I am currently at the Opera with my fellow bloggers , Cynthia Fuhrman , Bob Hicks , and Byron Beck…we are going to head backstage for snacks, drinks and to meet the cast of Phillip Glass’ “Orphee” . It’s opening night and there is a line forming outside…a crispy cold night and Byron has already noted my boobs hiding inside my silly coat…. a thing I like to call a bath mat with sleeves . At least I’m warm!
On to the green room!
OK ! Just got back from previewing the stage with the lovely (and minty breath-ed) Laura Hassle , production manager at the Keller Auditorium . The stage is “raked” which means it is pitched forward at an angle. The idea behind this stage set up is to project the un mic-ed voices outward. It is also the reason for the terms “upstage” and “downstage”.
No, I didn’t know that before today. Yes, that is dumb….but we all learn things at our own pace.
There is also a stretched canvas ceiling over the 50’x30′ set , unusual for this performance space but functional for cool lights and even more projection of sound. The set is a present-day, tastefully appointed loft with a very modern aesthetic. Byron (www.byronbeck.com) squealed when he saw some Louis Vitton props backstage. So gay… and I say that with all the love in the world for my swishy friend with the naturally great taste….and his permission.
The stage is mic-ed for recording purposes only. These studly Lords and Ladies use only their natural power and hard earned chops to fill the 3000 seat house. I feel like a total dork having to have used a microphone in such a small space (The Ellen Bye) for my show , when these folks push their arpeggiated arias naturally like bazookas made of meat and hot oxygen.
Speaking of hot meat…..my buddy and BBT partner, Marc Acito is in this fine production. (Blogging from backstage….www.marcacito.com)He’s playing a glazier, (a glass worker)has one line, consisting of three words and, I’ve been told, is wearing a cool ass worker uniform, with the perfect Acito pun on the back: ” Phil’s Glass” .
I love that man.
Julia Sheridan , PR Manager for The Opera, has talked us all into doing this Opening Night Blog deal and has now filled our table with surar-y treats and alcohol. My hunch is, as the night goes on, our tweets and blogs will get a touch more..um
More at intermission.
Best line in the first act: ” My life stinks of success and death!”
The text (projected over the stage) is straight from Jean Cocteau’s film, “Orphee” . All I know of Orphee is the greek, “Orpheus”. The tragic tale of a musician who loved his wife, Euridice, so much, he followed her to the Underworld to charm Hades and Persephone, with beautiful music, in exchange for getting his wife back. Hades is so moved, he allows Euridice to leave, with the caveat that though they can walk out, Orpheus in front, his wife walking a ways behind him, Orpheus CANNOT look back at her until they are both above ground, and among the living. Of course, as all awesome tragedies go, Orpheus gets to the surface, freaks out at the thought his Lady isn’t bringing up the rear, and turns around.
Anyways, the production is refined and clean with the signature Phillip Glass minimalism. The set, from the audiences’ perspective, looks like an ad for new condos in “Explore The Pearl” magazine, the cast is largely Portland hipster, with ironic beards, plaids, potbellies and beanies. However, La Princess (Death, who’s played with uber cat like cool by soprano, Lisa Saffer) is more Hollywood cougar. Long white furry coat draped over skinny black jeans and stacked heels…..long white coat…? So I’m kinda dressed like Death. Awesome.
Death glides around charming and taking people, following orders from the underworld. But, soon, like all women, she falls in love, gets all distracted, fucks up at work by taking a soul that lies between her and the object of her desire,Orphee. Ah, conflict.
Everything gets even more like a Calvin Klein fragrance ad. Though really happening in front of me, it could have been a black and white, French silent film full of hungry, bird boned models and scowl-y shirtless dudes. Sparse and beautiful, the piece never gets overwhelming musically nor visually. The principles and their body doubles move through the underworld via mirrors. (Mirrors are the doors between the living world and the world of the dead.) The actors move dreamily, in halting steps, through a diorama of love, longing, Ikea and impending doom. Death is love, and love sparks, fades, disappoints and then kills.
In the world of the living, death seems very dangerous and terrifying, but in the underworld, death is safe and stoic, with boundaries and rules. Love is forbidden.
In the end, the ultimate sacrifice must be made. Again, this is French, minimalist opera, so no, Death is not the ultimate sacrifice, it is forgoing passion and sweet danger of love for the sake of returning to a safe, banal life. A life where you forever try to recapture the feelings of passion, and the sweet danger of love…but cannot.
No I’m not drunk. I really enjoyed this production , go to www.portlandopera.org for more info on this and other upcoming productions.
See you out there,