First in a series of writings on words emerging from music
Gretchen, out on a bender, posts a Tweet-to-regret. She ends the night passed out in bed and the next morning, as her alarm clock wakes her from disturbing liquor-soaked dreams, she sees her phone melting with alerts. The Twitterverse has found it’s next meal and Gretchen watches as everything she values about herself is systematically and instantaneously dismantled before her eyes.
This is the premise of my recent work, a VideOpera entitled When Falling…Dive. In collaboration with composer, Peter Michael von der Nahmer, we are working to finish this short opera created specifically for video. We are launching an Indegogo campaign to raise the funds to produce this VideOpera ourselves.
Check out our Indegogo promo video, follow the link to our crowdfunding page and join the movement to support this project.
Life is Short | Make Opera
Thanks for reading
My silence over the last few months is an indication of how intensively I’ve been working on developing my librettist muscle. It’s been a mind-blowingly productive and creative time; I’m just getting started!
Currently I am working with composer, Peter Michael von der Nahmer on a VideOpera (it’s exactly what it sounds like, an opera created for video) about a woman and her tortured relationship with Twitter.
We are producing this ourselves and are about to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise some money so we can cover the cost of production and pay our artists. If you want to learn more about this cool little project and would like to be added to our mailing list, use the link below to take you to our sign-up page. This will add you to our list so we can share campaign launch information and updates with you.
This is an inspiring project and many people are starting to get as excited about it as we are. Join the movement and follow the link below to join our mailing list!
Sign up and, please, share this with your friends and family.
Thank you! MMN & PMvdN
Today feels special like a birthday or a really cool new pair of shoes Something’s in the air saying “Today is the day! Get out and have fun – you … Continue reading Today Feels Special
What happens in the middle of the night when a couple of angels run into a goat, a cop, a vet and a rabbinical student in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn?
An R rated fantasy, that’s what.
So by now you know that I want to write librettos and I’ve been working at it on my own, in concentrated style, for a bit now. Last night I came to realize that I’m approaching the “horse” – as it were – from the wrong end (aka: ass backwards.) I am not surprised because that is how I seem to approach everything in life that is important to me.
Sitting in a Master Class with David Henry Hwang, author of many notable works of opera & theatre including M Butterfly, I was surprised to learn that he has never approached a composer with an idea for an opera. He has always been the one approached because he believes, and rightly so, that the composer is the one who truly drives an operatic piece. When he has an idea of his own he turns it into a play.
This had a double effect on me: a) I was depressed and b) relieved.
Depressed because I am brimming with ideas that I can totally visualize being sung on a stage and relieved at understanding the way I was going about being a librettist could be accomplished in a different way.
walk up to a composer, hand her a script and say – compose something to this. Most people who have spent a lifetime honing their compositional skills would be justified in telling me to fuck off.
I get it now. In the dance of making this most complex of collaborative art forms come alive it has to start with an idea. A core idea. The librettist constructs good literary bones upon which, if inspired, a composer can take and make her own.
What I create is not mine to keep. What I create I create to give away to lift the creative wings of another. What I create lives on by the grace of others and along the way I relinquish control. It’s just like having a child: and it hurts just as much to let it go.
Writing librettos and working with composers is what I truly want to do with the rest of my life. So my course correct will be this: write plays. Fulfill on the visions I have and make them into something that can come alive on a stage for actors to work with. For purely operatic ideas all I need do at this point is write narrative, to compose my own poetry, to let the Fantazmagorium of wacky passionate ideas rolling around in my beating heart flow out on the page and trust. I must trust the ground I’ve laid out already and the new ground I’m building will bring me face to face with the right people at the right time. I must trust. I must trust, I must write and trust, I must write and trust and share my work.
Progress occurs when preparation meets opportunity
Time to get back to work – thanks for reading.
So Monday night I sat amid giants & idols like Missy Mazzoli, Beth Morrison, Royce Vavrik and David Devan; producers of contemporary opera in America – women & men spearheading the future of this medium for the rest of the world to follow. If you can imagine what a flea hovering about your head must feel like as you swat it out of the way, well, I was that flea Monday night
sitting in the Peter B. Lewis Theater underdeath the Guggenheim museum – only difference was I wasn’t buzzing around anyone’s head. That would have been weird. I was a well behaved flea who didn’t get in anyone’s ointment or march defyantly around the rim of anyone’s coctkail glass. I’m taking the metaphore too far…I am not a flea, I am a human being and if there is any great difference, truly, between a flea and a human being it’s that I make meaning of things where the flea does not. In fact I am unable to not make things mean things but that’s a story for another day.
So there I was, a virtual flea, listening to giants discuss the creation of a new opera, Breaking the Waves, that premieres at Opera Philadelphia next week. I paid the equvalent of a good seat in the Family Circle at The Metropolitan Opera on a Saturday night to listen to a select number of chamber pieces – performed by the amazing lead cast & musicians – and hear the composer, librettist, conductor and director discuss their process. Why would I do such a thing? Wouldn’t the value have been in networking like crazy and leave with at least one good contact? That is what a flea would have done.
That is not why I was there. At another time I will do that, probably yes, but this was the beginning of a grand adventure that I’ve been working my way towards for the better part of five years.
Attending the Works and Process event made manifest (even for just a tiny fraction of a moment) what I have been saying I want…to be a librettist and be part of the modern opera movement. I did have one interaction with a person-of-note (nobody mentioned here thus far) that didn’t go so well. We chatted a bit and when she asked me what I was doing there I blurted out “I want to be doing what they’re doing!” pointing at the stage filled with empty chairs and music stands. She quickly ended our conversation and I sat in my seat feeling the sting of having been swatted out of the way. I deserved it. Did I show up to this most intimate of opera events unprepared? Well, yes I did. I went in there with one intention; to fully immerse myself in the Society of Amazing Peole who Produce Opera for a Living. SAPPOL – and damit that’s exactly what I did!
Back to giants and idols: Being Jewish, I have learned that idols are bad, bad things to be shunned and avoided at all cost. I can and do ascribe to the principle that bowing down to a piece of brightly painted clay begging for salvation, or a new job, is something rediculus and potentially damaging. But then I went to the dictionary to broaden my meaning of the word.
- Word Origin of idol from Late Latin īdōlum, from Latin: image, from Greek eidōlon, from eidos shape, form – courtesy of dictionary.com
So breaking it down, an idol is basically a mental image or a physical shape or form worth one’s time to comment on. An idol stands out, an idol is attractive, an idol is – ultimately – unrealistic. So if I want to be doing what Royce Vavrik is doing, for example, and doing it in my own way and at my own pace then his status as an idol really morphs more into that of a model, a suggestion of what I could be some day. I admire the work he does as a librettist and I know he puts one foot in front of the other as he walks down the street. He just happens to be WAY further down the street than I am. I feel as though I keep starting even though each foray I take into the world of opera seems to bring me ever closer to the vision I have; perhaps there is nothing but starting from wherever I happen to be right now…hmmmm.
What’s my point here? So inspired as I was after Monday night I went back to investigating Master’s Degree programs in musical theatre. NYU being the logical place to look (‘cause that’s where Royce Vavrik went…probably when he was 25!) I got all excited all over again reading all about the program, how they put composition students together with playwriting students – colleges are starting to catch on about this medium called Opera – and then I read “applicants must be full-time students.” And I stopped. Here I am, 52 years old now, working a full time job ‘cause I have to, ready and so able to take this program on with more gusto and passion then I ever had as a 25 year old and I simply cannot fit my square-self into the NYU round hole: what I am is more of a hexagon, really.
And so, this realization brings me back to the idea I launched at the beginning of this year – to make my own course of study and stick to that course building my vision block by block by block.
The Mott Academy of Writing Librettos fall semester has officially started!
Ps. When I make it across the pond one of these days to visit family in Chichester I will make a point of dropping in on a coffee house near Dorset named Amid Giants & Idols.