Francesca’s Traveling iPad — Zero-carbon footprint world tour with Prokofiev and me

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
lennygoran
Posts: 15829
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Francesca’s Traveling iPad — Zero-carbon footprint world tour with Prokofiev and me

Post by lennygoran » Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:34 am

I enjoy her messages and these days she's writing quite a few of them-I wonder what will happen with the Glimmerglass Festival this summer. Len


Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Greetings from Earth
Wednesday was Earth Day, and I awoke to a near-blizzard — the kind of snowfall that makes parked cars look like giant marshmallows. It was extremely windy, and by afternoon the sun had come out and the snow was nearly all blown away and melted. What a theatrical way for this planet to raise the curtain on Earth Day!

Enjoying Earth Day with Rome.

Hop on Google Earth. In recognition of Earth Day, I thought it would be fun to take you on a virtual journey around the world. We can travel digitally via Google Earth, or you can spin a globe or thumb through an atlas as I take you to a few of my favorite places — without any of us leaving a carbon footprint. In past Traveling iPads, we traveled from Santiago to St. Petersburg, Paris to Patagonia, Atlanta to the Adirondacks, Italy to Australia, China and more. Today, we’ll visit Paris, Moscow, Seattle and Sydney

The Paris Opera was an artistic home for me for a decade. Many of you know that the Paris Opera performs in two venues: the Palais Garnier and l’Opéra Bastille. To start our travels, open Google Earth and type in Palais Garnier, Place de l’Opera, and explore the street and inset images. Then take a “virtual Uber” (i.e. new search) and visit l’Opéra Bastille, on the famed sight of the prison at the Place de la Bastille.

War, Peace and Goodwill. One of my favorite composers is Sergei Prokofiev. I have been very fortunate to be able to direct operas of his in Seattle, Paris, Sydney and Moscow. The opportunities to direct his epic War and Peace (written in 1946) for Paris Opera twice — in 2000 and again in 2005 — are among my fondest memories. I directed 10 productions for Paris Opera, but War and Peace was by far my favorite. It was so physically big, it was mounted in the Bastille theater, the larger of the two houses. I first directed War and Peace for Seattle Opera in 1990, as part of that year’s Goodwill Games Arts Festival, a cultural extravaganza associated with the huge multi-sports event. The Games and related Festival brought the finest Soviet athletes and creative talents to Seattle, so we had an amazing cast. The Soviet performers were all making their Western debuts. Many of them, such as Vladimir Chernov and Makvala Kasrashvili, went on to enjoy major international careers after perestroika. During my second production, in Paris in 2000, Putin was elected for the first time just as we were performing! Both occasions were momentous for the former Soviet Union.

Snippets of my director’s notes for War and Peace.
Five hours and a cast of 400. Because companies like the Paris Opera receive a great deal of government support, War and Peace was able to have a cast of 400 for this five-hour epic. It required several months of rehearsals! We had around 150 choristers, 50 principals and 200 supers. There were two opposing armies, the Russians and the French. We would rehearse one regiment in the morning, and the other later in the day. With so many performers, I divided everyone into groups of 10, with a leader for each group. I would then give directions to each clutch — actions, props, motivation, blocking — and then the leader would make sure everything was followed through. I always map everything out in advance (like battle plans or football plays), so I had spent a lot of time figuring out the staging and knew exactly what I wanted to see happen. All of this was helped by a fantastic production team.


The production was filmed and is available online. (See link at the very end of this Traveling iPad.) My favorite scenes involve Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, the first being when he almost dies on the battlefield while fighting Napoleon’s armies. In the novel, he has a gorgeous life-affirming epiphany, and in the opera, he sings a haunting farewell to his beloved Natasha Rostova as he dies in a field hospital in Moscow. It’s totally wrenching, with Prokofiev’s use of soft repetitive phrases to convey his beating heart slowly stopping. I also recommend the downloadable classic film version by Sergei Bondarchuk, one of Russia’s greatest directors and actors. And then there’s always the King Vidor-directed, Dino De Laurentiis-produced version from 1956, with Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Consider a War and Peace shelter-in-place binge — with the two films, a reading, and a viewing on YouTube of the Paris Opera production!

NEXT STOP, Moscow. Now, re-board Google Earth and head to the Bolshoi Theatre, Teatralnaya Sq.,1.
Lighting designer Mark McCullough and set designer Peter J. Davison (both Glimmerglass regulars and long-time collaborators) worked with me on Verdi’s La traviata at the Bolshoi in 2014. I love this sign, with Traviata and our names in Russian! If you zoom into where I am pointing, you can see the names.
For anyone who has ever spent time in Moscow or read any Soviet/Russian literature you know that people who lived in the cities resided together in communal apartments from 1920 until about 2000. I had been visiting Moscow since 1976, when I first went there as a student to study the language and Russian literature, and numerous times as a director. On those visits, I would typically stay in hotels during the six weeks it took to stage an opera; but when I went for The Fiery Angel in 2004, I wanted to live in an apartment near the theater. A friend found me a sixth-floor walk-up in a 19th-century building on Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street. It clearly had been a communal apartment, as it had a row of three bedrooms off a hallway and one central room that was a living room/dining room/kitchen. I thought living in a typical apartment would help me viscerally understand what Prokofiev’s world may have been like. During my time off, I consumed volumes of Russian literature; the only Internet was at a nearby café, and it was almost a relief to be screen-free for a spell. However, one day the hot water heater broke, which not only heated the water in the kitchen and bathroom, but also ran through the pipes to warm the bedroom. I tried to get help from the landlord, who promised it would be fixed in a week or two! I nearly regretted not being in a hotel, but then a friend found a cash-only plumber. (I learned long ago, no matter where you go in the world, always take a packet of cash — 5s, 10s, 20s — because you will need it somewhere.) Magically, this plumber showed up at midnight. After clanging around for a bit, voila! Hot water! (I happily also gave him a bottle of vodka.)

Prokofiev worked on The Fiery Angel for many years. Interestingly it had its world premiere in Paris in 1955, and my 2004 production was the first time it was seen at the Bolshoi. It is a powerful work full of dark sarcasm about a fated love affair and the misuse of religion. The last act is the most pointed, with some truly amazing music that is reminiscent of Prokofiev’s symphonies. I believe because the plot is not typically narrative-driven, theaters have been reluctant to produce it, and it’s never gained a foothold in the standard repertoire. This staging — as well as my Bolshoi productions of La traviata and Turandot — are frequently revived by the company. Check the schedule if you go to Moscow and let me know what you think.
While there for Traviata in 2014, Peter also took some fabulous photos of the theater, me and Mark.

NOW…onto Sydney!

"Oranges and Cacti to Stage Right!" Spooling back to 1921, Prokofiev gave us his wildly witty The Love for Three Oranges, which premiered in, of all places, Chicago and uses a French libretto by the Italian playwright Gozzi, who most famously gave us the story for Turandot. I was thrilled when Opera Australia invited me to stage this for the magnificent Sydney Opera House in 2005, and again in a revival in 2016. I also directed Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (another Russian opera, by Shostakovich) in the opera house, and La traviata and West Side Story for the company’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, which were spectacular experiences that I’ve written about in my Traveling iPads. In Love for Three Oranges, the humor centers around attempts to make a sad prince laugh so he can fall in love. The piece uses commedia dell’arte characters, surrealism, dance and a mix of musical styles, including jazz. One of my favorite stage management calls was, “All Oranges and Cacti to Stage Right!” The 2005 production was recorded in English by Chandos and had a pretty flashy cast. I have often thought of doing this opera at Glimmerglass, but there is one other Prokofiev work I yearn to do even more called The Duenna, based on the play Betrothal in a Monastery, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. This is one of those crazy pieces about a father trying to get his daughter to marry a wealthy man instead of the poor student whom she loves. There is a duenna (AKA nanny) who helps the lovers meet and who eventually scores a husband for herself. I love the works of Prokofiev — and all Russian composers for that matter — and welcome your thoughts on Russian repertoire. (Note: Aside from our delightful reimaging of Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades in our Pavilion last summer, the company has only ever done Eugene Onegin as a mainstage offering, in its early days, and we are not doing it again, as there are so many other choices.)

A beautiful view of the Sydney Opera House that I captured on a walk between rehearsals on one of my visits.
"The joys of the "ensemble" -- a way of working temporarily on hold. Directing in Sydney with Opera Australia is always an enormous pleasure. It is easy to fall into the Australians' laid-back way of life. Like the Bolshoi, Opera Australia is an ensemble company. This means there is a corps of soloists, chorus members, dancers and supernumeraries who perform in several offerings. Glimmerglass is also an ensemble company; our artists perform more than one role during a season, ranging from a lead in one show to a smaller role in another. For example, you may recall in 2012, Eric Owens sang the demanding lead role of the Reverend Stephen Kumalo in Lost in the Stars, and the essential albeit smaller role of Amonasro in Aida. Where ensemble work is particularly valuable at Glimmerglass is for our Young Artists. These emerging talents get to study and perform a range of repertory in a single season, and do so in shows led by different directors, conductors and designers with varying artistic approaches.

Rome, at home. I have taken over one of our guest rooms as my home office. In doing so, Rome has followed me, and I broke down and allowed him onto the bed (with a towel under him), breaking my cardinal rule forbidding dogs on beds. Rome is acutely aware of all the changes going on and felt it was his duty to stay close, cheering me on as we muddle through this new existence.

For the love of hyperbole. I am deeply appreciative for the many messages I’ve been receiving from readers. Last week, a couple of you wrote exclaiming you missed seeing Rome in the two most recent Traveling iPads. What I actually said to the staff was, people “complained” that Rome had not been included. Whereupon one colleague said, “I suspect they didn’t ‘complain,’ but rather asked about Rome, in a friendly way, hoping to see him again soon.” I, of course, relented. But as an artist, I defend my love of exaggeration. Art is all about hyperbole. Think of Jeff Koons’ giant balloon dogs, or Andy Warhol’s larger-than-actual-size soup cans or Brillo boxes, not to mention many of the dramatic twists and turns and grand visuals in the Prokofiev operas I’ve just been writing about. And then there is the era of Romanticism — in broad terms 1830-1900 which covers so much of what I love I music, art and history. As I am waiting for spring through daily snowstorms and then buds popping, I have been thinking of the paintings from this period which include so much imagery that are at once realistic yet more ethereal than anything we would ever see. Opera is all about exaggeration, starting with the gigantic, powerful voices. When I can’t hear them every day in rehearsals, I still hear them in my head as I do chores or go on a country walk. The era of the German Romantic painters, led in many ways by Caspar David Friedrich, have always felt like they were lifted from our local landscapes. And of course, the works of our own painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church did just that. Today I was “hearing” Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony, appropriate to this week’s Earth Day theme. A student of Dvořák and his assistant of many years, Henry Thacker Burleigh, known as “Harry,” was a great African-American classical composer (1866-1949) who you may not know. He played a valuable role in Dvořák’s own composing by teaching him about American spirituals. Burleigh wrote over 200 songs that are embedded in our musical language, and which you probably don’t even know that he wrote.


Lonely house. One of Burleigh’s songs was “Lovely Dark and Lonely One,” a setting of a poem by Langston Hughes, who also wrote the libretto for Kurt Weil’s Street Scene. This picture of the office evokes one of my favorite Weill songs from Street Scene, “Lonely house.” If you’ve never seen this opera, it is a beautiful musical telling of Elmer Rice’s play about the residents of a tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I first directed it in 1995 at the Houston Grand Opera, and then we took it to Berlin, where it was performed for several months at the Theatre des Westens. It was like ‘coals to Newcastle;’ at the time, the German-born Weill’s American opera had never been seen in his home country. (Weill fled Germany in 1933 and moved to America with his wife, Lotte Lenya, in 1935.) It was thrilling to perform Street Scene in Berlin with an all-American cast.

My HGO/Berlin production of Street Scene juxtaposed with a photo by Karli Cadel of our Glimmerglass production of West Side Story.
Balancing act. I’ve always wanted to produce Street Scene at Glimmerglass, but can never seem to figure out how to fit it into a season. Planning a season involves balancing large ambitious productions with equally powerful but physically more modest ones, while also considering a mix of styles, musical periods and ideas. For example, it would not necessarily be the best balance to have West Side Story in repertory with Street Scene, two works written within 10 years of each other and both about New York City neighborhoods. We are constantly trying to invent ways to offer you more interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining content and programming, and the current “pause” is causing us to think even more about new ways to tell stories.
And now...a return home for snacks and a drink.

Cauliflower Leaf Chips and Cosmos
A perfect combo for an evening of video binging or visiting with friends on Zoom, these chips are family-friendly and healthy for all ages, while the cosmo is…well…for grown-up enjoyment.
My wife Faith and our son Jack always want potato chips. I wanted to go a bit healthier, so I’ve been making a lot of kale chips. But my new discovery is chips made from cauliflower leaves. Instead of tossing out these healthful leaves, toss them instead with some olive oil and seasonings of your choice, such as herbs, salt, red pepper flakes, or whatever you like. Pre-heat the oven to 400 and space them out on parchment paper on a flat baking sheet. (The parchment paper is very important to getting them crisp.) Bake for ONLY 6-8 minutes — watching carefully as they brown. On the left is my first attempt, compared to my more carefully-watched batch on the right. MUCH BETTER than potato chips, and goes down nicely with a cosmo.
Four days in advance of your planned chips-and-cosmos evening, infuse some vodka with lemons, like I did here. If you can get them, Meyer lemons are best.
Great Cosmo Recipe

2.5 oz. citron vodka (important not plain)
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Finely crushed ice
Orange peel for garnish

Add vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and lime juices to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until very cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass and finish with a scoop of very finely crushed ice. Garnish with orange peel.

This cosmo recipe, was sent to me by Melody Moore, our Senta in The Flying Dutchman in 2013 and Lady Macbeth opposite Eric Owens in 2015. Aside from enjoying a cosmo with her on nights off, a particularly beautiful memory of Melody’s time at Glimmerglass was her visit with us to Attica, when she, Eric and Solomon Howard (Banquo) sang scenes from Macbeth and spoke to the incarcerated men about the characters’ motivations. The dialogue was deeply meaningful for the men and our artists, with both talking through the impact and consequences of the action. We’ve been to Attica now for five years, and we look forward to a return as soon as we are ready and allowed to do so. We send our concerns for the mens’ health as we wait and watch.
Patience as we wait. Dear friends, I hope you can continue to be patient with us as we move toward our decision about how best to proceed. We look forward to getting to the other side, and hope, in the meantime, if you are able, you will consider a gift to Glimmerglass to help keep us going. Everyone is facing uncertainty in so many ways, including financial. If you are in a safe position to help, your gift would help keep us stable as we move beyond this. Thank you for hanging in there with us.

As promised, here is the link to my Paris Opera production of War and Peace from 2000, starring Nathan Gunn. This video is “just” 3-1/2 hours, but you can binge in shifts! There are no subtitles, unfortunately, but it’s still beautiful to hear and see.

With our deepest gratitude to all,
Francesca Zambello
The Glimmerglass Festival
Artistic & General Director

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 42 guests