Thursday | Mar 26, 2009

La Boheme – Artist Blogs: Garnett Bruce

Returning to a familiar score like La Bohème is one of the joys of our business. When I open the pages, almost like a journal, my small scribbles, cue indications, marginal comments are links back to memories, great and horrible. In 1996, I was involved in 3 different productions of this opera and all three were beset with trauma. I actually felt the show was cursed and put the score on a shelf for about five years.

Production A was a revival that I was staging for another director in a big theater. We had late arrivals, language barriers, and a slightly enlarged concept – all the neighbors of Rodolfo & friends were added, including the very nosy wife of the landlord Benoit. Extra figures in the piece like this are tricky – especially if the principal artists start to feel neglected or upstaged. That’s when the fur starts to fly! Or illness sets in, feigned or otherwise. I had a footstool hurled at me in rehearsal in anger (and I will never, ever, forget the Italian word for footstool again: SGABELLO!), a soprano storm out in a screaming fury, the original director rip me apart the day he arrived for (god forbid) adapting some bit of business for the new artist in the role, etc. No fun.

Production B was a very small vanity project for a certain soprano. Trying to be helpful ended up getting me roped into not only directing, but supernumerary recruiter, props master, rehearsal space negotiator, scheduler, etc. Somehow, a small donation of time overwhelmed my life for nearly 2 weeks (with very little compensation). I did have a chance to explore some of my own ideas about the piece, but more through the forced compromises of the situation than artistic principals. I suppose “damage control” would be the most apt description. Painful process.

Production C was a last minute replacement situation. It was high-profile revival that needed a good shepherd. However, I wasn’t hired to maintain the production after it opened. On the day of the final performance the scheduled Marcello and Rodolfo were ill. A flu bug was going around, but we had no idea how serious it would get. Schaunard was going to move up to Marcello, and a new Schaunard was located the day before. And I was asked to come back for the day and coordinate. By the end of the performance that evening we had been through 3 Rodolfos, 3 Marcellos, 2 Schaunards, and we were on the verge of losing the Colline to the same flu bug, but he managed to hold it together. I was re-staging scenes behind the curtain at the act changes; we went into 3 increments of overtime. We started Act IV; we had 4 bohemians who had never sung the piece with one another, 3 of whom had never seen the set before! Talk about your nail-biting experiences! Yet the audience was completely thrilled, knowing they were witnessing history! And, it was so earnest, so improvisational, and so emotional; it was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience! And hard enough that I decided to step away from Bohème for a while.

With a piece so familiar, everyone assumes ‘they know it’ and often fail to invest time or energy into re-creating it with new spirit. So, part of my preparation is to acknowledge my past with the piece (those old notes, those ghosts), and relegate it to “foundation” work as we re-animate the piece with our new cast.

I know many of these singers from previous engagements. Some of them are singing these roles for the very first time. Who knows what the conversations will be? Like a great recipe, you can make it again and again, and new ingredients spice things up and keep it fresh. You’ll be hearing from most of them in this blog over the next two weeks, and then seeing the results onstage. I hope the piece will be renewed for you, as we bring our knowledge and experience to focus on a masterpiece of the operatic literature.

Thursday | Mar 05, 2009

Ooh La La – Gala Boheme

FL (aka Fat Lady) here to invite all you darlings to
Gala Boheme at The Slowdown on Saturday March 14th. Inspired by Opera Omaha’s upcoming La Bohème, The Slowdown will be transformed into a high energy cabaret club.
Not your traditional ‘Gala’ – this party has pricing and party options. Join us at 6:15 pm for cocktails and a silent auction followed by dinner and live music by Seattle’s French cabaret styled ensemble group, Rouge. Tickets for the dinner and concert are $200 per person (Bon Vivant Ticket) or $175 per person for young professional 40 years or younger (Bohemian Ticket). For individuals wanting to add a private pre-party, Puccini’s Clique Tickets are $250 per person. The pre-party begins at 5:30 pm and features Rouge vocalist, Janet Rayor, showcasing her stilt walking entertainment.
Want to just check out Rouge? The doors open at 8:00 pm for a Concert Only option. Concert Only tickets are $10 per person.
Tickets and additional information are available by calling Opera Omaha at 346-4398 and online at

Friday | Feb 06, 2009

Valentine Greetings

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Thursday | Dec 11, 2008

Happy Holidays

Ah, my dear Friends!

Your old friend The Fat Lady here, wishing all my Opera Omaha pals the absolute best holidays ever! I was sitting the other day, deciding about the number of zeros I would add to my annual gift to Opera Omaha and reflecting on this most eventful fall, and I decided to share some thoughts with all of you.

Deep in contemplation, in my warmest slippers and robe, and with ceramic heater blazing, I realized how proud I was of Opera Omaha. The Blizzard Voices was a wonderful moment for our community, made even richer by the clothing drive and special ticket offer for teachers. Harrowing though it was, my experience with the Pirates of Penzance was ultimately uplifting. For you darlings that love to reminisce like I do, you can read the full details of my adventure at And then, there was Choral Collaborative! All of those bright, shining high school faces bursting forth in song. What better service for an arts organization than to get young people singing!

My friends at Opera Omaha and I are so grateful to you for your help in making all of this possible. Your purchase of tickets, gifts of money and time, and your advocacy for what we know is THE most beautiful and transforming entertainment around … all of these gifts made us think about giving you a present this holiday season.
So, sweeties, here goes. Many of you know that one of the Great People of Opera, our own Giacomo Puccini, turns 150 years young this month. We at Opera Omaha will celebrate with the help of our good friends at KVNO (90.7 Classical FM, Omaha’s home for the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts). Tune in on Monday, December 22nd throughout the day and hear Puccini’s music, tidbits about the man and for chances to win Opera Omaha tickets. Cap off the day by having your very own Perfect Puccini Party. We’ve added some wonderful recipes and listening suggestions to our website,, so that you can add a little Puccini to your holidays.
From all of us at Opera Omaha come warm wishes to you as you celebrate this special season. Keep a song in your heart and some Puccini Punch in your glass, and we’ll see you next year at one of the wonderful events only Opera Omaha can bring!

Wishing you the Jolly Giacomo-est of Holidays!

Tuesday | Nov 25, 2008

Who knew I’d like the Cod ? My first three events in Omaha were all marked by fantastic questions and conversations with loyal patrons and opera lovers. But the Wine Seller’s Dinner was a unique and fantastic event. Four reasonably priced wines complemented by four courses designed specifically for the occasion by four local chefs ! And Le Voltaire came up with a “Black Cod on an Onion Medley Confit served over truffle Polenta” which was paired with a Bridalwood Viognier. I would never have ordered this at the restaurant because I am not a fish fan — but I would rush to embrace this meal again ANYTIME !

But my fish also makes me think about some of our audience’s aversion to Opera. Get it in front of them and they might actually love it at first bite, but the hard part is getting them over the threshold. So, it was really rewarding that so many folks attended the Dr Atomic lecture prior to the Filmstreams broadcast — folks that wanted a leg up to understand the complex John Adams/Peter Sellars opera. Proof positive that Omaha is an adventurous and erudite society that is willing to take the risk on contemporary opera from a safe distance.

Likewise, the Puccini 101 class was filled to capacity. Such a well-known composer amongst those of us in the profession, but again, realizing the folks here wanted a bit more information to go with their experiences with these classic works. I was glad to introduce some music we don’t hear very often and to help frame a context for who Puccini was as we head into this 150th Birthday year and ultimately La Boheme. Hopefully those patrons who attended these events can be ambassadors for the opera to the “newcomers” — helping a few more local folks to try the cod !



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