MinterTom  Aug.29.2012 0 Comments

The first principal rehearsal commences; we are at the top of the opera. Maestro DeMain, Bill Bolcom and the production team sing the role of the Chorus, leading the principals to their entries. But the scene is raising questions. Maestro DeMain stops to clarify points of nuance with the composer, concerned with articulation and dynamics. But Bill is flexible about his markings- “I don’t want anyone to hold my feet to the fire over them –they’re guides. I’ve approximated what I believe is needed.” This information gives a conductor room to make the interpretation his; but Maestro DeMain’s desire is to make the language come out more clearly. His comments on enunciation and diction provoke Catherine Malfitano to remember a saying of an actress, Dorothy Uris, who was later her diction coach. “Dorothy would say, ‘You gotta love those American vowels. You just gotta love ‘em’.” Bill has written the music for the colors of Brooklyn. “These are guys from the street. It’s not diction. It’s dialect – ‘bewtaful’. Pay attention as if you’re doing a play; it is speech cadence. Keep in mind a heavy Brooklyn accent –then pull back. Light and shade; it’s not cantilenas, these long lines. It is dialogue, not recitative.” Maestro DeMain rehearses the sequence again. I am seated at a chair just behind the Production table. I watch the director, Amy Hutchison, listening to the singers. She is taking the measure of where the roles sit with them. I can see into her open binder. The score page is on the left; opposite it is a page of the stage design. This page is a list of notes and marks for ‘physical placement’ of the action. For each character Amy is right at their moment in the score, with an awareness of where this moment takes place on stage. She is in the sight line of the singers and focuses on them individually as they sing. Though she mimes the appropriate ‘wattage’ of a particular character’s greeting, or action, it is with subtlety and not meant to detract from the singer’s communication with the conductor or composer. Even though everyone is using the Met score, some of the singers have notations from previous performances. These items are from Indiana, or Pittsburgh, or Germany, and must be brought into alignment with the current production’s core. It is important to have Bill here, determining these points. It is Vulcan chess; a simultaneous multi-level progression of details, where the mix of director, singers, conductor, orchestra and crew must meld with the intentions of the playwright, librettist and composer, to achieve a harmony in the presentation of music drama. It is, by any measure, an immense task, but by the time an audience sees the result of this effort, the nuts and bolts will not appear. It will be a seamless whole, to grip the imagination from beginning to end.

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