What I always find so compelling about working in opera is seeing what singers bring to their characters from the outset, and how those portrayals evolve with input from the director and responding to their colleagues’ concepts.
Since singers have their roles memorized, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are deeply connected to the morality and motivation of their characters. The dynamic at Minnesota Opera is very special in this regard. For this production we have two stage directors who are superbly balancing the conventions of the art form such as placement on stage to accommodate a proper balance with the orchestra, in tandem with the internal and interpersonal relationships that are so important to portray.
It’s this portrayal of characters that seems to separate the men from the boys, so to speak. If the group of singers either can’t or won’t weave their characters together, the opera will go on, but the power of portraying that particular aspect of humanity won’t “read” to the patron. I’m very excited that this production seems to be hitting that sweet spot where the characters are starting to read by themselves and interact with each other.
Now, the other key “character” (the orchestra), has to be brought into the mix. On Tuesday morning we have the first of three 3-hour orchestra rehearsals. During these rehearsal, we will naturally be working on matters of ensemble, but that extra layer of drama and character that I love so much in opera has to be expressed by the instruments as readily as the singers who have costumes, motion and text.
As it all comes together, I aim for the portrayal of these characters to be a full sensory experience. This, after all, is the world in which we live. Live, in-the-theater performance has the challenge of not being able to do a multi-angle camera zoom to show the subtle evolution of a character’s experience. However, we have the advantage of the music and the almost mystical experience of watching another human being standing some number of feet away, performing in our space.
That’s the miracle we are working toward and why it matters.
- Minnesota Opera Music Director Michael Christie
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