Jan 28, 2009


I had hoped to shadow one of my co-workers today so I could bring you another installment of What DODAD (What does the opera do all day?). But winter had something else in mind for opera staff--that something being a wannabe blizzard and bronchitis. (Indeed, Cleveland is a giant snowglobe of germs.)

So, instead I spent the day prowling the web and Tweeting a lot. I came across this article about artists urging Obama to establish a Secretary of Culture position. Quincy Jones is at the forefront of promoting the idea.

" 'Whether you call it a minister of culture or not, it would be wonderful to have someone with a policy role to coordinate arts education, cultural diplomacy and support for arts organizations. Those activities are not coordinated but divided among many offices,' said Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."

'Right now, we have an ecology of the arts that is very scary. We need a proactive person, or agency, that is going to talk to foundations, the state agencies, the organizations about this situation. Right now, we are leaving the arts organizations to themselves,' he said.

But, Kaiser said: 'I am not optimistic that Congress would create another department. It is expensive, it is another bureaucracy -- but we need coordination.'"

Interesting. Just another negative effect of the recession is that people start thinking arts are a luxury. Let's say it together now: The arts are NOT a luxury!

Jan 26, 2009


I absolutely heart when singers in our educational programs rehearse at the Opera Cleveland offices. All I have to do is mosey across the hall to have a peek and listen. Frankly, sometimes I just sit in the hallway and listen. (I don't want Philippe to think I'm stalking him.)

The past couple weeks, the teaching artists in our Short-Term Residency have been rehearsing The Magic Flute. This week, we're pushing them out of the nest (fly away, fly away!) and into the schools.

What the teaching artists will do at these Northeast Ohio schools is work with students (and teachers) to produce a mini version of the opera The Magic Flute. The artists help teach the students the music and cast them in minor roles; they spend a couple sessions learning and rehearsing together before performing for the school, families and community.

I am so excited to tag along and see some of the performances. It's something different for the kids to do--and to utilize learning styles they may not usually in the classroom--so I hear that they have a lot of fun with it.

Jan 23, 2009


Now I blatantly ripped off this idea from another blog, but, you know, imitation is the most sincere flattery (or some crap like that).

In my never-ending pursuit of self amusement, I have collected many of the search terms that bring Googlers (and to a lesser extent, Yahoo-ers) to my blog. Here are some of my favorites:

Jose Abreu flight attendant

chicken handlers lung
(Well, one of my handlers has asthma, but I think it's unrelated to me.)

chicken clothes for chickens

chicken clothes

Chicken clothes

chicken clothes

chicken clothes
(These were all DIFFERENT searches. Apparently there are people out there desperately seeking fowl finery.)

Dean Williamson, boyfriend
(Sorry, kids. He's taken.)

Chickens just getting what they scratch
(Oh, I always get what I scratch.)

whoop whoop chicken
(new at Burger King!)

Whoop Whoop Chicken Chicken
(When the Burger King cashier has a phonic tic.)

whoop whoop get it get it

ed begley roost
(I could totally see Ed Begley, Jr. roosting in a nest; he's all earthy crunchy.)

Jan 21, 2009


How did I NOT know about the Placido Flamingo muppet before?

Opera has a great friend in the muppets, and they are just so brilliantly clever.

Here, Placido Flamingo stars in "The Dentist of Seville."

Jan 19, 2009


These frosty temperatures in Northeast Ohio were enough to keep this chicken indoors this weekend. (And wondering if Florida Grand or LA Opera has any job openings for poultry.)

At least I had some reading material to keep me occupied (when I wasn't busy building a nest out of the 2010 budget documents--whoops, sorry!) Someone just lent me the book Great Operatic Disasters. Let me tell you, there's nothing like a healthy dose of schadenfreude to combat the winter blahs.

There is the Don Giovanni who attempts a descent into hell not once but twice (via a malfunctioning stage lift) and someone finally declares "Oh, my God, how wonderful--hell is full!"
Or the Wotan in Die Walkure who strides onto stage draped in a cloak that still has a pink padded coat hanger attached to it.

But, oh, I wanted more! To Google! I came across this article in The New Yorker, regarding "a wild night at the Met" in 2008. I found this quote most apt:
"Certainly, operagoers cherish those rare occasions when all variables intersect to create the appearance of perfection; but they hold just as dearly to the memory of those unmagical nights when it all falls spectacularly apart. The gladiatorial aspect of opera is as old as opera itself. No other art form is so exquisitely contrived to create fiasco."
If I'm wrong to agree, I don't wanna be right.

Jan 16, 2009


Story here

Egad. I hope the economy doesn't hit this vertebrate! (Um, buy opera tickets, stat!)

Jan 14, 2009

Don't cut out the Middle Man!

If Xanax took a human form, it would be Cliff Wilson.

Allow me to explain. Cliff is Opera Cleveland's Artistic Administrator, meaning he's sort of the middle man between artists (the singers, directors, designers, etc) and the opera company. He exists to make their jobs easier.

Which means his job is hell-a difficult. I saw this firsthand when I spent a day working alongside him.

Cliff spends a lot of time talking about artists and production staff with Dean Williamson (our Artistic Director, for those of you who haven't hopped on the clue bus yet). And, indeed, one of our first orders of business was talking to him on the phone.

Dean selects the artists, Will draws up contracts and Cliff follows through. He functions as a travel agent, real estate agent and general concierge. (Oh, bell boy!) I spent part of my day with him looking at continental.com for flights for our Barber of Seville singers. Cliff doesn't deal with just flights, there's also cars to rent (and staffers to beg to drive to Parma with him to pick up said cars) and Visa petitions to complete. (Ok, so there's just one Visa petition this year, but two words about that: NOT FUN.)

Basically, Cliff makes sure the artists have everything they need (information-wise and comfort-wise) before they arrive--and after they arrive, too. (He gives directions to Whole Foods and Trader Joes ad nauseum.)

While I was working with Cliff, we received a shipment from FedEx of Barber of Seville scores for our orchestra and chorus. This is yet another thing Cliff manages. Like with our Barber sets or costumes, we have rented the scores--in this case from Boston Lyric Opera. Cliff explained to me that soloists are responsible for their own scores. Often they have performed the role before and have marked a score for their own usage.

Remember way back when I talked about supernumeraries and pick-up artists? Cliff again. He manages the volunteers who are "extras" on stage, who "light walk" and who pick up artists from the airport.

Cliff Wilson: All this and more!

And...I'm going to take a nap now.

Jan 12, 2009


The Met can help you find out with their "highly unscientific personality test"

I am Il Trovatore:
"People just don’t get you sometimes. But you’re not crazy—the world is."

(no truer words were written, eh?)

Jan 8, 2009

We Write Grants...and Stuff

For my first installment of What DODAD (What does the opera do all day?), I hung out with Sarah for a day. She's Opera Cleveland's Foundation, Corporate and Government Relations Manager (aka: My title is too long to fit on my business card).

When she arrived for the day, we booted up her computer and then headed downstairs to buy some Coke Zero "because hot drinks make me thirsty," she said. (Um...okay. I wondered then if this might be a long day.)

It's a busy time of year for grant writers--or at least for Sarah. There's a lot of deadlines, and I got to work with her on one in particular.

I didn't realize there was so much "pre-work" to writing a grant. For this particular grant (we'll call it "Please, Please, Pretty Please"), she had to write a letter of inquiry to the foundation in October. That letter led to a meeting with its program officer and a trustee. Then we were invited to apply for the grant. Egad.

BUT Sarah said this process is way more helpful than laboring over a grant that we don't have any chance at.

While a lot of questions on a grant application are similar to other grant applications, we don't just cut and paste here. No, sir. Sarah tailors the responses to the particular grant and what we intend to use the funds for.

Me and Sarah (not Cousin It)

To break up the day (aside from breaking to read the horoscope--I'm a Sagittarius!), we also worked on reports. Once we have received a grant from a foundation or the government, there are reports to complete.

The foundations use the reports to analyze how they allocated their dollars. (Everyone answers to someone.) And since many funders view grant dollars as an investment in their community, they want to see the return on this investment by asking how their dollars were spent, so we provide info like who, what, when, where and how.

One of the reports we worked on was an education report, in which we need to supply demographics.... So we went to talk to Laura, our Manager of Education and Community Development. (Laura is perhaps a wee bit tired of questions for grant reports. Suck it up, lady!)

In the end, Sarah is responsible for about 36% of our revenue, (again: egad!) with 20% coming from foundation grants, 14% from government grants (like the NEA and CAC) and 2% from corporations (c'mon guys, pony up!)

Hopefully my input into the "Please, Please, Pretty Please" grant will be helpful. (I just hope she keeps in the part about using grant dollars to fund a luxury chicken coop.)

Jan 6, 2009


Inevitably, when Opera Cleveland employees tell someone they don't know that they work for the opera, the person asks "do you sing?!"

(NONE of the Opera Cleveland staff sing professionally. Most of us you would not even want to hear singing "Happy Birthday.")

If you read this blog, I'm sure you realize that there's a lot more to opera than singers. While I've gone behind the scenes with the costumers, stage managers, directors and all that fun stuff, I haven't really delved into what happens at the office. (Other than drinking and related shenanigans.)

So I am starting a feature titled What DODAD? (What does the opera do all day?)

I'll be shadowing all our staff members to provide YOU with EXCLUSIVE coverage of the office life of Opera Cleveland! (Chill out...there's only like 10 of us, so I can't bore you that much.)

First up: Sarah "I write the grants and I bet you can't spell my last name" Stilgenbauer.


Last week we bid adieu to our Office Lackey Audience Development Associate. Her contract with Opera Cleveland expired and it was time to move on.

Like me, Angela is a lifetime opera fan, and she was a dedicated employee. I'm already missing her archaic turns of phrase like "over hell and half of Georgia" and "there's enough surveys here to choke a horse."

Already the office is going to hell in a hand basket:

PS: Stay tuned; later today I will announce a new feature on Chicken Scratch!