Sunday, August 07, 2005
Any backstage has an atmosphere of magical wonder to it.
The San Francisco Opera backstage, however, is huge, amazing, and special. You can almost feel all the good and bad energy that's been expended there over the years. The politics can be brutal and Borgia-like in their intensity, which are balanced by the beauty of the performances.
Seven of us had volunteered on a Sunday morning to be "lightwalkers," human objects who could move around the stage while lighting was adjusted.
The set was for a new production of Verdi's "La Forza del Destino," easily my favorite title in opera and an extraordinary piece of music. Staging the thing can be problematic, though, because the opera is so episodic and sprawling.
Thankfully, there's a great director on board, Ron Daniels, (not pictured) who comes via the Royal Shakespeare Company where he directed a lot of the Bard. After a morning break, he did something I've never seen before, which was to invite all the stagehands to come out into the opera house while he explained the story and what they were trying to achieve visually.
"There are two parallel stories going on at the same time," he explained. "Part of the libretto is taken from a Spanish play, and parts are from a Schiller play about war. The Spanish narrative is all about guilt, pursuit and revenge. The war narrative is about how "fun" it is to be a soldier and examines the culture of death."
He spoke for about 15 minutes without a trace of condescension to his fairly blue-collar (actually black T-shirt) audience, and it was quite brilliant.
I hope the production turns out to be as good as what is in his mind. It's certainly an interesting set, though like many of the larger opera productions, it has a dangerous feeling, with raked black stairs on all sides.
For more info, check out the San Francisco Opera's great website by clicking here.