Hello again from San Diego Opera!

| February 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

by Karen Keltner, resident conductor and music administrator

Holidays have come and gone and our focus at SDO is now entirely on the season which officially began rehearsals of “Pagliacci” on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.

On Monday, Jan. 6 we had our first production meeting of the 2014 season. At 3 p.m. on the Monday preceding each of the Tuesday “rehearsal start dates” for each opera, the entire production staff for that production – in this case “Pagliacci” – meets to discuss each department’s particular details for that opera: costumes, props, music, lighting, sets, etc.

Our director of production and the production stage manager are the moderators, and the guest stage director of the production is there, interacting with each of the department heads, asking questions and getting answers for important details which are crucial to anticipate as we head into production. Certain questions will only be answered as we rehearse and encounter the questions directly, but this way we know to be looking out for the solution to any particular question or problem which has been brought up during the course of the meeting. On the musical side, for example: “Pagliacci” calls for an offstage oboe, a trumpet, and chimes. Which side of the stage do the director and the conductor want those sounds to come from? The answer has to be what works logically with what’s happening on stage when those instruments play. So let’s say that the trumpet has to come from stage right (as an audience member stage right, SR to us, will be on the left side of the stage).

Good answer, simple solution, right? But then then we hear from the head of the stage crew: there’s no room on SR; too much scenery and the large chorus, also offstage at that point, are there. Where do we put a trumpeter, his music stand and light and the offstage conductor who will cue that musician and take him through his music?

And additionally…..the offstage conductor must be able to have a clear view of a TV monitor which will be focused on the conductor, working from the pit and conducting the entire orchestral and vocal forces. This is a problem clearly to be solved in the course of rehearsals and once we’re literally on the stage with all the forces.

I could get bogged down here, for that production meeting must cover an enormous amount of information. But you get the idea: in twenty days, from Jan. 6 to Jan. 25, we’ll have an opening night to deliver. Time and efficiency are of the essence.

Singers, conductor, and the afore-mentioned stage director have arrived prior to Jan. 7, the beginning Tuesday. But let me add here that our plans were already being changed by powers greater than us: the huge storms that covered the United States played havoc with our artists’ arrivals, so we simply adjusted as we could.

Our Tuesday “Meet and Greet”- the first meeting of all the singers in general and Artistic Director Ian Campbell’s office – was more of a partial greet. For the two artists that had made it to San Diego, the traditional bagels, coffee, and OJ were there, as well as members of the administrative staff of San Diego Opera many of whom would not meet the performers otherwise since those performers interact primarily with the music and production staff. At this gathering Campbell greets and welcomes the new-comers and the returning artists who have sung with us previously.

We are very loyal to our artists, as they are to us. We have a well-deserved reputation of being a wonderful company to work with: friendly, extremely well-organized, and very focused on the well-being of our artists. And let’s face it: San Diego in January or February is a not hard place to spend some time!

From the “Meet & Greet” our singers and conductor walk across the Civic Center Concourse to the Copper Room of Golden Hall where the first music rehearsal takes place with singers and conductor and pianist. The pianist plays from the piano reduction, a piano rendition of what the full orchestra will ultimately play in performance.

In this first rehearsal the singers and conductor come to know what is the musical pace and interpretation of the music – the conductor’s vision of what she or he intends for the final product, and the singer’s individual interpretation of the role she or he is singing. And this is where we strive for a melding of the two visions: sometimes those visions prove to be very close between conductor and soloist and sometimes there is more distance, in which case both parties strive for a meeting of the minds.

These music rehearsals are where the collaborative and truly artistic gifts of each artist come to the fore, singer and conductor alike. This is what they have trained for, what they live for, and the end result is what will transport you in the theatre when you hear and see them in performance. Conductor and singing artist confer and discuss and make adjustments and re-try what has been suggested.

For me, the rehearsal is where the most intensive and interesting and wondrous part of what we do takes place. I have often thought that if it were possible to snap my fingers and immediately put each of you, individually, into a rehearsal, most of you would become opera converts, if you aren’t already. Watching any skilled craftsman dig into what he does with passion and commitment is to witness the most fascinating aspect of what we are capable of as humans, trumped only by being the one who is doing the “digging”….

Next time I’ll go on from here, telling you about how an opera is staged – the work of the director – and how the production further proceeds to the main stage.

Category: Music

About the Author ()