In Preparation of the Upcoming San Diego Opera Seasons

| December 31, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Karen Keltner, resident conductor and music administrator

Greetings, everyone, and a happy 2014 to all! Here at San Diego Opera it’s always an interesting “dance” as we try to balance the excitement and responsibilities of an upcoming opera season with the excitement and responsibilities that come with impending holidays. And this year the November and December holidays were practically stepping on each other, jammed together as they were in some cases. When you read this, keep in mind I am writing in December.

As resident conductor and music administrator of the Music Department of San Diego Opera, I have been immersed in my own two worlds: the one world which anticipates music-making—rehearsing and performing—literally getting an opera up onto the stage for delivery to you, the audience. My other world is the one I call the bean-counting world, one of checking and rechecking music budgets for not just for this coming season 2014, but creating and revising budget figures for future seasons: in this case for 2015 and 2016. To stay in the latter sphere for the moment, I need to tell you that I’ve also been reviewing and rechecking the forward rehearsal and performance schedules for San Diego Opera calendars in seasons 2015 through 2019 which I furnish to the San Diego Symphony so that our mutual rehearsal and performance schedules can be organized to the benefit of both our organizations. To do that I must anticipate as best I can the actual number of orchestra rehearsals each individual opera will need for those seasons, keeping in mind who will be conducting a particular work and what the cost of those rehearsal hours will be. Different operas require varying numbers of rehearsal hours and those hours are arranged in particular “allowable” increments determined by a union contract. The number of rehearsal and performance hours determines the orchestra expenses for any given production and season, and thus are crucial building blocks and very important figures in planning any opera season.

As we begin this season’s orchestra rehearsals for “Pagliacci,” San Diego Opera’s first 2014 production, I’ll be wearing my two hats: hat number one in which I oversee those orchestra rehearsals with Maestro Yves Abel, and concurrently though not literally, wearing hat number two, I’ll be tweaking the upcoming 2015 orchestra schedule. Equally important as part of both of my “worlds,” I’ve been in written and telephone contact with our three visiting guest conductors for the season: the aforementioned Maestro Abel, Maestro Karen Kamensek, and Maestro Massimo Zanetti, consulting with each individual on each one’s orchestra notes for the orchestra parts—the individual folders on which each musician’s music is printed— for each conductor’s respective opera. Every conductor goes about his/her task in a different fashion, all in the end working toward preparing the orchestra and the singers to present the best product possible for the performances you hear and see.

San Diego Opera Chorus Master Charles Prestinari arrived in the first week of December and began rehearsals with the San Diego Opera Chorus on December 10. In this December period the chorus will rehearse music for “Don Quichotte,” our final SDO production in April and for A “Masked Ball,” our March opera.

Charles (Chuck) Prestinari, our chorus master, and I auditioned all potential chorus candidates last August; Prestinari then cast and issued chorus contracts for the 2014 season. The San Diego Opera Chorus is represented by yet another union (as distinct from the orchestra’ s union), and like the orchestra, the rehearsals and performances of the Chorus must meet the stipulations of their labor agreement and most importantly, the quality and performance level we expect from our San Diego Opera Chorus, renowned for their fine work. The chorus music—different sets and printings from what the orchestra uses—has been available to individual choristers since November 1. At a relatively early point in our very concentrated rehearsal period (usually amounting to two and a half weeks of day and evening rehearsal) the chorus will join the principal singers in staging rehearsals—-staging rehearsals being defined as rehearsals in which singers are directed in “where to go when”…

I’ve emphasized above the orchestral side of things since those details were what I was working on immediately prior to writing this article. But just as important and probably more familiar to the public are our principal singing artists—the solo vocalists who carry the major vocal weight of every opera performance.

Since there often exist various editions of the same opera, the music department earlier this year contacted each artist in our 2014 season to inform them of the specific musical edition to be used or their opera. That specified piano-vocal score contains the music sung by every soloist and chorus member and includes the very necessary piano reduction of what the orchestra will ultimately play in performance.

As part of each artist’s contractual agreement with our (and any) opera company, every solo artist agrees to arrive for the first musical rehearsal with his/her part memorized and ready to be set on its feet in the music and staging rehearsals.

When we are next together, I’ll describe to you our first “Pagliacci” rehearsals and from my perspective, what the road to performance is for any given opera once rehearsals are in full swing.

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