Thursday, June 30, 2005

where's my picture!?

just kidding, there was a photagrapher at rehearsal tuesday night, maybe there's one in the print edition? i don't know, it ran in the Richardson section. i only get Garland and Rockwall/Rowlett.

An opera in its early stages
Production puts a premium on audience appeal
09:00 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 29, 2005
By KRISTINE HUGHES / The Dallas Morning News

It was music to Michael Chadwick's ears when Ann Eisemann told him she wasn't afraid of opera anymore.

The two had just bumped into each other during the intermission for Don Giovanni, the first show produced by Mr. Chadwick's new company, The Living Opera.

While Mrs. Eisemann is an avid arts supporter – the Eisemann Center is named for her husband, Charles – she considers herself an opera novice. She had previously seen only one production. That was nearly 30 years ago. "I'm so used to only going to symphonic or instrumental music concerts and seeing choral works, such as oratorios by Mendelssohn or Handel," she said. "I was pleasantly surprised, and I want to go again."

Newcomers such as Mrs. Eisemann are among those the nonprofit organization is trying to attract. Its stated goal is to make the musical style more "accessible, affordable and appealing to a broader spectrum of the community."

Mrs. Eisemann said projected translations – called supertitles because they appear above the stage – helped her follow the plot. Also, the music wasn't as foreign as she thought it might be.
"It was beautiful," she said. "I think of music as a gift to enrich my life, and opera is a new kind of gift."

Mr. Chadwick, 34, said many audience members at the inaugural show, June 17, had the same reaction – even though a Dallas Morning News critic panned the production.

He said ticket sales at the door for the second, final performance June 18 were brisk and people are buying season passes for 2006. Still, the company's founder and general director conceded that the production had shortcomings.

The company, which uses professional performers, relied on volunteers in other areas but didn't have enough, Mr. Chadwick said. As a result, many were asked to do tasks they weren't trained for.

They didn't have a place to build the sets until a few days before the opening, so they pulled all-nighters just to cobble together the meager scenery they ended up with. They also realized the pieces appeared much smaller once they had them on the Eisemann stage.

The company chose a complex show as a first effort because it had name recognition and because organizers felt they had a cast of well-rounded, experienced singers.

However, Mr. Chadwick said, he realized the tenor was asked to sing a style of music for which his voice isn't best suited.

"This tenor is more suited for romantic era dramatic roles," Mr. Chadwick said. "The fact that he even survived the opera was a testament to his artistry and his flexibility. He was cast so that the very large voice of [the soprano] wouldn't have some wussy, little, tinny, baby tenor standing next to her.

"He was cast because he was the only tenor that could match her, and given that fact he did an excellent job."

Opera houses are rated on a letter scale based on both vocal quality and budget, with the Dallas Opera being an A house, the Fort Worth Opera being a B house and so on. Mr. Chadwick said The Living Opera is trying be a C house – but on a D house budget. He equates it to the minor leagues in baseball.

The singers are usually at a time in their careers between apprenticeship and major opera house work, between their early 20s and early 30s, when their physicality and voices haven't quite matured enough to carry bigger shows.

"They're still professionals, but they're not ready for the majors yet," he said.

Ticket prices reflect that difference as well. A center orchestra seat for a Dallas Opera show costs $225 to $265, with a range of prices for tickets elsewhere at $19 to $240. The same center orchestra seat for a show by The Living Opera costs $80, with other tickets selling for $10 to $60.

Dallas Opera officials gave Mr. Chadwick its season ticket subscriber list for his marketing efforts. He said they encourage The Living Opera because it extends the opera calendar and builds audiences for the future.

The Garland-based company applied for a grant from the Richardson Arts Commission last year but was turned down because it hadn't had nonprofit status for the requisite year. However, the company received funding from McKinney and Plano and has been encouraged to reapply to Richardson, Mr. Chadwick said.

Other early sponsors have included WRR-FM (101.1), the Marriott Courtyard Campbell and Residence Inn of Richardson and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Mr. Chadwick hopes it's just the start.
"Donors can give money to the symphony or a choir and get a nice concert. They can give money to a dance company and get a nice performance, to a theater and get a nice play," he said.

"They can give money to us and get all of that. We are the ultimate multimedia production."

or call 469-330-5640

i've been informed that the photo was of one of the other Jennifers. here's my own pic of both of us.