Bard summer, post 8

I am back in St Petersburg, safe and sound, slept for 15 hours (no kidding) and ready for more ;)) There's so much to tell I'm not sure how I'll pull this off, but as always, I'll try to do what I can in a more or less chronological order.
On we were invited for dinner by Christpher Gibbs and his wife Helena. I was a little tense about it: going to the house of the Prof. Christopher H. Gibbs, me? What do I say, how do I behave? Is it polite to show up five minutes too early or should I stand and contemplate Sawkill creek for another ten minutes?

You know, all the things that goes on in my head. But when I finally came to Christopher's door, everything changed. It was one of the warmest dinner parties in my life, with brilliant and lively conversation and a lot (and I mean it) of helpful talk about music. Once again, some hints I got from Christopher's bookshelves, but that counts, too. Helena (did you know she studied with Derrida?) and I talked about Sargent's exhibition at the Met – how Sargent is fake, and how it is not a mistake but a proper deconstruction. (Helena is also a great cook!) And there also was my advisor, Peter Laki – we had a very long talk, and after that I felt that we really 'made contact' that evening, because our meeting about my project next mornin was super-productive: I felt that Peter could see me through :))
It's high time I said a bit about my project. As I have mentioned before, it is dedicated to Tchaikovsky's first opera, The Voyevoda. I want to make an arguement and attract some attention to this masterpiece unjustly forgotten. But the trouble is that exactly because it is forgotten, there is so much to be done. A performance edition of the score must be created (alas, this I cannot do), the libretto needs to be translated, but also one must explain a lot about the m,usical and dramatic side of the work, and show how it is worth staging in every way. For my project, I concentrated on the latter. Peter also encouraged me to write suggestions on staing the opera, which go something like this:
The story is not black-and-white and deals with very complex characters.
It should also be noted that for most situations other than the imprisonment (NB: not an abduction!) of Marya Vlasyevna in the Voyevoda's house we are mainly relying on someone's words, not seeing the actual scene with our own eyes.
Another important and intriguing scene is the fairytale ballad Ty rasskazhi sung by Marya in Act 1, before the disasters begin. In the ballad, Marya asks her nurse to tell a story of a girl imprisoned in a high tower. She does not know how the story ends, and the nurse refuses to tell, so she takes the events in her own hands: the melody becomes active and uplifted as Marya proclaims the magical escape of the heroine. While this is never referenced again in the opera directly, a lot could be made of this story in terms of directing the opera (with a deus-ex-machina escape of the lovers in the end) in terms of direction.
The Russian background can hardly be taken out of the staging, as most of the action background is created by Russian folk songs (real or composed by Tchaikovsky) sung by the chorus. The chorus takes no direct part in the main events and thus could easily be located offstage, and the opera staged as a 'chamber' drama with characters locked in a few distinctive locations (the house of Dyuzhoi, the house of Shalygin, and a place where Bastryukov meets Dubrovin). The role of nature is not shown explicitly, but the running waters of Volga can be clearly heard in the orchestral patterns of the intermission and noticed in many other numbers, thus I would suggest using the river as a predominant part of the scenery. It also plays some direct part in the plot (Olyona claims to do the laundry there, and a slipped item of Marya's clothes gives her a reason to talk to Marya) and could be used symbolically in either way the director would feel suitable, from the cleansing waters of a holy river to a run-of-the-mill changes in social life (and old voyevoda is replaced with the new one with exactly the same vocal fach).
There plot has a characteristic Russian twist where every problem with power and social injustice must be solved through the Tsar/government residing in Moscow, which makes the matters go slowly and obscurely. However, a similar situation can be remembered in many plots, including such operas as Fidelio by Beethoven (where Don Pizzaro is dismissed for his atrocities only at the very end of the opera) and Othello by Verdi (where at the end a messenger appears to announce that Othello will be replaced for an unclear reason). Thus, to make this logical no profound knowledge of Russian history is needed.
The social aspects of Ostrovsky's play are absent in Tchaikovsky's opera which concentrates on the story of the four lovers. It is however possible and even desirable to use the powerful orchestral bits to show a broader perspective. For that, Ostrovsky's play can come in handy.

I also described the characters and listed what I see as musical hughlights. That is all I could do in four weeks, alas! But Peter and I have big plans. i really want to turn this project into something. For that, much more need to be explored (and then explained) about music and composition, and Peer kindly agreed to continue our work by e-mail now that I'm away. Go Voyevoda!
We also had our last meeting with people who run Fisher Center, this time it was Eleanor Davis, media and marketing manager. Eleanor's work is something I can easily relate to: she prepares the press kits, chooses photographs for the journalists to use in their reviews, finds ways to attract new people to the events and to make Fisher Center productions more accessible and better understood. The way Eleanor put it, for SummerScape it is important to give the audience a sense of why these things are programmed together – and that is the quest we are trying to solve for each new season at the Bolshoi.
Eleanor explained that the Fisher Center is unique because they are a 'boutique classical music house' and talked a lot about solving the eternal question of how one gets the audience to come to something unique. There is one golden rule of marketing, though: know your aufience. There are two press audiences, she said: people from New Yoek who would want to have background information on sophisticated details, and local people who need a good story and exciting photoraphs, not the high-brow blah-blah.
A good question to ask yourself, said Eleanor, is, 'What's interesting about it?' In the case of The Wreckers it was Ethel Smyth herself, so the press kit for New Yorkers contained:
  • excerpts of her memoir (which is not copyrighted, and that's important);
  • and interview about Smyth going to jail;
  • information about her fight for woman vote and relationship with Virginia Woolf (with whom she was in love);
  • several exciting stories (such as – when Smyth realized that at the prtemiere performance of The Wreckers in Leipzig major cuts were planned, she went to the opera house at night and took away all the sheet music from the house – so that there would be no way for the orchestra to play it at all!);
  • a brief biography written by an intern;
  • and a synopsis.

This was given to the NPR. 'You cannot control what the press write or say,' said Eleanor, 'but you can shape it.'
'If you have a lot of research, give them that.' But on the other hand, 'local people do not have the timer, they're not interested in so many details, so I just pulled out a couple of things from this kit', a bio an a synopsis. The audience would want to have everything simplifie (and clarified) even further as they want to get the impression on-the-go, so to put it.
What about the actual sales? 'We don't sell the tickets, we tell a story – because we are a college!'
I actually made a longish conspect of what Eleanor told us, but for this blog I think I'll just give you one more fact. But it's really very impressive. How many people do you think run the SummerScape from the marketin point of view? Well, the answer is, four. There's Eleanor, then there's Darren who communicates with the press, Sara, who is responsible for the newslettera nd social networks, and their boss (Director of Communication for the college) who eversees it. And they have to cover 110 events in 7 weeks!
Just like everyone else we met at Bard, Eleanor is very enthusiastic about her job, and I must tell you it's contagious. You instantly feel a compelling desire to go and work. That is maybe one thing that fascinates me about Bard the most: everyone is really doing what they are so passionate about. And that is why it works so well.

My last week at Bard was hard though, because I cauht a very bad cold. Here's a still life showing how my last week went: pills, hot tea and George sitting lonelely at my bedside. This doesn't mean I missed the BMF! I did not! And I hope the next entry will finally be about it.
And now I must finally go unpack :)
P.S. One other thing I wanted to tell you about (but never did) is that I went to a huge exhibition of Doris Salcedo's works at the Guggenheim. Yes, it's the artist who made Sibboleth, a huge crack running through the newly built Tate Modern building in London eight years ago. Do check her works out. She deals with the feeliongs of loss, with social injustice and with, you know, real life. Yes, the gost of Mr Kusej floated over her exhibition, smiling. And I cried.
I'm here to like your entry. And I hope to see your long conspects ))
Они тебе не очень пригодятся, пч они про то, как Фишер работает, а у нас иначе всё.
Ты просил комментарий про Сальседо.
Во-первых: спасибо. Это было страшно и да, очень кушейно.
(хотя все-таки я рада, что в Atrabiliarios в описании значится animal fiber and surgical thread, а не те ужасы, что ты рассказывал).
И зацепило-таки сильно, поэтому в два часа ночи я не сплю, а читаю вот это:

Очень страшно еще она говорит про невозможность изменить что-либо средствами искусства.

А более внятное что-нибудь я еще доформулирую. Не могу пока ((, должно уложиться в голове.
Some clarification is in order here, I think. With your permission:

1. Apart from his two well-known (and invariably poorly performed and inadequately staged) masterpiece operas, Tchaikovsky's production in that genre is a bit off - in my opinion, anyway. The Maiden is an ugly child the author wouldn't give up on, making corrections, inserting and subtracting fragments till the end of his career, to no avail (Verdi had a similar relationship with Lady MacBeth, with similar results). The others - Cherevichki, Iolanta, etc - are, in my opinion, unworthy of the composer's brilliance. Prove me wrong, and I'll be first to congratulate you. But please answer me this (if you don't mind, that is) - what is so great about Voyevoda? I mean, how's the music? Any good?

2. I've long since come to regard anything Ostrovsky wrote prior to "Every Wise Man" as fluffy nonsense in which the author is found, much too often, pandering to the tastes of his prospective sponsors. Is Voyevoda a good play? On par with, say, The Forest and Talents and Admirers? In your opinion?

3. Sargent's a fake? You shock me, Maestro. Please elaborate. Not a trick question.
1. As the joke goes, 'for whom how'. Judging by your description, you are not very fond of the very idea of another Tchaikovsky's opera; well, tastes differ ;)

2. It's a comedy and not a particularly engaging one, but then again, tastes differ. The play certainly appealed to Tchaikovsky; and the way it was reworked, you will not find a lot of Ostrovsky in the libretto.

3. Sargent definitely is. He is painting all this lovely sell-able merchandize where everyone looks the same, whether it be a poet, a surgeon or Lady Macbeth (I am not very sure as to how the historic figure is spelled, but the character of Shakespeare has no capital 'B'). He basically exploits the lifestyle and the time period, turning it into a sweet lovely postcard for everyone to enjoy. The Net makes no attempt to deny it: they made a separate souvenir shop dedicated to Sargent, and guess what they are selling there? Oh yes, fancy cravats, straw hats and lady gloves. Exactly as painted.
The only question is, whether Sargent realized what he was doing or not. Helena's point is, he was. Mine, uh... nale, I'm afraid for me he is exactly a boite-aux-chocolats painter.
One wise thing about having some five rooms of his portraits in a museum is that after that you really do want to go see something else. You can't just pop in to the exhibition and leave with this cloying sweetness in your mouth.
That's what I meant by "я понимаю"! :D Then again, he is not the worst. And his Lady Macbeth is a portrait of a real person, and a pretty good likeness. Dante Gabriel Rossetti sticks his favourite model (all right, two models), like, literally, everywhere, and no one cares. Sargent is not one of the greats, of course, but fake seems kind of a strong word. He is not the worst. :D
DGR (and the Brotherhood as a whole) is trying to, uh, create something, you know. Maybe he's also not after art but after a lifestyle, but he's making something out of nothing, and Sargent is not. That is what I mean by 'fake', not that his art is not crafty enough. It certainly is.
Oh, and his Lady M pic is so unimpressive to me. I mean, it's a fucking Lady fucking M (and not the worst actress playing her). Isn't she worth a bit more, um, emotion?
С приездом и тут! :-))

Да, про Сарджента было бы интересно. Не, "я понимаю", но не так уж он, вроде бы, плох. Не совсем ведь boite-aux-chocolats художник.
А я привёз тебе картиночку с Отеем, хотя и без автографа.
Уменьшительно-ласкательные суффиксы принадлежат всему русскому народу, и бездумное оных разбазаривание называется на языке законников «растрата». Фу. Картиночку, надо же.
Now please tell me: how did it come to be that you would do a project on "The Voyevoda"?
Do they have the Ostrovsky piece in their library (and in what language)?
What are you planning to do in short-, mid- and long-term, regarding this Tchaikovsky opera?

And I'm taking my place in the queue to read your biggish notes.
Long story short, I wanted to do a project on staging an obscure opera - and use Botstein's experience in pulling it off ;-) But eventually my advisor and I decided not to make this too generic, and find an opera of our own to try to make a proposal of putting it on somewhere.
Neither of us is a particularly practical person, so instead of calculating the budget and looking for sponsors,either real or imaginary, we decided to make it into an essay about the opera itself. So here goes.
I must confess 'The V' was chosen by me almost at random, but I'm glad it was.