We just finished an enormously successful two days in workshop. Our Annenberg/Explore chamber opera (no title yet!) has become stronger, more alert, more viable. Heather Raffo has built a wonderful platform.
In consequence of what we learned, we have changed the dates of the next two workshops and, slightly, their format.
Singers / Act One only / piano-vocal
Sunday 18 September, 8 hours
Monday 19 September, 8 hours
Optional: Friday 16 September with actors, observed by singers, 4 hours
Singers / Act Two only / piano-vocal
Sunday 13 November, 8 hours
Monday 14 November, 8 hours
WORKSHOP #4 (same dates as before) 11, 12, 13 May 2012
Workshop #1: Tobin Stokes deep in thought
Heather Raffo in discussion with John Wright, Christian Ellis and the actors
I almost find it shocking that I haven’t yet introduced the integral part of the new opera. The original seed from which this work of art will grow – the story of Christian Ellis, US Marine Corps Sergeant at the Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
Here is a video I found on the Link TV website of Christian sharing his experience of being in the war and returning to a “normal life” afterwards. The interviewer is Charlie Annenberg of Explore.
There is an enormous team of people behind the curtains at an opera company. The librettist, the composer, the audition manager… the SINGERS! And then there are the Directors…
I asked John Wright to explain the difference between what his role as the workshop director of the Annenberg project is in comparison to Charles Barber’s, City Opera Vancouver’s artistic director.
To put it briefly, Charles is the “lead person”, the one with the aesthetic vision determining all choices that are made in the process of creating the new opera. He is involved in the musical aspect of the opera, and leads the musical workshops. John Wright is involved in the drama side of the opera: he directs the actors (no singers at this stage yet) who are part of the first workshop which explores the libretto or text.
When asked about the story of the new opera, John says “It’s not so much as political story [... ] as a human drama, but it certainly carries an anti-war message. It’s not anything which glorifies combat,” he says. “But it’s that strange thing: in order to be a Marine, … you have to agree to combat. That’s your job. That means that you have to agree to follow orders, and you have to be as efficient as you can – and that includes being efficient at killing people.” (Read the entire interview with John Wright in Burnaby Now here: Overseeing the birth of an opera.)
Beside working on the Annenberg Project, John Wright is also the artistic director at Blackbird Theatre. To find out more about what John gets up to at Blackbird, watch this interview with John Wright on YouTube .
Libretto (pl. libretti), from Italian, is the diminutive of the word “libro” (book). A libretto is distinct from a synopsis or scenario of the plot, in that the libretto contains all the words and stage directions, while a synopsis summarizes the plot.
The relationship of the librettist (that is, the writer of a libretto) to the composer in the creation of a musical work has varied over the centuries, as have the sources and the writing techniques employed.
For City Opera Vancouver’s project with Annenberg Foundation, the librettist is Heather Raffo of New York City. Heather is currently working on the libretto draft which will then be used by Tobin Stokes to compose the opera itself.
Heather is known for her award-winning play 9 Parts of Desire based on her interviews with women in Iraq who survived the war.
Now, City Opera Vancouver has been very fortunate to work with some amazing talent in previous productions, but for all of you who are not familiar with the audition process, here is a blog I found about how to be the most effective when auditioning for an operatic role.
Here is the first glimpse at the making of the new opera through an interview with Tobin:
“First of all, congratulations Tobin on being part of the biggest commission in Canadian history. Can you talk a little bit about how, and at what point you got involved in this project with City Opera Vancouver?
A few years back, I received a call from City Opera Vancouver, which at the time was a brand new addition to Canada’s opera scene. They asked for a copy of my first opera, “The Vinedressers” that had been produced first at the Belfry Theatre here in Victoria by The Other Guys Theatre Company, and then again in Powell River at SOAP – the Symphony Orchestra Academy of the Pacific. More recently they asked for updates on what I was up to, and requested recordings of my recent vocal work, including samples from another of my opera projects – Nootka.”
… read more here on the Indie Art Society website.
“Welcome to City Opera Vancouver’s new blog. Many of our friends and supporters want to track what we’re doing as we create this new opera. Here’s how – together with our Facebook page, and our website.
You’ve read about the $250,000 we have received from the Annenberg Foundation/Explore. This grant makes possible the creation and workshopping of a major new chamber opera. Between now and the conclusion of the fourth workshop in the summer of 2012, you will be able to follow us on this new blog.
Our blogmaster Sonia Stastny will be posting interviews and comments from librettist Heather Raffo, and composer Tobin Stokes, on their work and how they do it.
She will post updates from director John Wright, from our outside advisors, and from the actors, singers and musicians who will be participating in the workshop process over the next 18 months.
And Sonia will also post photos, music samples and videos, and more. Please tell us if there’s anything else you’d like to see, or to know about. Thanks for joining us!”
- Charles Barber, artistic director
Tobin Stokes (composer), Christian Ellis (consultant) and Grendel (high frequency specialist)