Opening night is approaching quickly! And tickets are going just as quickly.
As of Friday, our tickets will only be available on our website (VTOperaProject.com/tickets) or at the door at the Marble Museum. Our box office at the Marble Museum will open at 5 pm and we will accept cash, check, or credit card. Tickets are $45 at the door. There will be a $2 processing fee for credit cards.
We can't wait to see you all there.
PS. Here is my favorite rehearsal photo of Wesley and Suzanne.
The role of Orpheus is played Clarinetist Wesley Christensen rather than sung. We caught up with him to talk about how he is balancing playing the clarinet with the demands of staging a lead role in the opera.
What is the typical role of a clarinetist in an opera?
Typically a clarinetist's role in an opera is to play in the pit orchestra. However, in this opera the clarinetist is the lead character, which requires being on stage, acting, dancing, and performing the music from memory.
At times I have found it difficult finding a way to interact with the characters and physical surroundings on stage while at the same time maintaining focus on the music. Acting while playing can be a challenge, because you can not speak or communicate through hand gestures or facial expressions. Running while playing is very difficult, I've tried it, and I wouldn't recommend it.
While demanding, I have also found this to be a very rewarding experience. This role pushes the boundaries of the clarinet and what is possible for an instrumentalist. I've learned to not just play the notes but to sing them and in that way I feel that the music that I'm playing is my voice flowing through the clarinet. This opera offers a new way for an instrumentalist to interact with the audience. I'm not just playing a concerto on stage standing in one spot, I'm moving around, interacting with others, and conveying a story.
How did you get started playing the Clarinet?
When I was 10 years old I ventured into the attic and found a funny looking black box. I opened it and found something that had strange metal keys. It turned out to be my mom's clarinet that she used in high school. I started taking lesson at school and immediately fell in love with it. I've been playing ever since.
What do you do when you are not playing Orpheus?
I live in Waterbury, VT. I am a freelance clarinetist in the area and I am on the faculty of the Monteverdi Music School in Montpelier, VT.
Zoe is a familiar face to many in the Rutland Region as a dancer, teacher, and sculptor. We are so excited to have her join us for Orpheus and Euridice.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I live in Sudbury, VT (originally Hubbardton) and work as a dancer, choreographer, sculptor, and dance/art teacher. During the school-year I teach dance at a local dance studio, in summer I run art camps for kids, and in the in-between times I lead workshops in art and dance at local rec centers, libraries, and schools, choreograph for local theater companies, and work on my own choreography and artwork when I can. A lot of my time and energy is also currently devoted to raising my very busy 3-year-old daughter!
What is excites you about VTOP's production of Orpheus?
I am very excited by the site-specific aspect of this performance. I am interested in site-specific art, particularly dance, in my own work and have thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and challenges of all the site-specific projects of which I've been a part. I have danced on the concrete platform of a bridge crane, on the edge of a granite quarry (including on a platform installed just below the surface of the water), in a breeding barn, on the roof of a cow barn, as well as many other farm locations, and multiple sites around the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, located on the grounds of West Rutland's former marble quarry. I am excited by the rawness and rich history of the Vermont Marble Museum space! I am also thrilled to be dancing in an opera, something I have never done before!
What are some of your favorite musicals or dance companies?
Some favorite shows include Rent, Les Misérables, Hair, and Cats. I have always and will always love and be inspired by the work of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Beyond this there are way too many to list!
How did you get your start as a dancer?
I started dancing at age 7. I took predominantly ballet from then through high school, but was also introduced to modern dance in 6th grade and fell in love. I switched to predominantly modern in college and have stuck with it ever since! I graduated from Smith College with a double major in dance and sculpture. I love sharing my passion for this art form with my students and audiences.
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.
I recently caught up with our Director/Choreographer Keturah Stickann to talk about herself, her upcoming visit to Vermont, and how to dance and keep someone's pants up at the same time.
Give us a little back ground about yourself.
I'm originally from Missouri, but I currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I'm a director and choreographer, but I started out as a modern dancer, both in concert dance and opera.
What was appealing about coming to Vermont to be a part of Orpheus and Euridice?
I was excited to come up to Vermont both because of Ricky's piece, which is such a great story and a beautiful piece of music, and also because of the site-specific aspect of the performance. My degree concentrated on site-specific work, so doing this sort of performance is straight out of my roots. I loved the Marble museum the first time I saw it, and the opportunity to get in there and tell a story in that space is absolutely delicious.
What are your favorite operas, musicals, music, plays?
Not sure I can begin to answer this question.
How did you get started as a director and choreographer?
I danced for years and years before I'd ever paid any attention to opera. When I was just out of college, I got a job as dance captain for Philip Glass' "Akhnaten" in Chicago, and the second I stepped out on stage and started dancing with that full chorus singing, I knew I'd found my medium. I've been interested in directing for as long as I can remember, so when I retired from the stage, I always knew I would learn the craft of directing. I was lucky to fall in with some pretty incredible mentors right off the bat, who taught me how to put up a show with humor and generosity, and how to collaborate with designers to make meaningful shared work. I miss performing sometimes, but I love helping performers prepare for the stage even more.
Do you have any funny stage anecdotes to share?
I have a ton. But the one that still makes me heave with laughter is from fairly early in my performing career. Also (Bonus!) It's about an adaptation of Orpheus and Eurydice. I was playing one of a duo of "malevolent spirits" who were supposed to follow behind Orpheus as he made his way into the underworld. My counterpart and I were dancers, and Orpheus was a singer with a body mic, and a mic pack tucked into the back of his pants. At some point during the number, his pants came undone, and started to slip off. He kept trying to get them buttoned again, but the scene was very active, and so he looked back at both of us with fear and frustration. My partner and I did the only thing we could: Karen took the back of his waistband, and held it up while still trying to dance behind him, and I stuck my hands down his pants, found the mic pack, and held onto it until we were safely off the stage. Orpheus kept on singing, trying desperately to look like he was searching for his lost love, instead of actively trying to obscure the fact that his two dedicated furies were literally attached to him via a wayward pair of falling pants. Ah, the glamorous life of a dancer!
If you would like to know more about Keturah, please visit her website.
Are you one of the many people who have though that they want to be involved with VTOP and Orpheus and Euridice? There are many ways to be involved and I am in the process of gathering names. Below are a few ways that you can help us bring Orpheus to Vermont. Email me if you would like to know more about any of our options.