Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Week 2 Roundup of 'The Lighthouse' rehearsals

David Cushing and John Bellemer sport their costumes
coupled with their blue jeans in rehearsal.

As The Lighthouse came together quite well during the second week of staging in the rehearsal space, we were able to start seeing the process of the singers turning into their characters as more and more of the real costumes were integrated into rehearsal. For the first week we had rehearsal items of what they will be wearing but, as always, it was helpful to get the real items once the costume shop has completed making them. It was fantastic to see the singers working in their jeans coupled with their actual shirts, vests and jackets. 1900 meets 2012. But even with half a costume, the clothes cause a transformation and make the characters real. This week we also obtained real oatcakes from a specialty UK store in Cambridge, since the opera calls for the men to be eating them: “…it’s tea, and no bread! It’s oatcakes!” exclaims a bitter Blazes. I really enjoyed them, but a few of the other staff in the room didn’t care for their dryness. They are great with tea!

--Crystal Manich, Assistant Director

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Haunted Tower Built on the Sea

Second in our series of haunted lighthouses:

Station Established: 1850
Current Tower First Lit: 1860
Operational: YES
Automated: 1947

Minot's Ledge lighthouse was a place no sane person wanted to live. It is just a tower coming out of the sea on a reef located off Scituate, Massachusetts.  In fact, the first tower was destroyed by the sea only a year after it was completed!  In April of 1851 keeper John Bennet went ashore leaving his two assistants in charge of the lighthouse.  While Mr. Bennet was on land, winds kicked up to more than 100 mph and he could not return to the lighthouse until morning.  When keeper Bennet finally made it back to the lighthouse there was nothing left of the tower.  The bodies of his two assistants washed up later on Nantasket Beach and Gull Island.  Since this tragedy fishermen say they hear cries coming from the island and swear they have seen a man hanging from the ladder screaming to passers by “Stay away! Stay away!”

After the tragedy on Minot’s Ledge other strange things began to happen.  When an assistant was ordered to clean the lighthouse the windows would always be sparkling clean by the time they reached the top to complete the task.  Other keepers heard taps echoing up through the stairs.  This was the signal for the two assistants that they could leave their post. Most keepers learned to live with the ghosts but others lost their minds.  One keeper could not handle it and slit his own throat another went insane and had to be taken from the lighthouse in a straight jacket.

Kalina Schloneger, Education & Community Programs Intern

Resources/for more about this haunted lighthouse visit:
See our haunting production of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, Feb. 8--12

Friday, January 27, 2012

General & Artistic Director Esther Nelson on Opera in Boston

As we begin rehearsals for Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, our third Opera Annex production (you really should see the film clip on our website showing the evolution of the set, and also the interview with the composer and our Music Director David Angus), I am experiencing the familiar excitement that comes with turning a production dream into a reality. The tension is even greater with our Annex productions because we are not performing in a familiar theater but in a “found space,” always full of unexpected challenges. Opera is, to me, one of the most exciting art forms, embracing singing, orchestra, acting, set and costumes designs, lighting design, hair and make designs, and much more—it’s really the world’s oldest multi-media art form. Of course, it is costly and we often ask ourselves if we can justify its expense. Is opera still relevant? (more after the jump)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Strange and spooky origins

The story of The Lighthouse caught the fascination of myself and fellow assistant stage manager, Ginger Castleberry, when we looked up the location of the historical events on which the opera is based, see it on a map:

Who knows what really happened on this isolated group of rocks? The real-life Northern Lighthouse Board investigation (the opera's Court of Enquiry) concluded that all three lighthouse keepers were swept out to sea by a powerful wave, but no bodies were ever found washed ashore …

Ginger and I initially theorized the Loch Ness Monster was to blame for the disappearance of the men. After all, Nessie would have been hungry after a 300-mile swim between Loch Ness and the Flannan Isles. However, when we staged the final moments of the opera yesterday, director Tim Albery has provided us a more intriguing—and plausible—interpretation of the final moments of the keepers. The score blurs past and present in a way that gave us clues of how the story could fit together. With only a three person cast, the singers have been delving into the mystery from the perspective of the lighthouse keepers when they were confined together on duty, the relief officers who discovered the empty lighthouse, and impartial narrators after the whole event. You'll have to come and see to be your own judge of the keepers' fate!

--Courtney Rizzo, Assistant Stage Manager

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Visiting the performance space for 'The Lighthouse'

Late last week The Lighthouse cast and creative team headed out to the Kennedy Library where BLO will produce the piece. We are charged with the exciting challenge to create an opera in a non-traditional space. The room that will be our “stage” at the Library overlooks Boston Harbor and is the perfect location to create a lighthouse. 

The cast of The Lighthouse examine the unfamiliar performances space.
We took the set model with us. In the creation of a new production a set model is built by the designer, in our case Camellia Koo, and enables us to visualize the space as a new and different world. Standing there without the context of the model it would have been difficult to imagine a room used mostly for conferences and public talks converted into a mysterious lighthouse on a remote island located north of Scotland. When we looked at the model and moved around the space to see the placement of each piece, I became excited about the transformation of which we are about to be a part. The view of the bay behind our lighthouse will make the audience feel as if the lighthouse is truly there. This kind of theatrical expression of opera isn’t done as often as it should. That is a pity, for what is more operatic than being in the story yourself?

--Crystal Manich, Assistant Director

Monday, January 23, 2012

Haunted Lighthouses

The lighthouse of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' opera is not the only lighthouse with a scary and mysterious tale.

Discover the haunted lighthouses near you as we take you on a tour of the haunted lights of Massachusetts. Tales of other haunted lighthouses will appear each Monday until our production of The Lighthouse opens on February 8.
Stop back for all the spooky details.

The Haunting of America's Oldest Lighthouse
Station Established: 1716
Current Tower First Lit: 1783
Operational: YES
Automated: 1998

The first lighthouse in America was built on Little Brewster Island and was completed in 1716.  Later the original tower was destroyed during the Revolutionary War. The present tower was constructed in 1783 with 14 additional feet added in 1859. The Lighthouse is said to be haunted by its first two keepers, George Worthylake and Robert Saunders. Both gentlemen died within months of accepting their jobs at the lighthouse. After two disasters, some people believed that the island and its lighthouse might be cursed.

The other tale of the old lighthouse on Little Brewster Island is about its very large bell to help warn ships of the dangerous shore line ahead. Despite the size of the bell the ring will not reach a stretch of water several miles east of the lighthouse. The mariners call this area of sea the “Ghost Walk” because ships can not be reached by the guiding sound of the bell. No one has ever been able to explain the Ghost Walk, not even a team of MIT students who spent an entire summer on Little Brewster Island studying the mystery.

Kalina Schloneger, Education & Community Programs Intern

Resources/for more about this haunted lighthouse visit:
See our haunting production of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, Feb. 8--12

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 2 of staging The Lighthouse

Assistant Director, Crystal Manich shares some insights into rehearsing an opera. Crystal joins BLO again after working as the Assistant Director for last spring's production of Agrippina. Her interview with Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo is here.

David Angus with the three singers of The Lighthouse
The first few days of staging an opera are very exciting: a new group of people has been brought together to create the show ... and no one really knows what to expect. Even though the show plays under 80 minutes, what makes this show particularly challenging is the music. It’s very complicated and intricate. The three gentlemen in this production go over a large section of music with David Angus, our conductor, before putting it onto its feet. This makes for a smoother rehearsal: if the music is fresh, the singers can more easily focus on the staging.

Designer Camellia Koo looks on as Tim Albery leads a staging rehearsal
 Our director Tim Albery creates a really nice atmosphere in the room by providing a clear framework for the piece while also allowing the singers to explore character and movement. It seems that he is also appreciative of his set and costume designer, Camellia Koo, being in the room with us. It’s a rare luxury these days to have a designer be a part of early staging rehearsals. Cami is very helpful when anyone has a question about a costume, a prop or part of the set, and she is able to help make decisions with Tim on the spot as well.

By the end of this week we should be about ¾ of the way through staging the piece. I look forward to seeing where this is going! 

--Crystal Manich, Assistant Director

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Program Change: Opera Night at the BPL

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Rabb Lecture Hall
Boston Public Library, Copley Square
In opera, perhaps the  most dramatic of art forms, the danger, peril and passion are not always exclusively on the stage. Behind the scenes are a multitude of challenges to be met. Join a panel of Boston opera producers, Esther Nelson of Boston Lyric Opera, Aliana de la Guardia of Guerilla Opera, and Sharon Daniels of the Boston University Opera Institute, to discuss what must be overcome and what must go right to bring opera to the stage.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Building 'The Lighthouse'

This February BLO produces the third annual Opera Annex production; Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse. In this chamber opera Davies explores the ominous maritime tale of three lighthouse keepers who mysteriously disappeared in 1900 from Northern Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The Opera Annex productions hold a special place my heart because BLO seeks to produce opera in a found space with each Opera Annex. In its first season (2009/2010) BLO brought Britten's The Turn of Screw to the Park Plaza Castle and then in the 2010/2011 Season, BLO transformed the Wimberley Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA into the Emperor's tyrannical world with Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis. This season BLO brings the Opera Annex to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

Using a wall of windows overlooking Boston Harbor as the backdrop for the set, designer Camellia Koo created a stunning design--another world of its own. Now, the A.R.T. scene shop is bringing that vision to life. I've had the privilege of observing the set in various stages along the way--beginning with the set model.

Model of the set, created by Koo.
Base of the platform as seen in the set model photo,
in progress at the A.R.T. scene shop.
Crew installs the platform at the rehearsal hall.
As a life-long theatre-geek, I love to see the progression from the designer's vision to finished product. Koo envisioned several pieces to transform Smith Hall at the Kennedy Library  from a hall with a wall of windows to the mysterious world of Davies' The Lighthouse.

Watch a video of the set pieces coming together:

--Karen Robichaud, Design & New Media Manager

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Opera App is more than a Toi! Toi! Toi!

I come from a household of teachers. Both my parents teach and raised me in the classroom. I graded papers (multiple-choice only) and ran ditto copies (yes, kids, that was how people made copies before Xerox). During summer breaks in college I worked as a teaching assistant with special education elementary children. Now, I run a box office which requires me to ‘teach’ on a daily basis – from ‘teaching’ my intern how to sell tickets to ‘teaching’ new subscribers about our production -- I ‘teach’ opera in 2 minute or less.

My wife, a volunteer coordinator for elderly services, works with many student volunteers from BHCC so I jumped at the opportunity to work with these students. The Office of Community Engagement oversees these partnerships.  The office helps students develop tangible skills through community service, civic engagement, and student activism. Through civic-centered or service-centered involvement, the Office of Community Engagement demonstrates to students the connection between community involvement and professional and personal development. What teaches personal development better than a 400 year-old art form associated with the socially elite and performed in a foreign language, right!? This challenge called for a creative lesson plan. (More after the jump)