This page will deal with some opera projects of which
Wendy and I have been lucky enough to perform together.
We've both done avant-garde forms, from jazz-operas (Ranter gets some press on my own page, Paul Knopf's pieces on Wendy's) to rock (Pilgrim and Lilith are examples on our Links), but Wendy and I met doing Baroque opera with Measured Breaths Theatre.
Rob Press was director and guiding vision behind the troupe, specialising in Baroque opera (w/two American premieres -- I'm only the second person in America to perform Leone from Handel's Tamerlano professionally) given a slight political or societal slant.
Amadis, the beautiful Lully opera in which we met (left) was originally meant as a paen to Louis the Sun-King's reign, wherein the prologue told of the awakening of two gods who have been awaiting the arrival of a great hero. Not finding him immediately, they take the story "back" 100 years to the former glory of the hero Amadis, and tell his story. The opera implied that here was a hero of which the French could be proud (totally mythical, by the way!), and didn't he remind you of someone strong and proud who rules today, yea, yea, go Team France. -- France was, historically, headed for a big wake-up call.
In Rob's fevered brain, this became a setting for the Reagan-Bush era. The gods (Wendy and I) awaken, and while waiting for the hero to appear, take the story back to a mythological time: the Old West, filtered through American television. All the dances become Square, the duels become gunfights, evil sorcerers in leather chaps and bandanas abound.
A last fun note in a too-complicated-to-relate plot: Wendy's character can't keep from continually influencing the storyline, while mine is the leave-it-alone-it'll-come-home side of their dsyfunctional personality. Eventually, my character (Alquif) leaves the play in a huff and goes up to sit in the orchestra. The longer he's away, the crazier Wendy (Urgande) becomes, until she slaughters everyone onstage. Alquif runs back in, too late. -- They agree to bring everyone back to life if Urgande can just kill the evil sorcerer (a terrific Buddy Meagley), at which time we have standing metaphoric sex over the body, bring him back to life so we can kill him and do it again, and once again.
Seen any GOOD opera lately?
Above is a shot from the Magic Circle Opera Repertory Cult, er, Group's premiere of California-based composer Ken Guilmartin's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, with settings of Wm. Blake poetry. Magic Circle chose a grand canvas of the banks of the Thames during the Victorian era for the piece (Guilmartin's iconigraphic works would fit well in diverse settings), replete with the homeless streetlife you'd find there. My character, The Just Man, was the moral tether for the show, an exciting choice considering I decided to play him as an alcoholic, heroin-addicted woman-beating pimp. Wendy played the 1st Prostitute.
We were very lucky to premiere the piece, and I still use one of the songs at auditions in which I want to hurt people. I also performed in Mr. Guilmartin's Garcia-Lorca based opera, where I sang a passionate, emotionally-charged song to my wheelchair-bound lover who I then killed with a hidden switchblade. Cool stuff.
So let's be clear here: Baroque is the very earliest form of opera. From before there were, let's say, rules.
Left is a still from Rameau's Les Indes Galantes, again through Measured Breaths Theatre. The original work is a series of vignettes wherein the occupants of the story are whisked from place to place, each one associated with some (as perceived from the 20th century) enormous natural or societal tragedy.
In Rob's hands, this became a kind of cruise for the audience, who were seated on (I kid you not) an enormous rolling platform in this vast warehouse space, which we, the actors, pushed from scene to scene.
Wendy was a possibly spiritually intoxicated tour guide to these catastrophes, I was the God of War. The Native Americans (and others) suffered in the process.