Even the best of opera fans can be shy when it comes to new works. In the past few days I have heard some concerns about the opera ranging from its length to concerns about the music. These are common concerns for new and even experienced opera goers. I compiled a 5 point list to help dispel this.
1. Opera is too long: In some cases yes, but Orpheus and Euridice is only 1 hour long. If you choose to come have a picnic dinner and hear Composer Ricky Ian Gordon speak and stay for the champagne toast on opening, THEN you might stretch it out to 3 hours or more, but otherwise we keep it short and sweet.
2. I won't understand what they are saying: Orpheus is in English and we have the entire libretto printed in the program as well as a synopsis. You should be able to easily understand the entire work.
3. I have never been to an opera and I am worried I won't like it: While we can't absolutely guarantee you will love it, we can assure you that there will be something to love. Opera is a true amalgamation of all of the performing arts and Orpheus is not an exception. You have great story telling, gorgeous music including a string quintet from the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, four unbelievably talented dancers, a set that equals an art installation, and the opportunity to meet and hear from one of the busiest living composers. There is something for everyone.
4. The music in modern opera is always strange and dissonant: Not the case for many new operas, and especially not for Orpheus and Euridice, of which New York Magazine said:"Both Gordon's text and music are couched in an accessible idiom of disarming lyrical directness, a cleverly disguised faux naïveté that always resolves dissonant situations with grace and a sure sense of dramatic effect — the mark of a born theater composer." Peter G. Davis. Still don't believe me? Then listen to this!
5. Opera is fancy. What do I wear?: While opening night at the Metropolitan opera calls for fancy duds, any night with VTOP does not. Wear comfortable clothing. The opera itself takes place in the Small Monuments Room on the lower level of the building. The room stays a steady 70 degrees or so. Not too hot and not too cold.
As you can see, there is no reason to be concerned. And I can assure you that this is an event NOT to be missed. So click here to get your tickets today and be part of something truly breath taking.
See you on August 12 and 13!
We are continuing our series of introductions to some of the amazing artists who will bring Orpheus and Euridice to life. Today we chat with Dancer Caitlin Klinger.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am originally from eastern Massachusetts and am currently based in Boston. I split my time between teaching ballet and modern dance, performing ballet, modern, and baroque dance, and wearing a number of different administrative hats for a couple of arts organizations in the area. And I occasionally work at Fenway Park during the summer. Phew!
What excites you about performing in Orpheus and Eurdice?
To me, there is something unique about summertime performance. The possibilities for presenting in new and interesting spaces tends to open up, and the idea of doing Orpheus in the Marble Museum was certainly exciting to me. As a dancer, I strongly appreciate the chance to work with live musicians--something that sadly gets cut in many cases due to budget constraints--so I was thrilled to join a project with music at its core. The symbiotic relationship between music and movement is something I'm very passionate about.
How did you get your start as a dancer?
I started my first dance class when I was four. To this day I don't know where I got the idea, but dance was something I wanted to try, and my parents agreed to sign me up. I'm pretty sure my scientist parents had no idea what they were getting into at the time; neither did I! I continued ballet on a pre-professional track until I went to college and shifted more toward modern dance. After graduation, I went to a big audition in Boston run by the major organization for dance in the area. I was extremely lucky that my first opera job came from that audition. I had zero experience with opera and early music at that point--I barely knew what an aria was, let alone anything else about operatic structure. But I did well enough, and that first job led me to get training and other jobs in baroque dance. I was hooked.
Do you have any fun performance anecdotes for us?
There are several funny performance stories I could tell, but here are a couple from 21 years of Nutcracker performances:
As a young student, I have a very vivid memory of my teacher coming out of retirement with Boston Ballet to do a handful of Nutcracker performances. Needless to say, she had danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy too many times to count. She began her variation as usual, but about a third of the way through there was a technical problem with the recorded music. She continued on in silence, and just before the end of the variation when the music came back, she was spot on and lined up as if nothing had been missing. That's a strong internal metronome!
My dog, Zoe, is also in the Nutcracker. She is in the party scene as a member of the "snob" family. Her predecessor, Molly, originated the role and there has been no turning back. Molly was the queen of the company during her time. Dancers would let her sleep on their tutus, give her their snacks, and one evening, give her full run of the theater instead of keeping her in the dressing room. The woman who played the "snob" mother was also the Snow Queen. Molly saw her go by and thought that it must have been her time to go onstage. It was only a quick cameo, but it was quite a shock for the Snow Queen to be up in the air during a sustained lift and see Molly upstage. That was the first and last time there has ever been a dog in the Waltz of the Snowflakes.
Rehearsals for Orpheus and Euridice start next week and I am already starting to think of what our next production would be. There is nothing more fun than dreaming of what opera to do next. Should it be A Midsummer Night's Dream by Michael Ching which is entirely for a cappella chorus or maybe Penny by Douglas Pew, which is the story of a young autistic woman who finds a connection to the world through music? Should we plan a concert that features Vermont Composers? Could we do a cabaret about the perils of modern love for Valentines? The ideas are endless and it is always fun to dream.
The question is how do we make those dreams a reality. How do we ensure that VTOP is not simply one production and gone? Over the past year I have spoken to countless enthusiastic people who would like to see VTOP become a permanent part of our regions artistic scene. Thanks to the generosity of our donors we have managed to raise $54,000 toward our original goal of $88,000 for Orpheus. We have had several generous donors who have given in kind gifts of lumber, chairs as well as loans of construction and lighting equipment. It is wonderful to see our community come together in support of us.
We recently learned that we are a recipient of the Vermont Arts Endowment Grant from the Vermont Community Foundation to help bring our production of Orpheus and Euridice to life. We are honored that our project was considered worthy of this grant.
The question I am putting to you is: how can you help? If you would like to be a part of bringing VTOP to Rutland, than now we need your help. Donations are of course very important. Volunteering is a huge help.
We want to be here. We want to continue to serve our community and all of Vermont. In order to do that, we need your help. Please consider a gift of time or money today.
Orpheus and Euridice will feature four dancers, who will serve as a Greek Chorus for the opera, playing roles such as furies, townspeople, and gods. VTOP was lucky to engage a fantastic team of dancers to play these parts. Today we will introduce our first of four dancers: Ben Delony.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I've lived in New York City for almost three years now, which follows a year in Tennessee and two years in Colorado after graduating college. I'm a dancer at the Metropolitan Opera as well as an occasional freelance artist for regional musical theater. The hustle remains real in NYC and I maintain several teaching and "real people" jobs to tap into from time to time in order to keep myself busy.
What was appealing or exciting about coming to Vermont for Orpheus and Euridice?
I've worked with the Boston Early Music Festival before, and think the world of them as well as any company that involves both new work/early work. When my mentors at the Festival introduced me to VTOP, I was very excited to be a part of another community that fuses my main love, opera, with new ideas!
What is your favorite opera, musical, play, or dance?
Die Fledermaus holds a very near and dear part of my heart since it was my first opera to dance in, but other favorites are Carmen, Magic Flute, and Der Rosenkavalier as long as I can make it to the last trio.
I'm a bit of a Balanchine fanatic in the dance world having been able to dance his works in school, so anything that New York City Ballet does I try to go see!
How did you get your start as a dancer?
I owe my entire success to my absolutely and insanely supportive family, all of whom are artists in their own rights. My parents helped me realize that if I wanted to be a dancer professionally, I'd have to leave the South and pursue it rigorously, which led to being in college for ballet at Indiana University, two ballet companies, and then all of the experiences I've had leading up to now. I was inspired from a very early age to look at the world with a huge sense of wonder and excitement to be part of it.
Do you have a fun or funny performance anecdote to share?
The final performance of a run of Fiddler on the Roof, in which I was a bottle dancer. After the famous bottle-on-heads dance, the dancers then start a very fast ensemble number with stylized body whipping reminiscent of religious rapture. I was so tired at the end of an 8-show week, and so happy that our final bottle dance had gone well, that I gave our final body whips a lot of extra gusto and both my hat and wig went flying off! I've never laughed so hard in my entire life while being on stage, and I don't think my cast mates have either!
Over the 4th of July weekend, our Costume Designer Anya Klepikov was in Vermont shopping and doing costume fittings. We caught up with her to hear more about her life and work.
Give a little back ground about yourself.
I was born in the Crimea, but really I’m from the Boston area, and am currently representing Queens, NY. I am a set and costume designer for theater and opera and I also teach design and color.
What was appealing or exciting about coming to Vermont to be a part of Orpheus and Euridice?
I love Vermont - it is so beautiful! I was very moved by the music, and have wanted to work with Keturah for a long time. Also, there’s always something special about working for a young company in an untraditional setting. The host of challenges keeps everyone on their toes, and that usually makes for a really authentic process and product because everyone has something to lose and is really invested.
What are your favorite operas, musicals, music, plays...?
I have gotten to design quite a few operas and music shows by living composers, librettists, and songwriters - Tobias Picker, Gene Scheer, Rene Orth, Mark Campbell, Marvin David Levy (living at the time), Anton Coppola, and Philip Glass, as well as Amanda Palmer and Adam Stone on the non classical end of the spectrum - which is a real treat, especially when I got to engage with these artists in the creative process and find out their fantasies and anathemas regarding the production. But in terms of older work, I dream of Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, and Borodin. Theatre-wise, I love Shakespeare and Williams first, then a long list of others.
How did you get started as a designer?
My parents are both musicians: my mom teaches piano, and my dad is a guitarist and a musical instrument maker who makes flute head joints out of exotic woods. I grew up playing classical piano, and watching my father trying to pick up Paco de Lucia’s guitar riffs from his cassette player. My mother actively encouraged appreciation of painting, poetry, theater, and ballet. So even though I was interested in science and entered college as a bio major, it is not surprising that I ultimately made my way to a career that concurrently revolves around word, image, sound, and gesture.
Do you have a fun/funny performing anecdote to share?
I have a funny story about an opera for which I had designed the scenery and costumes, which was not so funny at the time. On one unforgettable opening night in Chicago, the orchestra pit broke an hour before curtain. The production manager rang us with the news as we were slinging back champagne and introducing our parents at the pre-party. The orchestra, as a result, would not be able to play in the pit and had to be moved onstage behind the scenery. Somehow, this did not cripple the acoustics because our scenery of a couple construction towers was very porous, and there was fortunately enough space for the orchestra to fit behind it. I remember the sad humor in the voice of the company manager and the supportive energy in the audience, as he came onstage and announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is live theatre at its livest.”
To learn more about Anya, click here to visit her website.