Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Circus Underworld of Orphée
Backstage is always a bit magical.
Throw opera into the mix along with circus artists, such as the inspired clown Aji Slater (above), and there's a chance for some serious alchemy.
For most of February, the cast of Ensemble Parallèle's upcoming production of the Philip Glass opera, "Orphée," has been rehearsing in various nooks and crannies around the Civic Center wherever there is a piano available. Last Sunday, though, rehearsals were held at the Circus Center near the Haight-Ashbury district, so the circus artists could show off their stuff and integrate with the singing cast.
The aerial artist Marina Luna, hanging above, recently returned from a long engagement at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan. David Poznanter, standing below, just finished a year-long tour with Cirque Dreams Illumination, where he rode the Roue Cyr (below), a 21st-century full-body spinning tool created by Daniel Cyr at the Cirque Eloize.
"Be careful near this when I'm spinning. It can do some serious damage," he told us reassuringly.
The opera cast is a flexible, supremely talented crew that includes Eugene Brancoveanu, John Duykers, Philip Skinner, Susannah Biller, Austin Kness, and Brooke Munoz.
Soprano Marnie Breckinridge, above, has recently been touring all over the world as Cunegonde in the controversial Robert Carsen production of Bernstein's "Candide." In this show, she's playing La Princesse, the haughty French aristocrat who is literally Death.
She kills off sweet-sounding tenor Thomas Glenn (above) as the young poet Cegeste at the beginning of the opera, and proceeds to use him as her personal slave for the rest of the tale. (The libretto is from Jean Cocteau's screenplay for his 1949 art film, after all.)
Nicole Paiement, the artistic director of Ensemble Parallèle, is conducting and according to the late, great composer Lou Harrison, she is "a superb conductor, marshalling forces of singers and players with a natural and vigorous authority." I am inclined to agree.
The director, Brian Staufenbiel, is staging the Underworld as a sinister circus, and has cast three supernumeraries to appear as desiccated old musclemen. They are being played by Charlie Lichtman, Mike Harvey (who took all the great photos in this post), and yours truly. The show is on Saturday evening, February 26th and Sunday afternoon, February 27th in Herbst Theatre. Everyone who is anyone will be there.