Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lillian's Journey is Over for Tonight

Wow! That was so stirring, not only the opera with its powerful music or the encompassing scenery, the huge visuals, the love stories and the mysteries revealed, but simply the notion that an opera can be made with the place names I know so well. I love imagining this opera being performed in other cities worldwide -- and Stanley Park and Telegraph Creek, the Skeena River and the Vancouver lights sung into that larger panorama.

As might be expected, tonight's curtain calls were accompanied by a rousing and enduring standing ovation -- especially once John Estacio and John Murrell came out for a bow. Now we're out in the lobby blogging one last bit as the crowd thins and the din fades bit by bit. Paul and I usually head off quickly to catch a bite at the Wedgewood, so I've never realized how long it takes for the house to empty. . . Quite a few groups have been stopping by at the PhotoBooth -- I think you'll be able to check the VOA Facebook page to see who wore what, who came with whom, etc., Good times!

Much, much more to write about tomorrow, but for now we're invited to the after-party. I'm thrilled at the possibility of meeting Judith Forst, but even just to watch the aftermath of all that adrenaline will be interesting. When I think how draining I find teaching a 90-minute class, I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to sustain the physical and emotional energy needed to sing a role like Irene's or Lillian's, Scotty's or Jimmy's.

Tomorrow, I'll try to post some of the backstage shots I took and show you what I wore. But now I have a party to go to. so good night. . .
Intermission time, and there's a real buzz in the lobby now as people compare impressions. But my first task is to admit an embarrassing mistake I made in my earlier posts: it's Lillian (double "l") Alling (double "l"). Figures. I'm generally such a stickler for double-checking, for making sure I spell names correctly. And the one time I'm going public, I mess up. Repeatedly.

But that's not what you want to hear. You want to know about the music, the costumes, the set.

I'm still sorting out impressions, and I'll admit it took me some time to adjust to the novelty of the English conversation, with so much of the opening in what I think of as recitativo (I'll have to check my opera terminology later). But I was quickly seduced, especially by Judith Forst as the aged Irene, having to give up her beloved cabin in the woods to move to an assisted-care home in the city. It's hard to believe that this is the same woman who I saw not too long ago as Herodias (I hope I've got that right) in Salome -- besides having a stupendous voice, she's a compelling actor. I can't get over how convincingly she captures an old woman's physicality, because I clearly remember the command she brought to the role of Herod's wife.

Wow! this is so distracting, with the crowds milling around us. There's a couple of women standing opposite me: one has a great black-and-white short coat and her friend has a dynamic black-and-white striped skirt. but I was trying to tell you about the music, wasn't I?! I loved Lillian's aria as she surveys the wide new country (funny, I almost wrote "Mimi's"-- oddly, there was a moment when I could hear a track in my ear's memory of Vezina singing whatever the Italian is for "my name is Mimi"-- if I weren't trying to blog live, I'd look that up for you.

There's a wonderful scene featuring the telegraph operators -- and not the kind that work in an office. These are the men who sit in their cabins tapping the messages along to the next station -- the music plays with the tap-tap rhythm of a telegraph, syncopated humour, very clever. Earlier, another scene set in Brooklyn has a group of young men singing a ragtime-y piece as they hit on poor Lillian, who gets directions to the library from a flamboyantly-costumed flapper.

And what else? Oh, how could I forget the guard dogs on stage in the Oakalla prison scene -- that's an opera first for me. . . .

There are those chimes again, and we'll soon have to pack up again and head back to our seats. There's a big secret to be revealed and I'm eager to hear the rest of Irene's story as she fills her son in on Lillian's relationship with his dad. So bye for now -- I'll probably talk to you next tomorrow morning (did I tell you we get to join the party after the show?!

Opera Time -- Don't Break a Leg, Lilian

VOA-provided photographs of the stunning stage set. Such drama!

Entering our fourth VOA season as subscribers, my husband Paul and I have been fortunate enough to have seen Frédérique Vézina and Roger Honeywell in La Bohème, Judith Forst in Salome, and both Aaron St. Clair Nicholson and Thomas Goerz in The Marriage of Figaro. Quebecois conductor Jacques Lacombe, conducting the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Vancouver Opera Chorus (with Leslie Dala as Chorus Director) we've also seen before when he conducted the orchestra for Bohème. Feels like old home week! Nicholson & Vézina, Act II -- photo from the press release kit provided by VOA

Judith Forst, as herself, and as the opera's Irene -- Forst is a formidable and gorgeous woman "of a certain age"! Brava, indeed!
Old home week maybe, but there's nothing old hat about this stunning production, according to what I've read so far.. I've followed along on the VOA blog to get an idea of the technology used to project a variety of landscapes on the stage -- Tim Matheson, an award-winning video designer and photographer is responsible for this. Set and costume design was in the hands of two-time Dora Mavor award-winner Sue LePage. The action depicted on the blog is pretty exciting -- definitely check it out -- but tonight before the show, we bloggers will get a special peek behind the scenes.

I'm sitting at a table in the lobby right now writing this, next to the obviously-very-talented Miranda (check out her wedding photography). We've just been joined by the very dapper Stacey, who chose to wear his black Boulets with his suit, rather than the burgundy ones I'd been rooting for (the burgundy would have matched my Fluevogs, but maybe there can be too much of a good thing!). Once the final crew member arrives, possibly in a new Philip Lim dress, Ling will be taking us on a tour. I'm very keen to see the stage from the other side after a few years sitting in the audience.

Fun! Just sitting here at our bloggers' table, sipping our drinks and keyboarding madly away, we've already attracted the attention of curious opera-goers who want to know what we're up to. One observant patron wanted to know if Sue Lepage might be related to Robert Lepage -- we couldn't answer her, but she decided it might not be important to know definitively -- more entertaining simply to speculate. . .

We've just come back from our backstage tour and it was fascinating. A bit like going behind the wizard's curtain, except that this wizard has many more tricks up his sleeve than Dorothy's poor old fraud. I took a number of poor-to-mediocre photographs which I'll try to post later, but for now, I'll just tell you that the set is spare but dramatic (as you can see in the photo above). What was revelatory? The number of projectors which will throw images on the several screens, turning the set into any number of different landscapes. Vancouver Opera-goers will recognize the technique from earlier operas -- Fidelio, for example -- but it sounds as if the photographs and videos will be much more extensive, more lush or striking, more integral to the action and characterization.

What else made me feel as if I'd entered an inner sanctum? Getting to see the Stage Manager's book, full of post-it notes in a sophisticated colour-coding system; noticing the markers on the floor depicting where singers will stand or chairs should be placed; seeing the tracks on which the old Datsun will roll out; noting various props laid out carefully on a table divided carefully with coloured tape and labelled to avoid any mishaps; burlap sacks full of potatoes, rows of vintage luggage, an old bicycle standing alone, waiting for its turn in the limelight.

And now the audience is milling about around us. I'm so impressed at how well my fellow bloggers are able to focus -- I'm more easily distractable, so tempted simply to stop and ogle. I did foray out before we went backstage and got permission from one patron to photograph her vertiginous bowed-and-buckled shoes, but I'd like to do more of that. Maybe in the intermission.
In fact, it's almost time to head inside to my seat. I'm going to check out the line-up in the Women's Room. There goes the first warning bell that doors will soon be closing. I'm going to hit "Publish" and put this first post out there. And then I'll be back in the Intermission. See you then.