Oct 27, 2008


In my, admittedly short, life, I've never cared much for cared much for the whole reading thing. But, if there's one thing that can get me to crack the books, it's opera. With Hansel and Gretel, I was really intrigued by the original story and our director Chuck Hudson's concepts (part of which come from his extensive studies on mythologies.) So I got me to a library and learned me some stuff.

Many of you may know that the original Grimm Brothers' fairy tales are not the sanitized Disney versions. There's a lot of violence and malice. (For instance, in the Grimms' Hansel and Gretel, the parents purposefully abandon the children in the forest. In the opera, the children are only sent there to find food.)

The tales were initially intended as reading for adults. But, as the Grimms realized the stories were being told to children, they cleaned up the tales a bit. Interestingly, they didn't edit out much of the violence; it seemed to function as a sort of bonus to the morals of the stories.

Indeed, as the purpose of preserving the fairy tales transformed into providing stories for children, the Grimms became intent on making them a "manual of manners." Thus, there was a lot of praying. There's carryover in the opera, as you see above with Hansel and Gretel singing their evening prayers.

Mother (Dana Beth Miller) and Father (Todd Thomas) gettin' friendly.

In the original version of the Grimms Hansel and Gretel, the mother was a biological mother, but by the fourth edition, they turned her into a step-mother. (This preserves the idea of real mothers as innocent and nurturing, allowing the step-mother to be a bee-yotch.)

In the opera as well, the Mother character is a step-mother.

Patricia and Anya: sleepin' on the job.

Das ist nicht gud! The Grimms really believed their stories were uniquely German--both reflecting and shaping national identity. Ok, fine. Unfortunately, when along came Hitler, the Nazis really liked Grimms' fairy tales and used them to endorse racial pride. Hitler even used Hansel and Gretel as an allegory of Nazi youth overthrowing Jews. Oh, hells NO!

I think all this history behind Hansel and Gretel makes it even more fascinating to watch the opera. Of course, it's entertaining and magical in and of itself, which is why it's popular for kids.

Now, my fair readers, I assume you already have your tickets to Hansel and Gretel. But if you don't, you'd best do so before I go The Birds on ya. (I have connections in the avian world.)

Oct 24, 2008


A glimpse at the gingerbread house (aka The Witch's house made of sweets) in Hansel and Gretel. (Note: This house is not actually edible. Unless you like the taste of sawdust and caulk. I have to say, that's probably a step up from those "nuggets" some of you people eat.)

And now...the back side of the house!!
(I show you all the cool places.)

Destiny attained! Center stage at last. (Well, I guess destiny would ultimately include people in the audience.)

Oct 21, 2008


If you're a loyal reader of this blog (and, really, what other kind of reader would you be?), you know that lovely voices ain't the only parts of an opera production. No, m'am. It takes a village.

Half of that village seems to be comprised of technical sorts--making sure the lights come on when they're supposed to, that singers enter the stage when they're supposed to, that props are there when they're supposed to be there, etc., etc. I am consistently amazed by all them.

Lighting Designer John Demous shines a little light on me. (I wish he could have worked on the lighting for this photo. Oy.)

Stage managers have lots of binders and post-it notes. (And ulcers.)

For a while I thought our assistant stage managers were really polite about asking questions. Turns out all the hand raising is cues for the singers' entrances on stage. Oh.

This is what happens when a singer doesn't enter on cue.

Oct 20, 2008


Dean and I stopped in at WCLV last week to record On Stage spots for Hansel and Gretel. (Holla to Jim Mehrling, pictured here, who can rock a mic like a vandal.)

Oct 17, 2008


I finally got around to splicing the pix from my trip with the stage managers to Niagara Falls!

(Thx to Val, Lisa and RoseMary for letting me tag along...or maybe you should thank ME.)

Oct 16, 2008


If you didn't hit up our Meet the Cast event on Tuesday night, y'all are missing out. Honestly, even if you're not totally down with opera (cough*heathen*cough), you would find these Q&As interesting. It's fascinating to hear about how the singers "fell" into opera (Oops, stubbed my toe on some Puccini!) or how they cope with constant traveling. The Hansel and Gretel cast was no different, and I certainly learned a lot more about them as people. (Opera singers--they're just like us!)

I swear Dean had aspirations of being Merv Griffin. He's too good as our emcee.

Patricia, Allen (our repetiteur), Anya and Chuck
Like Elaine in our Figaro, Anya also went from chorus girl to Mimi in La boheme, when the original Mimi didn't work out. In her case, she performed in Baz Luhrman's (think Moulin Rouge) production of boheme in Los Angeles. At age 23. Um, whoa.

Chuck is one funny guy with many fascinating stories, including one about long ago trying out his French skills and complimenting someone on her two cute toilets (when he meant dogs). I can't say there are humorous stories about French mispronunciation here, but take a listen to our podcasts with Chuck and Dean here.

Natasha and Patricia
Natasha is a local gal! Well, she went to CIM--and decided to stick around. [Deity of your choice] bless Patricia. She is not only working her bum off as Hansel; she is also playing new mom--to 7-week-old twins! (And you could never tell by looking at her--or hearing her.)

Speaking of kids, I learned Dana Beth has 12 siblings (0r 13? Don't you just lose count at some point?) She said family vacations involved matching tee shirts. (Oh my.)

(Thanks to Phil at ClevelandSlovenian for the first two pix!)

Oct 15, 2008


Can you believe we're opening Hansel and Gretel in just two weeks and two days?!? I was so busy bumming around Kansas City and such that I haven't had the chance to get to many rehearsals yet. I sneaked over the other day to get my fix.

'We have to block that again?!'
Are Anya and Patricia pouting for real or are they acting? Hmmm.

Best seat in the house
I'm kinda his muse.

Witchy woman
Dana Beth: If I have to wear this rehearsal skirt over my jeans ONE MORE DAY, I'm gonna...
Anya: You're scaring me.
Dana Beth: I'm supposed to scare you, I'm the Witch.
Anya: I'm going to leave now.

Oct 13, 2008


I'm seeing the world, one opera set at a time.

At the end of last week, I headed west with Kish to Lyric Opera of Kansas City to meet and supervise the installation of Opera Cleveland's Giulio Cesare set (Julius Caesar for the philistines).

Keep on Truckin'
The sets are a little big for carry-on luggage, so 18 wheels are the way to go. I navigated the driveway, because I travel par avion.

Of course, airline travel has its downsides. I had breakfast twice that day (if you know what I mean).

Beware the Ides of March
Oh, those wily stage hands. They put me up here to supervise then neglected to help me down. (How many times do I have to say: I CAN'T fly.)

Walk like an Egyptian
But I think toga parties are NOT what Giulio Cesare composer George "my middle name is not Messiah" Handel had in mind.

Let my people chickens go.
No, seriously.

Oct 9, 2008


Just quickly checking in from Kansas City; I'll spill all the lurid details soon.

'Til then, I'll share one way Cleveland is different from Kansas City.

We have a giant Free stamp:

They have a giant badminton shuttlecock:

(Actually, maybe that indicates that the cities are more alike...)

Oct 6, 2008


Sadly, our Figaro cast departed from our fair city yesterday. The tears barely had time to dry before our cast for Hansel and Gretel had arrived and stole my heart. I headed to the rehearsal hall in PlayhouseSquare today for ye olde Meet 'n' Greet.

I listened in as Chuck Hudson, the director, summarized some of the visual and directorial choices for our production. FYI, it's gonna be OFF THE HOOK. So much research into the mythology of Hansel and Gretel as well as consideration of costumes, lighting and effects is going into this production.

Chuck has an extensive background in corporeal theatre; he studied with MARCEL MARCEAU! (It's only a matter of time before I ask him to show me how to mime "chicken trapped in a box.")

Anya Matanovic is our Gretel. (I don't believe the opera calls for Gretel to have a boyfriend, but if there happens to be a need, I'm available.)

Dana Beth Miller is not really a witch; she just plays one at the opera. She also did not really take a bite of chicken here. It's called acting. She is good at that.

Sadly, this is the only way I'm able to fly.

Oct 3, 2008

FOH stands for...

A) Free of Hormones

B) Friend of Humpderdinck

C) Feisty Old Hornball

D) [the] Falstaff of Hens

E) Front of House

If you picked E, you are correct. (And absolutely no fun at all.) However, I do have fun running Front of House during an opera performance, front of house being the lobby and seats of the theater. (And I'm a big help.)

I helped the Red Coats at PlayhouseSquare put out programs to pass out before the performance.

Hey, a chicken's got to take a break, right??

On Opening Night, we had a special sponsor: Catan Fashions. It sponsored de-light-ful "wedding" cupcakes we passed out after the performance. Brenda from Catan manned a booth that featured lots of glittery jewels and gorgeous frocks.

...and shoes. Um, yeah.

Oct 1, 2008

The Dean Williamson Story

From gawky high schooler, marooning himself in the band room during lunchtime to play Bartok, to affable conductor with world-wide acclaim.

Let's go behind the music and take a candid look at the conductor/artistic director in action. Before the Figaro orchestra took to the pit, Williamson worked with them on briskly negotiating Mozart's score.

Less is more: The Figaro score calls for a smaller than usual orchestra. Ours is nearly half the size of the orchestra we had for Boheme.

Double duty: In addition to leading the orchestra and rocking a tux, Dean plays the harpischord recitatives in the score. What the hell are those? (That's what she said.) Recitatives are passages in the score in which singers narrate, as opposed to singing an aria. Speak-singing, say.

Translation: Holla if ya hear me!

After exhaustively rehearsing Non so piĆ¹ cosa son, Dean throws in some Guns 'n' Roses. Just for giggles.