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Wednesday | Oct 07, 2009

Pagliacci | Stage Director Blog: Garnett Bruce


It’s 4:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep. After a year of planning, we are now poised to start principal rehearsals this morning. It’s a chance to reunite with several colleagues from past productions and to meet some singers new to me who are mightily impressive. Our chorus has worked hard the past week to capture the letter and the spirit of Leoncavallo’s choral writing, and we had the first staging rehearsal with the Ragazzi (Italian for “kids”) yesterday emphasizing key words like “Evviva!” and “Indietro” and “Arrivano !” for dramatic and vocal effect.

What keeps a stage director up at night? The pieces can’t stage themselves – nor should they. We’ve brought an extremely creative cast together, and I want to see their best ideas, their responses and reactions to the characters and situations. But, just as the strongest writer craves an editor, the best opera wants guidance, balance, and a taut storyline. Essential to this is the score. I try and base my decisions on the music – honoring pauses, tempo changes, the small indications from the composer – so that the visual story mirrors and enhances the aural one. Perhaps that’s what keeps me up at night. Do I know the score well enough? We’re listening to a bunch of clowns – or so the title says. Pagliacci is the plural of one of the Italian words for clown. Which will we believe: the clown or the human? Are we expressing ourselves or performing for you? Part of the genius of this opera is this underlying paradox.

The music is in the hands of Richard Buckley, my trusted friend and colleague. We have collaborated on Tosca, Turandot and Pagliacci over the past several years. He knows how to make these pieces crackle with life, with vigor, and above all, with dramatic intent. While we all have cherished recordings, they are placeholders for the shared experience of 100 musicians focused on a central theme, a central goal in a theater full of engaged listeners. As Pagliacci unfolds, Richard is with me at every step with his attention to our blueprint (the score) and his instinctive pacing and leadership.

One moment we staged yesterday with chorus had no singing in it whatsoever. The townspeople return from church (or the tavern) and head home before the evening’s Commedia dell arte performance. Its background to the principal action of a fight between Canio and Nedda over her supposed infidelity which we have yet to stage. With the energy of 40 additional characters onstage, the dimensions of the story become exponential. Now each of these chorus “stories” are attached to a soundtrack and we have the Verismo (“slice of life”) world unfolding in front of us. Key moments in opera almost always happen in isolation, but when the powers (and sheer numbers) collide and combine; Opera shows its true force. The visual drama on the stage matches the energy of this score. But hopefully our audience will be too caught up in the opera to notice the solid construction behind it. Pagliacci can be a harrowing ride. That’s our challenge. As rehearsals to begin — and maybe I can get the ideas out of my head, onto the stage and I can get some sleep!

Monday | Sep 28, 2009

It’s LIVE

Opera Omaha’s all-new website went live last week just in time for the first mainstage production, Pagliacci. Starting the week of October 5th, you’ll be able to follow the rehearsal process with Blog entries from our cast and artistic staff. Get ready and get your tickets; you don’t want to miss Pagliacci!

Pagliacci Fri | Oct 16 | 7:30 pm
[Buy tickets] Sun | Oct 18 | 2:00 pm

Tuesday | Aug 11, 2009

Barbecü to Burgers – the culinary side of Opera

Das Barbecü was a blast! Our cast and band did a fabulous job!

If you missed the BBQ – you still have time to get to Burgers & Bordeaux. The Opera Omaha Guild’s Burgers & Bordeaux is the perfect end of the summer event. Five top area chefs compete in a Best Burger throw down and you get to taste samples of each entry. Appetizers and desserts are also included with adult tickets. Amazing wine selections from Hans Fahden Vineyard, Goosecross Cellars, and other wineries will be available for $5 per glass and includes a souvenir wine glass. Family activities will be available to entertain kids of all ages. Cast your vote for your favorite or just enjoy a delicious summer event with friends and family.

Tickets available by call the Opera Omaha Box Office at (402) 346-7372 or online

Burgers & Bordeaux – An Opera Omaha Guild Event

Sunday, August 30, 2009 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Location: Sunset Valley Country Club 93rd & Arbor Streets

Adults: $35 Adv, $40 at door

Selected Wines: $5

Kids (12 & under): $5 – hot dog & chips

Tuesday | Jul 14, 2009

Das Barbecu

Hey You All!
You’re invited to attend Opera Omaha’s Das Barbecü on Friday, July 24. Part of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild About Omaha Weekend, this production and other events are free and open to the public. Performed on the Bow Truss outside The KANEKO [1111 Jones Street], the three performances begin at 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
Das Barbecü is based on the four epic operas written by Richard Wagner in the late 1800’s. These works, known as The Ring of the Nibelung, are considered by many to be the ultimate operatic saga and to experience the entire series you would need to devote over 17 hours of your time. Luckily, our story brilliantly sums it all up in a little over an hour.

You Put Country Western Music in My Opera – two great styles go together. Das Barbecü is a country western spoof of Wagner’s Ring Cycle showcasing the talent of six local actors playing more than 30 outrageous characters with music style ranging from Broadway to Texas swing and from jazz to country two-step.

BBQ, beer and dessert will be available for purchase with our Das Barbecü; complimentary bottled water will be provided. You won’t want to miss this irreverent, slightly risqué, old-fashioned musical that is fun for everyone.

Tuesday | Jun 23, 2009

Burgers & Bordeaux

The Opera Omaha Guild adds more sizzle to the summer cook out tradition.

Get ready for a day of family fun, delicious grilled creations and fabulous wines at the Guild’s Burgers & Bordeaux on Sunday, August 30, 2009. Five top area chefs compete in a gourmet burger throw down. Putting a new twist on a classic summer grilling tradition, samples of each of the gourmet creations will be served along with amazing wines. Special guest Karen Fahden will pour wines from Hans Fahden Vineyards. Wines selections also will come from Goosecross Cellars and other wineries. Celebrity judges will determine the “Best Grilled Burger in Omaha”. Family activities will be available to entertain kids of all ages.

Sunday, August 30, 2009 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Location: Sunset Valley Country Club 91st & Arbor Street
Adults: $35 Adv, $40 at door
Selected Wines: $5 (includes one souvenir wine glass)
Kids (12 & under): $5 – hot dogs & chips

For tickets or more information contact the Opera Omaha Box Office at opera@operaomaha.org or (402) 346-7372.

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