Master, the “Jim Carrey of Opera Theater”. Funny, frightening, and awe-inspiring, Mr. Burdette was truly a presence to be reckoned with in this production. As Death/Loudspeaker, he really set the tone at times to how the audience should feel.

o       John Mac Master’s role as Harlequin very much reminded me of Pierrot, the sad clown of the comedia dell’arte stock. He played the role well, with a constant sarcastic twist on his humor. However, there is one eerie “It” moment, when he sings a lullaby, which in the context of the doom and gloom just gives one the chills.

o       Jamie Van Eyck…purely charming. She was commanding as the Drummer, boldly following Emperor Overall. Her character could inspire a mass, convincing anyone to do anything she wanted. Much like Death, her sharp, prcise marches ruled the stage. She was the eyes, ears, and arm of the Emperor, and Van Eyck made it clear in her bold and precise performance

The setting – Confused…in a creepy-good way. From the moment you entered the theater, the experience was in motion. Ushers (who were actually supernumeraries to the show), never ceased in repeating this marvelous line: “Welcome to our performance. We are sorry, but our venue is under repar. What is your name?” If that didn’t unsettle you, walk into the theater. It felt like walking into a body bag. The entire room was “under repair”, covered in plastic sheeting, dangling wires, and it seemed to be emitting strange noises from everywhere.

He would have loved it...

The sets were also very “improv”, made out of various parts and pieces of junk or “stuff”. Also, nothing was hidden. There were no blackouts for scene changes. It was all left for you to watch.

Honestly, I could tell you everything about this opera, but it just wouldn’t do the production justice. At the core of the opera was this: the message of tyranny, murder, deceit, humanity, and escape from pain. Imagine a the torture of pain, of not being able to die! How terrible it is that someone could feel so much pain, that death is the only way out, but it is not there! This was the reality for some of the Jewish people held in concentration death. By the end of the opera, Death says it the best. “I do not bring pain…only relief from pain.” That moment, when Death takes back his job, is the most haunting moment. To see Death in action is actually beautiful. It is freedom.
This production will have life. If you ever see this BLO production being put up at Boston Lyric Opera again, or else where, please see it. It will certainly change you (ESPECIALLY if you have not seen opera). 

Don’t miss out on another “shoulda been there moment”.

Jessica Trainor, Boston College

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome to our performance

“Welcome to our performance. Our venue is under repair. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

The venue was like Disney World, like a creepy, under-construction version of Disney World. Complete with “friendly” ushers lining your path in, repeated a mildly unsettling monologue over and over to each person, the theatre was topped off with a solid covering of plastic-wrap and scaffolding and ladders about the stage, obscured by black and red banners. It was like something out of the Alan Moore-inspired movie V for Vendetta, and I knew I was in for a show unlike any other.

The Boston Lyric Opera’s production of The Emperor of Atlantis, at the Calderwood Pavillion on February 02, 2011, was a tribute to both the heroic men who devised it as well as to contemporary triumphs in the world of opera. Utilizing lighting and media, unconventionally unfinished set design, and haphazard costuming to turn a few heads on the runway, the holocaust opera became an entirely new animal to those who may have seen it before, and to those who haven’t, an entirely new animal compared to what they thought it might have been.

Hello Hello! Bravo Bravo!

- Bryan Cardillo, Boston College

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

See and be seen!

See and be seen with The BLO Bunch - Stuff Magazine published pics from our fabulous after-party at 28 Degrees - don't miss the next event on Wednesday, March 16th!

Join The BLO Bunch following the March 16th performance of Agrippina for a students-only reception generously hosted by Jacob Wirth

When: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 7:30pm

Where: After the performance at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre (265 Tremont Street), head over to Jacob Wirth (37 Stuart Street) to meet up with other members of The BLO Bunch and keep the conversation alive!

It's not too late to subscribe.

Students see the rest of the season for as low as $34.

Superb voices, international talent, bargain balcony tickets, camaraderie, post-performance party. Never attend the opera alone again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

'The Emperor of Atlantis' - Confusing. Intriguing. Ullmann

On Wednesday, February 2, I had the opportunity to see The Emperor of Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann in the Boston Lyric Opera’s latest production. 

When I first entered the theater, it was quite confusing.  There were ushers (or who you thought were ushers) standing there, just talking.  They were saying things such as, “We are sorry, but our theater is under renovation.”  Certainly, the theater DID look like it was under construction when one entered.  Perhaps the scariest thing the ushers did (and the spookiest, I would say) was asking everyone what their name was.  On the surface, that is not out of the ordinary.  It was the way the ushers said it, however, that made you question their motives and made you feel very uncomfortable. 

The theater itself was covered in work lights and sheets of plastic.  The stage was full of plastic and work lights as well as some additional scaffolding.  For the first opera, the world premiere of The After Image by Richard Beaudoin, the stage was in all black, with only a chamber orchestra consisting of a Clarinet, Violin, Piano, and Cello and two singers onstage (Jamie van Eyck and Kevin Burdette).  It is the same instrumentation of Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, an obvious piece to look back toAlthough The After-Image was an interesting piece, to my ears, it did not make aural sense.  The only reason I knew what was going on was because of the action onstage.  It did set the mood for the Ullmann, so in that regard it was successful.  It will be interesting to see how, in the future, BLO utilizes new music in their productions.  Hopefully, they continue to commission new works. 

The highlight of the evening was the Ullmann.  It was fantastically conceived and implemented.  Even the transition from The After Image was built into the opera, as there was no intermission.  The Nazi influence was certainly present, with Emperor Überall (Andrew Wilkowske) a cross between Napoleon and Hitler, as was the German singspiel element.  The director, David Schweizer, plays up the irony of the entire production with over-the-top props to ridiculous costumes.  It makes the elements of the story that are really biting very poignant.  The duet between the soldier girl (Kathryn Skemp) and the soldier (Julius Ahn) were very moving.   The drummer (Jamie van Eyck) was equally impressive in her commanding role. 

The people who stole the show, however, were death/loudspeaker (Kevin Burdette) and Harlequin (John Mac Master).  Death was funny at times, serious at times, but always set the tone.  He was commanding even in his outrageous costume, complete with bright red lipstick.  In his exoteric role, he was the center of the truth of the opera.  Harlequin was the companion to death and the only person who was an actual comedic figure.  He was dressed in such a way as to remind you of Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo.  This was very important in how John Mac Master played the role, which he did to great success. 

At its core, The Emperor of Atlantis is about tyranny, oppression, murder, deceit, hope, and humanity.  All of these emotions were conveyed onstage.  It was an extremely powerful production.  I wish I had time to see it again.

- Rob Tedesco, University of Auckland

Monday, February 14, 2011

'Atlantis' tells a modern musical tale

Brandeis Justice staff writer, Sujin Shin, attend the 2/2 performance of The Emperor Atlantis, or Death Quits and shares her review!

Are you hooked on opera? Did The Emperor of Atlantis surprise you? Move you? Tell us what YOU think!

- The BLO Bunch

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The BLO Bunch hits the hot-spots

Stuff Magazine featured The BLO Bunch after party following the 2/2 performance of BLO's The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits!

Don't miss our next event - March 16th!

- The BLO Bunch

Friday, February 11, 2011

What is this experience?

Walls covered with plastic tarp, personnel with freakishly robotic friendliness greeting you with lines of "What is your name?" and "Sorry, our facility is under renovation at the moment," the atmosphere hardly felt like an opera was about to be performed inside its space. It was unsettling. The older crowds looked as if they weren't sure if they had bought tickets to the right show. But for me, I felt as comfortable as if the former group was sitting in a box seat at a traditional opera house. It was giddiness that was silently taking over me. I could not wait for what was about to happen.

The lose wires and unassuming scaffolding, and bits and pieces of props littering the stage plus the onstage orchestra -- it felt like we were invited to a personal rehearsal. The entire space felt like it had sprung out of spontaneity, as if friends were gathering around to improvise a little storytelling rendezvous. However unfinished the aesthetic may seem, the product was anything but powerful and in depth, and deeply calculated. Every bit of surprises and unusual choices seemed to have been pored out of much thought and in want of reaction -- and reactions they got.

For the first time in my life, I am made to feel sympathetic or rather, admiration, towards Death. It is an unusual story that is much more prevalent than one may think. Death does not make one suffer, but relieves one from suffering. Death is a good guy, if you really get to know him.

What a present surprise the whole evening was for me; opera in its nontraditional form. Much more intimate space, you could literally see the actor's jaw tightening from emotion. And in English -- never mind that some words were hard to understand without the super titles, it was gloriously wonderful to have heard it sung in a language I understand. BLO needs to do more of this. This production was bold, inventive, wonderfully thought provoking, and visually a feast for those who cannot pay attention for long periods of time, which was to say perfect for me.  

- Ying Songsana, Emerson College

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Emperor of Atlantis: reviewed

The Emperor of Atlantis has a truly amazing history--we’ve been talking about it on this very blog. The piece was written in a Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, but the original rehearsal process was shut down, and both the composer and librettist were murdered during the war. For audience members who read about the show beforehand, the circumstances of the piece become inseparable from the work.

However, BLO’s production of The Emperor of Atlantis is such a world unto itself that it can also apparently stand on solid legs with no context at all. I brought a friend to the show who knew nothing about Der Kaiser von Atlantis, and she was blown away by the performance. Only after the show, did we discuss how the opera came to be. I found it easy to be sucked into the immediate world of the show when everything was so thoughtful and visually detailed, but the terrible circumstances of the work’s creation always hovered, chillingly so. The musical references in the score, from dance-hall vaudeville to Bach chorale, are so well placed that you can feel the wry intention behind every note.

The double bill of The Emperor of Atlantis and After-Image, the world premiere prologue by Richard Beaudoin, was a completely surrounding theatrical experience. The opera begun the minute I entered the theater and found the ensemble of supernumeraries (who were a highly visible and integral part of the show) stationed throughout the theater, already performing. I had no preconceptions about what the show should look like (unlike going to see Madama Butterfly, for instance.) It was as if Kevin Burdette, who led the cast as Death, and his fellow singer-actors (all physically and vocally stunning) were creating their roles for the first time, guided by a very strong compositional force furnished by director David Schweizer and conductor Stephen Lipsitt. In real time, the show seemed to spring fully formed from nowhere—it is a rare and exciting experience to go to the opera and not have any idea what is coming next!

More like this, please.

- Audrey Chait, Brown University

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

After the production closes

On Wednesday night February 2, 2011 BLO bunch gathered once again to see Boston Lyric Opera’s presentation of The Emperor of Atlantis. It was a night for learning. I am very familiar with the great works of Mozart, Handel and Puccini with their rich melodies. The Emperor of Atlantis by Viktor Ullman, along with the world premiere of The After-Image, a prologue by Richard Beaudoin, was an education on contemporary music. Although I am not familiar with contemporary music I enjoyed the evening. I enjoyed the way in which The After- Image shared similar context as The Emperor of Atlantis but was not meant to be a new addition but complimentary to the opera. In addition, I believe the librettist of The Emperor of Atlantis was brilliant writing with such depth of context at such a young age in such a miserable time. I believe the opera was a great success for Boston Lyric Opera I look forward to seeing how they can further push boundaries in future annex performances.

Till Next Time,
Kara Fleishaker, Boston University

Friday, February 4, 2011

Backstage with John Mac Master - That's a wrap!

It all comes together!

Well friends, if you’ve been following these posts, you’ve travelled along this journey from our arrival in snowy Boston on January 9th, to the snowy morning of February 3rd, the morning after our second performance.

I’m thrilled to report that the show has come together beautifully, and as is sometimes the case – but is always our hope – the piece is more than the sum of all our efforts – at least according to the feedback we are getting from our audiences, and from the lovely early reviews.

It’s a long process from being engaged for a project like this – usually more than a year ahead of time, to finding and purchasing a score of a work like this one, off the beaten track and new to most of us. Then came learning the notes and trying to make sense of the story, and lots of e-mails and conversations about the piece before we even arrived here.

You read the accounts of our rehearsals; tech week was the usual challenge of ironing out all the little details, and adding the orchestra. Then came dress rehearsal with a small audience present….Then opening! Lots of excitement; and though the house was sold out, some empty seats since folks could not all get here because of the storm….But the performance felt right; it felt real and authentic….and the more than 100 people who stayed behind to discuss the piece with the cast and production team after each of our first two performances showed that our audience is sophisticated, they understood what we were trying to portray, and they had an insatiable appetite to know more about the work, its genesis, the conditions in the camps, who Viktor Ullmann and Petr Kien were….

After the opening we were able to spend some time with Board members and donors, and to see their commitment to BLO and the Opera Annex program. Last night after performance number 2 we gathered with a large group of young adults, mostly university students – part of The BLO Bunch – at a nearby bar, and were struck by their enthusiasm for opera and this performance. At both events people commented on how moved they were, how engaged they were by the drama, and how much they enjoyed experiencing opera in a small venue, and the intimacy of it all.

I have to tell you how heartening this is, when we see audiences respond in this fashion to some of our “edgiest” work…..Congratulations to the vision of Esther Nelson, General and Artistic Director of BLO – and the support of her Board and donors – in making this show a reality…..And congratulations to all my colleague performers and production team who once again have taken mere words and notes on a printed page, and made them come to life once more.

- John

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Terezin, Where 'The Emperor Atlantis, or Death Quits' was Imagined.

In Terezin, a city northwest of Prague, a sort of "paradise ghetto" was promised to Czech and other European Jews. Most of them were prominent people in society: distinguished musicians, writers, artists, and leaders.

It was a ruse used by Nazi Germany. This place was for safekeeping, amidst the commotions that were Hitler's quest for power and destruction.

It was the place where many lives passed through, many perhaps hopeful in never leaving because of the comparatively much worse faith awaiting for them at places like Auschwitz.

Once, a happy little village was sprung up for the occasion of the Red Cross visit. Shops that would never once be visited by people of Terezin were built. Stores were stocked with goods that would never get bought. And facilities were constructed that would never again be given access to. The Red Cross representatives stayed on the dotted path designated to them on the maps made by the camp's officials. They didn't stray from the movie set that was specifically made in honor of their visit.

Here, prisoners were forced to create art, as one of the ways to deceive the international community of the reality. They wrote music, performed plays, and put on charades for outsiders. Granted, these activities were not unwelcome by the prisoners of the camp.

In what more extraordinary and most devastating circumstances could art be created? Art is an expression, of love, hate, emotions, fleeting moments, lasting impressions, or whatever one may make of. And in Terezin, perhaps it was an expression of silenced voices and an attempt at a hold on humanity.

- Ying Songsana, Emerson College

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Opera: Where Did It All Begin?

In anticipation of BLO's upcoming production, I started to think about Opera as a genre of music. Then I wondered if opera was always opera as we know it today or if evolved over time. I wonder when was the first opera was even written? With the help of my Rough Guide to Opera by Matthew Boyden, I began to uncover when, where and how the genre of opera began.

Opera began with discussions between Florentine poets and musicians; know as the Camerata, in the late 1500’s (approximately 1580). These great scholars were trying to create what they believed was the great musico-dramatic of the traditional Greek Myths. But in truth these scholars knew very little of the characters and dramatic music associated with the original Greek dramatics. Therefore, composers and librettist took inspiration from works such as Aristotle Poetics to begin crafting what they believe to be the musico-dramatic of the Greek Myths.

Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) was the first composer to fully develop this idea. It can be said that the first opera was his Dafne, with text written by Ottavio Rinuccini, which was first performed in 1594.  Unfortunately, only pieces of Peri’s Dafne still survive today. From this, a new style of singing was created called recitative (sung speech), which we still here recitative in most of operas performed today.

With this newfound knowledge of how opera began, I look forward to seeing Boston Lyric Opera’s Performance of The Emperor of Atlantis or Death Quits, Wednesday night this week. I look forward to discuss the opera and the genre opera with all of you at the after party at 28 Degrees.  Can’t Wait!!

- Kara Fleishaker, Boston University

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Opera Anywhere?

As Karen, the fearless leader behind The BLO Bunch explained to me, the idea for BLO’s Opera Annex programming is “to produce an opera not in our traditional theatre or more broadly, a found space.”

Here are just a few reasons why I think that’s a great idea:
 - Most people view opera as a fancy, extravagant production. Not that The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits won’t be extravagant…or fancy…it just places the production in a different space not typically suited for an opera – thus, breaking the stereotype that opera is for “old stuffy people” and appeals to a much broader audience. 
- It makes everyone – audience, creative team, cast, crew – think outside the box. Different spaces mean different ways of staging a show, different sets, props, costumes; even different approaches to performing.
- As I stated before, it appeals to a much broader audience. Not only that, but I think using a nontraditional space will let everyone relax a little bit more and perhaps even enjoy the show in a different way than one typically enjoys an opera. You might pay attention to details you normally would overlook, and as a result you might gain a new appreciation for a particular technique, etc.
- At the very least, using a found space for an opera can make the focus on the heart of the opera itself – the music. Without an elaborate set and the other distractions that may come with a large opera house, the audience is left to focus on what they came there for – the singers and the lyrics and the music itself.

Sure, there are negative aspects of using a found space for an opera. Just as there is always the chance of negative reactions when performing experimental theatre. If anything, I think going outside of the norm and performing in different ways ultimately benefits all parties involved – the audience, the performers and the creative minds behind the production – even if that particular production is a complete flop because you can’t knock something until you try it.

- Katie McNamara, Saint Anselm College