Sunday, May 29, 2011

Winding down, winding up

Lynne and I are off to Bulgaria to see the premiere of Certitude and Joy and to place wreathes of remembrance on the tombs of the Thracian kings and to investigate the painting techniques of their National Awakening. Queer is just about wrapped up, adjudicated most positively by the expectantly swollen audiences of the last weekend.  It was lovely as always to see old friends come out, and lovely to make some new connections as well. 

All the performers and crew were fantastic, Joe Wicht lighting up the stage even more brightly this time than last, the person on whose shoulders the piece rests, whose jersey number should be retired along with the show. Ken Berry flew in from Australia to reprise his roles, even more endearing and funny this time than last. And those who were new to cast – James Graham and the regally named pair of Diana Consuelo Hopping Rais and Jorge Rodolfo De Hoyos Jr. – were riveting to watch as they threaded their way through the landscape. It was great to work with Bryan Nies from the Oakland East-Bay Symphony and all the other musicians – Jab and Marja Mutru and Michele Walther and David Sullivan – all the musicians yours truly, who seemed to think that he could play the guitar again after a 10 year hiatus, even though he used the same guitar and strings, lovingly preserved by Thom Blum in a special place, under glass in the crypt below the laundry room leading out to Franklin Street.  And who can forget Jim Cave, my main man, who has helped make all of the operas he has touched into something real, making them into the thing that I remember them to be after the greasepaint has dried and the last playbill is swept up?  Clyde Sheets once again has made some art, as he has done so often, and Laura Hazlett arrived at a costume design that I myself wish I could be transported into, flicking the ash from my Gitanes to the dusty street. Cid Pearlman, who fixed so many small motions, focusing in, adding beauty. I am the producer of this work, and not just the composer, the one who picks up the music stands and rolls the piano out of the way each night, and, as such, I can't tell you how important it is to have a crew on whom to rely: Catherine Reser the stage manager and gun handler, who, after a misfire one night, took it upon herself to check the load of each blank, to inspect the crimping, to check the smell of the black powder for its correct bouquet, and Will McCandless and Dylan McMillen. And thanks to Greg Kuhn, who didn't sleep for weeks before, during and after. 

The work is OK. I've decided this now after seeing and hearing and playing it again. I originally thought that it was a quick bit of flummery knocked off while waiting for the funding to come through for Sub Pontio Pilato, but in playing it again, I hear things I didn't hear before, and once again I am shown that the quickly-written piece allows the channeling of the music-god-all-one-faith-spirit to guide one's hand, while the labored work suffers from too much from mere human frailties. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The details

Queer opera opens this Friday
and continues May 20th through 29th at the Southside Theater, Building D, Fort Mason

The Opera Queer is happening, with Joe Wicht (a.k.a.Trauma Flintstone) in the narcotics-fueled role of William Lee, obsessed with the young Allerton in the expatriate-filled Mexico City of the 1940s. Based on William Burroughs' landmark autobiographical novella, Queer follows Lee and the object of his lust and love on a search through the jungle for the mystical and mythified Ayahuasca.

Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets. Shows are in the evenings - watch out for the varying times! - 20th through the 29th of May, 2011, at the Southside Theater, Fort Mason, San Francisco.

There will be a panel discussion on Burroughs in the theater on Saturday May 21st from 3pm to 5pm, featuring Robert Gl├╝ck, V. Vale and Kevin Killian, free to all.

a chamber opera by Erling Wold
based on the book by William S. Burroughs
directed by Jim Cave
conducted by Bryan Nies
starring Joe Wicht, Ken Berry, James Graham, Jorge Rodolfo de Hoyos Jr, Diana Consuelo Hopping Rais 
design Clyde Sheets  
choreography Cid Pearlman
costumes Laura Hazlett
the orchestra JAB, Erling Wold, Marja Mutru, Michele Walther, Dave

Southside Theater, Fort Mason, San Francisco

Friday May 20 9pm
Saturday May 21 9pm
Sunday May 22 7pm
Friday May 27 8pm
Saturday May 28 8pm
Sunday May 29 7pm

SAN FRANCISCO International ARTS Festival

Dead end. And Puyo can serve as a model for the Place of Dead Roads: a dead, meaningless conglomerate of tin-roofed houses under a continual downpour of rain. Shell has pulled out, leaving prefabricated bungalows and rusting machinery behind. And Lee has reached the end of his line, an end implicit in the beginning. He is left with the impact of unbridgeable distances, the defeat and weariness of a long, painful journey made for nothing, wrong turnings, the track lost, a bus waiting in the rain . . .

funded in part by the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation    

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Queer queer queer

There's something terrifying about doing an opera for the second time, especially one that was successful in its first incarnation: a weight of expectation, a fear of the pieces falling together not quite as expected. When the journey begins, this terror is all one has, but, as we approach our destination, traveling together, we notice the sights along the way, so pretty to the eyes, and the fates now seem to favor the risks we have taken. We settle back into the warm delights of artistic camaraderie and look forward to the joy of performance. The music is good, done by someone else, not me at all, someone whose ideas and expectations I can no longer remember. When Bryan Nies, our conductor, asks me how a passage should go, I don't know the answer.  All I know is the way it was back then, the sounds and realizations that I love.  He is angry that I can't make decisions, so I merely make them, saying yes, treat it like rock and roll, yes, I want every note of that very quick run individually bowed, slower, louder, faster, legato, conduct it like this, not that. But there are too many options and I like them all.  Fortunately, Jim Cave, our leader and director, sees a clear path forward.  I believe he has the map to get us to where we are going and so I merely sit to the side, leaping up to let someone in who is late, caught in the Muni catacombs, just as the line curves around the ossuary on the left, or rearranging the fruit I have bought to keep the performers happy, practicing the guitar quietly with ten year older fingers, sitting back, in the corner, just far enough back to not be seen, but to see enough to know it is beautiful. I can hear from here, thank you, and it all sounds beautiful. Maybe it should be a little louder or softer here.
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