If you are not familiar with the Bayview Music Festival, it is a music festival for pre-professional and high level college students in the Traverse Bay area in Northern Michigan. The mainstay of the program is its chamber music program but they have developed a strong opera and voice program in recent years.The theater that the operas are performed in is not a tradition setting. The Orchestra has to be off to the side and the singers watch the conductors on monitors. (SET PICTURE) It did release the opportunity for the audience to be up close to the action and there is no distance between the singers and the audience. It is also a small theater and limited resources. The challenge was to produce a Magic Flute that the audience in Northern Michigan could connect to.
I came up with the idea of it being a little boy’s dream. It became a very ‘Where the Wild things Are’ interpretation of Mozart’s great work. Since much of Magic Flute deals in myth and symbolism, I decided to add in imagery that a 10 year old boy might imagine. All the props ideas were taken from things that a 10 year would have going through his head (Star Wars, Spiderman, Harry Potter) The book that the boy’s father gives him to read to go to bed becomes the dragon in the first act. My set designer, Jared Cole, created a little boy’s bedroom where the shelves became gateways into the world Sarastro and the queen of the Night. (SUPRISES IN THE SET) I also added a dimension of the boy’s parents transforming into The Queen and Sarastro. In my version, the entire opera is the result of an agreement between Sarastro and the Queen to teach Tamino and Pamina the lessons of the enlightenment. My costume designer, Christopher Mueller created a costumed world that incorporated elements of the child’s world with the symbolism of the masonic world. (THREE LADIES) In the Prologue we are introduced to the backstory of the Magic Flute: we see the agreement between the Queen and Sarastro (THE AGREEMENT). We see the abduction of Pamina. We see the Fairies being charged with the Magic Flute and Bells (ICH VERGASS DIE ZAUBERDINGE). We see this world inaction. In this production, instead of only Tamino searching for the light and sun of the enlightenment, both he and Pamina is finding the balance between Myth and Reality, Darkness and light, Male and female energies. This was a choice on my part to smooth out the racial and sexist overtones that were considered normal and accepted during the time of Magic Flute but are outdated in our modern world.
The first time I directed La Traviata was my very first venture into directing. Up until that point I was a singer. It was a small opera company in the city of Chicago that performed in a church. The entire production budget was a whopping $400. The first thing I research was when the vaccine for TB was found. Though Violetta could obviously have another disease, I thought keeping her with TB was important to the plot. When I researched that it was discovered in 1944 the use streptomycin nearly eradicated most strains of Tuberculosis that gave me a little leeway as to what time period I could set it.I have always been fascinated by the period after World War I in both Europe and the US. There is simply an elegance and beauty to the women of this time. The entertainment industry at this time was rife with ‘kept women’ who served the same function to the new Entertainment moguls as courtesans did to the nobility in Verdi’s time. My thought was to set the opera in the early thirties in Paris. (and also allowed many of the men to wear their own tuxedos – saving us a small fortune. While the style of the Tux has certainly changed, it hasn’t changed dramatically. Most of the look is achieved in hair. When I was hired by St. Petersburg Opera to direct Traviata in St. Petersburg, Florida, the budget was again a large constraint. The idea setting it in the 20’s worked very well both aesthetically and financially. Also, with many singers being on the younger side, their knowledge of period gesture would be limited. Making the time period more modern would beneficial to them.
For other production photos from: Tosca, Patience, Trial by Jury and others, Please see the Other Productions