Steven R. Osgood
Welcome to the blog section of my website. I'll use this area to let you know what I am up to, how it is going, and what has been on my mind. In the event that I ever get to see a performance of something I am not working on ever again (now with 2 boys at home) I may reflect on it here. But that is extremely unlikely...
September 28, 2008 - Week 1 of Marco Polo
The first week of rehearsal has come and gone for the new Pierre Audi production of Tan Dun's Marco Polo at De Nederlandse Opera. It was a busy week, and we accomplished a great deal. We still have another 5 weeks or so before we open. Here's a look at how the week went:
Sunday - I landed in Amsterdam just before noon and got a taxi to my apartment on the Leidsegracht. It was recommended to us by colleagues who worked here a year or so ago, and who also have a young child. It is a pretty spacious 2-bedroom ground floor apartment, and is right in the middle of Amsterdam. Out the front door is a small street, across which is a canal with lots of small boats. I went out several times to explore and get groceries. It did not take long to find my way around, that is once I figured out which way north was. Somehow I was completely turned around the first couple of trips out, and having decided not to carry a map... well it was confusing.
I was fortunate to arrive on the only day this year when they closed the streets of Amsterdam to atomobile traffic! So, once I got out and about it was quite peaceful and quiet.
Monday - Day 1 of rehearsal started at the very civilized hour of 1:00. Three hours of music for the principals, followed by a prodution presentation. Tan was not here for the first week so I was conducting full time. Several of the cast members are new to me-- Sarah Castle (Marco), Stephen Richardson (Khan), Tania Kross (Shadow 2), and Zhang Jun (Rustichello). The others are old friends. Nancy Allen Lundy (Water) was in Peony Pavilion, and we did a couple of other concerts in Lisbon and Shanghai. Stephen Bryant (Dante) was in the original production of Marco Polo, and was also in the Lisbon concert when I conducted Orchestral Theater II. And Charles Workman (Polo) was a classmate at Drew University when we were undergrads. Charles asked me to accompany the solo recital he did in his senior year-- the first recital for both of us. I saw him again in 1994 at Lake George Opera, and not since then. It is a fun reunion.
I got confused at the end of the music rehearsal, thinking that the production presentation was in the same room that we were rehearsing in. Instead I just made everyone late for the presentation-- an inauspicious way to meet Pierre Audi, but everyone took it in stride. The production is extravagent, with lots of primary colors in the costumes. The stage is a craggy landscape all in black, but I understand that there will be large swaths of cloth that envelop it, bathing it in much more rich and changing colors.
Music rehearsal with the chorus and principals closed out the first day. Cappella Amsterdam, directed by Daniel Reuss, was the choir for our concert performance of Marco Polo in 1996, and has been engaged for the Nederlandse Opera production as well. While there has been a great deal of turnover in the group in the last 12 years, Daniel is very close to the work and prepared them extremely well. It was nice to be able to sing through the chorus sections in their entirety on Day 1 of rehearsal.
There are a few surprises. While Tan and Pierre had worked for many months on developing a new version of the opera, longer and with a clearer narrative structure, those plans eventually all fell apart. The decision was made to revert to the original score. Even as recently as a month ago there was an email exchange in which we were reassured that there was no new material coming. Well, something changed in the interim, and there are several new vocal passages for Rustichello throughout the opera. Tan Dun coached Zhang Jun on these passages so he is up to speed, but I certainly was not. By the end of the day I had a cd that Tan had sent with the new material, as well as a 5-minute orchestral number which will be inserted!
Tuesday - Staging begins. Pierre is working meticulously through from the beginning of the opera. The set is installed in a large rehersal studio, so very little is left to the imaination as the singers climb around on it. There are very elaborate rehearsal costumes and props to try out, keeping some and letting others fall away. We rehearse 3 hours in the morning, and then 3 more hours after a lunch break. I have a couple of hours of music in the afternoon as Pierre is off to Belgium to see the final performance of his production of Pelleas.
After a flurry of emails I am starting to get to the bottom of the mysteries of the new material.
Staging continues through the week-- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Saturday is a half-day, by the end of which we have made our way into the Bazaar scene. Everyone's brains are full and very ready for a day off.
November 15, 2007 - La Traviata
The first round of Traviata at the Met came to a close tonight after four performances. Marco Armiliato conducted Renée Fleming, Matthew Polenzani and Dwayne Croft. Most of the cast changes when the production comes back in February and March, so there were lots of hugs and goodbyes behind the curtain after the final bow. Marco is back though in the Spring, and it will be great to work with him again.
The production came full circle in a surprising way tonight. Several weeks ago, on our first day of rehearsal, I went to the Met, signed up for a locker, put my stuff in, and grabbed a coffee from the cafeteria on my way up to room 203. At the elevator I met Paul Plishka for the first time, and introduced myself. We rode up together, as he was set to sing the Doctor in our production (talk about luxury casting!). Well tonight after the show I cleared out my locker, grabbed my tuxedo, and turned in my locker key on the way out. Out the stage door and down 66th street towards West End Avenue where the car was parked. Who am I walking next to? Paul Plishka. I had just been thinking that I had not gotten to see him afterwards, and that I had missed my chance to say how exciting it had been to work with him. I mean... Paul Plishka! We chat for a while as we walk the 2 blocks to his apartment, right on the way to my car. He and Renée got the Act 3 dialogue a bit discombobulated tonight, with their last couple of lines rearranged. It worked nicely though, and we wondered if Verdi would have approved. Then goodnight, and my first Traviata at the Met ended the way it began, chatting with Paul.