Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Modern Opera in Provo....

Now, don't go running away just yet. This is important. I believe that opera can and will thrive where people are willing to accept it and they are given the opportunity to experience it. Even modern opera. So what is this all about? A Parking Lot for Hyacinths, an experimental opera by Logan Hone and Jesse Nicholas Quebbeman-Turley. Many an epic quest has been embarked upon by the hero (tenor) of an opera. If we but look back upon the great epics of the operatic tradition we find Orpheus ever in search of his Eurydice, Siegfried in search of something to fear (failing miserably, I might add), Papageno in search of something to eat (I had to get a baritone in there somewhere). Well, when a Star Queen comes to you in a dream and bestows upon you silver acorns, you have to go out and figure out how to plant them. This is exactly the situation in which James Jeremiah Johnson finds himself. He's a student of city planning who's fed up with the the lack of respect for nature and dadgummit he's going to change that. He's going to restore nature to the city even if he has to travel out to the desert (?) to find out how. I'll admit, the premise of the opera is a little strange, but this is modern opera. What did you expect? I won't tell you the whole story in the interest of avoiding a spoiler.
Let's talk a little about the cast of this opera. First of all, I have to praise the wonderful usage of chorus as both narrative body and as passive onlookers in certain scenes. Their part, though musically minimalist, was finely woven into the fabric of the opera. The hero of the opera was performed by tenor Elijah Hancock. I feel bad for performers of the role because of the strange tessitura in which it forces the tenor to sing. Hancock's voice was, though not overtly operatic, well suited to the role and made the character very endearing. Carli Hansen was Professor Hauptmann, the minimalist city planning professor who desires no connection to nature and thrives off of getting to the point. Minimalist in both stage business and musical line, this role was really nothing to smirk at, giving life to a character with so little vibrancy. The girlfriend Natalie, my favorite character of the evening, was powerfully portrayed by Michelle Alexander. As a struggling artist, her character spoke to many of us in the audience, whether we are actually struggling or not. Her aria was my favorite part of the composition. Alexander's voice lent a perfect amount of power to the character. One last singer who made an impression was Olivia Custodio who played three different characters in the course of the opera. She was certainly the busiest singer and yet brought life to all three roles making them equally interesting.
My biggest beef with the opera: Where are the baritones? I have to admit, I was hoping that the tree in the desert scene would end up being a baritone or a bass. It only seemed right. He ended up being a spoken role. That's just me though....
Well, I hope that A Parking Lot for Hyacinths continues to be performed. I enjoyed it and would even go see it again, something that I can't say of all modern compositions that I have heard. I congratulate the cast and production crew on an opera well done. Keep doing what you're doing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Where have I been all summer?

You know, I don't think I'll ever be good at this whole blogging thing. I do want to wrap up the summer since I wrote last. There have been some fun things. I went home to California instead of going to Spring term at BYU. I hadn't been at home for more than a week since 2009. It was time to just chill for a while. It started out pretty good and I got to hang out with my best friends from home and I had all day long to sing to my heart's content. Unfortunately, that gets old REALLY fast. It didn't take too long to learn the role of Frank for Die Fledermaus, so I turned my musical attentions elsewhere. Needless to say, there was a lot of musical theater and even (gasp) Disney songs. May I just say, those two genres in particular are not very friendly to baritones. But it's just so fun to sing!
I celebrated Richard Wagner's birthday by having an all-day Wagner Fest where I did nothing but sing the great Wagner baritone roles: Wolfram, Wotan, Dutchman, Hans Sachs. It's really fun, but at some point your voice is not going to think so. At that point I turned to just listening to the Ring. My Ring has the great Theo Adam as Wotan and boy does he do the role justice. When my mom got home that day, this is what she saw.
I also went home for a more specific purpose, namely to get my driver's license. This is one of those secrets that should probably have remained so, but I don't really care as much any more. I had never really run into any huge problems not having a license, so I never got one. I now have it and I drive my (sister's) car all over the place as if I've always had a license. Following that lovely ordeal it was time for me to bid farewell to my beloved homeland and return to the fair state of Deseret...I mean Utah. I brought a few friends/colleagues along on the trip. One is a wonderful pianist and the other is an excellent tenor. Over the break I helped organize one of the most fun gatherings I've attended at BYU. We got together everyone that was around for that weekend and had a salon/soiree up at a cabin near Sundance. We ate food, we sang, we got to know each other better. It was really great. I can see us doing it again. This semester has been mostly me trying to learn all the music that I have been assigned/hired to learn in the short amount of time that I have. I've been singing three Italian pieces. Dolente immagine by Bellini, O cessate di piagarmi by Scarlatti, and Ah! Per sempre io ti perdei also by Bellini. They are fun and I'm learning a lot about "bel canto" style, especially how it works in my voice. It's been fun. I have also been involved in a production of Gianni Schicchi with the Utah-Idaho Performing Arts Company. We will be performing on the 23rd and 24th of this month and it promises to be a great show. I love all the people I'm working with and their awesome voices. I'm singing the role of Marco by the way, for all of you who care. This has been a really long blog post so thanks to all of you who stuck through it just to know what I've been doing with my life. I'm going to try doing more frequent, shorter posts. Thanks for reading, until next time I'll keep loving Being a Baritone.