Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On the shoulders of giants...


What Hath God Wrought

I took a small break from the world for the past three weeks to coach five wonderfully talented members of the opera studio of the New National Theater Tokyo. It was great fun but long days and didn't allow for much else. 

In other news, yesterday I made it official and unleashed the website for De Wonderkamer, my new venture and muziektheater enterprise. We are already holding auditions for our first project, Love Songs, of Claude Vivier.

And of course yesterday marked the passing of the beautiful Patrice Chereau. His was a genius of legend and his work is one we all grow with and experience over a lifetime, that's how we know it is great. It speaks to is across our ages. "I was lucky to have lived when you lived"....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

That's what Sundays are for...

It's a day I'm forcing myself to take it slow. The coming weeks will be full meetings for upcoming projects and proposals for new projects, so today is for coffee, an old film, and perhaps some nice music listening. Yesterday was the uitmarkt, Amsterdams annual chance for all the arts organisations to show off their coming seasons. Opera Studio Nederland has been involved for several years now and it was weird not to take part.

There was an interesting piece in this mornings New York Times about string players not from the early music movement picking up baroque strings and bows, and tuning down their instruments. What des this mean? Is it the death of a movement? Perhaps, perhaps the victim of its own commercial success. There does seem to be a new generation of folks playing HIP, with only a sound in their ear and now knowledge or curiosity of the context, historical or other, from which that sound comes. On the other hand, chasing a sound for its own sake can be a beautiful journey in and of itself. The early music movement was rejecting tradition, but replaced it with the red herring of authenticity and the ideological weight of correctness. Perhaps that is now being replaced by beauty for the sake of beauty...better than tradition or authenticity. Has this early music movement been at heart an experiment to arrive at new aesthetic approaches that can now be freed from justification through historical authenticity? Has Taruskin been right all along?

We can only hope so...

From Amsterdam on a slow Sunday morning.

Friday, August 30, 2013

de wonderkamer

After a very long hiatus (almost two years exactly!), I'm recommitting to this blog. In an ironic way I'm reminded of Musetta's line that Marcello is the refrain to which she always returns. Such it is with me and this blog, which has seen many names and shapes and iterations, not to mention a lot of silence, but to which I inevitably return. Mostly I've been incredibly busy the last two years with Opera Studio Nederland. There were a lot of things I didn't have time for, and I'm happy to now have a bit of silence. I return to the blog, but with an added sense of calm, of grounded clarity.

I've read that many bloggers consider, or even call, their blog a cabinet of curiosity, or a kunstkabinett, or a wunderkammer. These words refer to the Renaissance tradition of keeping a room or space full of all the things which make up ones life. To quote the ol'wikipedia: "a collection of objects whose boundaries are yet to be defined....a Theater of the World....a Memory Theater". I've never quite understood what one writes on a blog, and maybe that's why I've always failed to keep it up. I like this idea of a space to just keep ones thoughts, memories, ideas. And I like that the boundaries need not be defined.

In the past several years I've increasingly struggled with the boundaries we and the world around us place upon ourselves. 
This for me is most acute in my professional life where I work most frequently as a stage director, but do my most rewarding and centred work when also working as a conductor. Then, also in the recent months I've done more composition and returned to acting like a creative artist. We must give ourselves permission for these adventures, not limit ourselves, but follow any and all paths which speak to us. There are few Renaissance men anymore. We do not encourage that sort of unbridled self-truth. We should though; and it begins with each of us following our own potential as we ourselves define it. A wonder-room, is a beautiful umbrella to catch everything that we do. Originally a microcosm of the world, now a macrocosm of the self; still a Memory Theater, but also a Theater of the I.

Among other new adventures, I'm writing this on my mobile phone. In sure that makes for more spelling mistakes, but hopefully makes me more compelled to blog in the moment.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


its amazing to me how some of the world can still be so disconnected...i can't imagine what it must be like in places more remote than sardinia where i am now (which isn't remote at all actually in the big picture). still...finding internet has been a problem and hence the lack of posts.

i'm in the final throws of finishing a production of rigoletto here. its my first verdi, and i have to admit i've fallen hard for mr joe green. its so strange to me how i can start a production with a certain level of apathy, the head fills with other thoughts of other places and other things, but without fail i am sucked into the work at hand (moral of the lesson....focus always on the work and the rest will be what it is). it is good to have the ol'crew back together here, members of the aot company, and we are doing a good work indeed. we've turned rigoletto a bit on its head...the man that loses his identity and become a clown (rather than the typical opposite reading of the text) through his quest for revenge (how thing that line is between revenge and justice...but yet how wide). and...there is something tremendously special with our little cara nome, but i can't reveal it just yet. i'll post a video when its available.

i'm back to amsterdam on monday and eager to begin work at the opera studio nederland. we have an exciting season planned...don giovanni, figaro, boheme, and more. it is going to be busy and gratifying. i have also started work to do, in ernest, on griselda which will be in baltimore in february. it is a very tricky piece, both historically and dramaturgically, and even musically.

focus onthe work, focus onthe work, focus onthe work....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

my how time flies

the problem with a blog is that those times when one has the most to say tend to be the times one has the least amount of free time in which to write.

such with the case with my embarrassing lack of blogging over the last several month. first came "aureliano in palmira" in the festival della valle d'itria in martina franca. it was an overwhelming experience, in both good and bad ways. in the end i think we made it work, but it was the toughest child to deliver, with lots of factors working against it. in the end the piece was extremely powerful, and exploration of the cascading repercussions of the decisions leaders make, particularly those leading to the current crises in syria. the final images were of that very struggle, on a day when hundreds were killed in protests there. that work connected so deeply with why i do opera, and contrasted so sharply with the way the production was made (in a way so deeply unartistic for my tastes, so focused on ego and pride and trivialities) that it caused a real crises for me. i left feeling numb and unsure about a satisfying future in this profession.

that followed by a production of don giovanni with students in milan in six days. and yet, i was more proud of that then anything i've ever done. the students were so willing to give, to work, to try, to open themselves to something truly unconventional. it was a wonderful experience and i was moved my their utter commitment and energy. on the heels of that was dialogues of the carmelites, in what i hope is just the beginning of a long relationship with the piece. it was too much for italian audiences, but we knew it would be. i didn't get the first act quite write (neither did poulenc if i must be honest), but the second half was magical, deeply sad, moving. i was very proud of it and of the bravery of the young singers. now i'm in sardinia where we've just opened "riders to the sea", another very heavy work, but one in which i've found such beauty. it is truly captivating when this woman can finally say that she no longer fears, neither life nor death, and that she has found absolute peace. the production is off next week to the netherlands and i begin work on rigoletto.

in the meantime i'm learning the ropes of the my new position at the studio, where the members for this season will arrive next week. lots to do there, and my thoughts are now turning towards next season's projects, "where the wild things are/l'enfant et les sortileges" and "griselda". peter sellars' production just got an interesting review in the times. i'm sorry i couldn't see it.

i fly back to amsterdam finally tomorrow and look forward to an exciting week...during which i will hopefully write more!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

la serenissima

in venice (and after having my computer stolen) i have very little access to the internet world. that's fine, or would be fine, but i have a huge rossini project to start in a week and a half and i'm feeling a bit isolated. its so lovely though to be back in venice. we lived here eight years ago, and now to come back feeling like a really more settled european, and person in general, feels great. to know these streets by heart is heartening, and there is so much to see and breath in. i love it here, i don't think i'd want to return to live, but for a long long visit it would be nice.

in the meantime things are moving ahead with plans for next year's crop at the studio. i'll be instituting monthly performances, feeling strongly that singers learns best by doing. i have some great projects and important collaborations planned. at the same time we are all waiting with baited breath for the new "kunst" plan to come down from the hague. it is going to be scary, but art has a way of always surprising. the kabinet has said they want to stress quality over everything, and for us its important that they new they cannot be supportive of quality in opera if they cut the pool from which young singers spring.

more later about rossini, but now to each some tiramisu and to enjoy a bike ride!