Posts Tagged ‘new opera Denver’

Greene performs in Silent Tea, 2011We have so far to go in terms of appreciating the true value of performers who are older than 30-something, especially women. Our art is about storytelling, about making us feel, forget our limited sense of ourselves, to temporarily suspend the string of indignities that comprise our daily lives. Deep in our bones we desire to be transported to the “not here” of numinous, archetypal, mythic space. We don’t know this. We have forgotten this. We’ve forgotten that it’s the rare young person who has the biological, ancient authority to lead us there. Artists gain a certain shamanic power as they hang in there and develop their craft, allow it to cure in the bones. Gravitas is earned with age, experience, and personal strength.

Women especially yearn to hear stories that they can identify with, that tell their truth. In recent years the big film studios have started to catch on to the idea that audiences actually want to meaningful movies about women, but we’ve a long ways to go, and the industry at all levels has a lot of catching up to do.

Immediately after our debut season in Colorado a local theatre company asked me to do some design for a production, in recognition of the quality of the work we bring to the stage, and desire to support that. We were much appreciative. Until the first production meeting,  where I sat through the 40-something, tall, male director, who never bothered to call me or respond to my emails or even talk to me ONCE in the months before we went into production, going on and on about the bodies of this or that young woman (much younger than him) he was going to “use” in the show. As is typical in theatre everywhere, the assembled team just sat there meekly laughing at his jokes and hoping they would stay cool in his eyes and thus be able to keep working. Too gross for words. I withdrew from the project. My Facebook status that evening: “Today I was reminded once again that the most inappropriate and disgraceful thing a woman can do is get old and fat.” Especially a female actor.

Of course I don’t personally feel this way. I never liked even the idea of ingenue roles. Never tried out for them. I think that whole experience I had of being in national network TV commercials when I was in my 20s was so unappetizing it sealed my lack of interest in playing the innocent young thing. I am having way more fun being a woman. Embodying an adult, even an elder woman, a timeless woman, a mother.

Theatre that just tries harder and harder to compete with movies, with sexier people and flashy effects, bigger dance numbers, just kills theatre for all of us. It is SUPPOSED to be different from movies. Otherwise, why go? Theatre is less safe, and therefore can be far more exciting, than film, in its own way. The element of chance and the unexpected that happens when performers and an audience create an energy field together creates a complicity that’s lost when you’re watching moving images captured months or years before. We need to keep our eyes on what’s special: theater with imagination and heart, that takes risks, and surprises us by inviting or making us think and feel.

This is why Luminous Thread creates shows that celebrate the spectrum of female experience and a balance of older and younger performers, and we welcome contact from performers of all ages with heart and Presence. Click here to read more on performance and presence.

Aren't you glad the title of our opera isn't this long?

Title Page of Sloane’s book, 1707 © House of Commons Library

During our recent visit to London, we spent some time in the King’s Library at the British Museum.  This portion of the museum documents the imperial fascination with collecting, scientifically analyzing, rationalizing, and understanding the natural world during the Enlightenment period in England.  This pre-Victorian period (loosely 1680-1820),  was inspired by the ideals of science based on objectivity and truth.  (See the proliferation of scientific books such as the one at left.) As the Victorian era continued, this scientifically-based obsession with collecting became more about owning and dominating, as the British Empire reached its zenith, spreading over the entire globe.

One of the principle themes explored in Steampunk culture and art, and of our upcoming opera, is the collision between technology and humanity.  The development of technology (microscopes, steam power, telescopes, etc.)  in the Enlightenment era and throughout the 19th century was driven by the continuing desire to understand and dominate our natural world.

This image of the old sailing vessel, the Fighting Temeraire, being pulled into harbor for destruction by the newer tug boat is a classic of JMW Turner’s subject matter — he explored the natural vs. the technological constantly in his art. It’s no secret that this battle between the natural and the technological/human-made/artificial is still going on.  JMW Turner's The Fighting Temeraire.

JMW Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, 1839

If you’re not reading NPR’s classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence,” you should probably add it to your list.  There are frequently really thoughtful posts about a variety of topics.

This recent post asked some VIPs of the classical world (composers, professors, conductors) to give their New Year’s resolutions for the classical scene…and their responses relate directly to what we’re doing here at Luminous Thread.

  • Jennifer Higdon: For all types of ensembles to discover the truth that newer music brings in younger audiences and creates an exciting event.
  • Greg Sandow: classical music institutions will have to join our current culture, lose their focus on the past, and become smarter, more challenging, and far more contemporary.
  • Tom Huizenga: More people should simply get up off the couch, out from behind their computers, disconnect from their smartphones and go out to enjoy a live classical concert.

All of the VIPs agree that the old ways of doing things aren’t working any more, and the standard classical audience is predictably filled with grey-hairs.   But we know that American audiences (here in Denver, and throughout the country) want and need art, hence our efforts to bring it.

Nuptials for the Dead at The Oriental

Ständchen, a song by Schubert sung by Craig Blackard with aerial dance by Liam LeFey and deer puppets by Kate Rinzler. Show design by Mary Lin.

Our first show in Denver, Nuptials for the Dead, took pretty traditional repertoire (Brahms, Schubert, Mahler) and put it in a dreamscape filled with strange bouffons, aerial movement, ballet, pale Edwardian costuming, and even some original arrangements of music by our fabulous music director.   Needless to say, a lot of work went into the show, and our audiences got a lot out of it.  The same is true for the recent collaboration between Central City, Ballet Nouveau, Colorado Symphony, the Mizel Center, and the Newman Center.

As we continue into our next show, we stay committed to entertaining with thought-provoking, weird, and atypical shows.  As companies and audiences, we’re redefining the future of classical music: no more silent concert halls, no more stodgy programming!

Ruth L. Carver, Associate Producer, Luminous Thread

Well, the title of our upcoming original opera has a slightly more descriptive title: Queen Victoria’s Floating Garden of Secrets and Natural Wonders.  Say that 10 times, fast.

Climate change is one of the major themes Luminous Thread explores in its shows, and as Denver audiences will see, we do it in a fun, farcical, irreverent manner- not your average scare tactic, or boring, preachy, educational drama.

This recent series of photos of an Australian Red Wave could almost be backdrops for Queen Victoria, as we watch a motley group of royalty and pirates combat the environment.

Brett Martin, Perth Weather Live, republished on Huffington Post

Brett Martin, Perth Weather Live, republished on Huffington Post

Whether these photos are “real” or not, they are certainly theatrical!  They remind me of the photoshopped Hurricane Sandy images.  Our opera looks at the scary facts of human/environmental interactions through the lens of operatic humor and grandiosity.  Opera often presents the most hyperbolic human situations or emotions…but if these photos are real, then our story isn’t that much of an exaggeration.  Yikes!