Friday, July 30, 2010

Operetta Workshop Presents: The Mikado

Yesterday I stopped by the final dress rehearsal for the Operetta Workshop's production of The Mikado, and I can assure you it's going to be a great show! Enjoy a few pictures of the cast, and stop by the Opera House today at 6pm in the main theater to see this fantastic show!

Monday, July 19, 2010

American Ballet Theatre Summer Dance Intensive

For the past three weeks, young dancers from around the country have been perfecting their skills and learning new techniques under the direction of top quality American Ballet Theatre artistic staff, alumni and guest teachers. The program has earned the reputation for being the most thorough and rewarding dance experience a student can have during the summer. As the dancers finish up their last week at the intensive and prepare for their final performance, I asked student Katherine Gibson and ABT instructor Samantha Shelton a few questions about their ABT Summer Intensive experience.

Gibson has been studying different forms of dance for ten years now and this is her second year at the ABT Summer Intensive.

One of her favorite things she’s done in class is partnering. The steps for White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake were explained to the students (though it will not be performed at the final student performance), who were then given the chance to practice the routine before dancing with the music.

Gibson noted that she has learned many important things this summer at the intensive. She says that each teacher focuses on a different aspect of ballet. While some, like artistic director Alaine Haubert (pictured above), concentrate on form and technique, other teachers emphasize personality in dancing or techniques to remember complicated dance combinations, like Samantha Shelton.

A unique aspect of the DOH’s 6th floor Chrysler Foundation "black box" theater is that it doesn’t have a mirror. Gibson said “…I realized that I dance better when I'm forced to feel where my body is positioned instead of looking in a mirror to see what I was doing wrong. This helped me improve my technique and pick up combinations quicker because I wasn't worried about looking in the mirror. It helped me focus on my own corrections.”

Gibson is very excited for the final performances on the opera house stage. Its large size gives her a different feeling from other performances at home. “I feel like I have to project my dancing to the very back of the huge house whereas other stages don't give me the same energy.”

Instructor Samantha Shelton has been on faculty for the ABT Summer Intensives for fifteen years, but has been studying dance for many more (she trained at U of M, in New York, and with the Joffrey Ballet). At the DOH, she loves the studio and space and the amazing stage that she notes as spacious and gorgeous. And her favorite part about working with the students? Their great enthusiasm.

The ABT Summer Intensive final performances will be on Friday, June 23 at 1:00 and 4:00.

Tickets are available at the door or through the box office at $15 for adults and $10 for children under 15.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Learning at the Opera House: Operetta Workshop

Another great summer music program was launched this week as part of Learning at the Opera House. The Operetta Workshop is a three-week day camp for young people to learn acting, singing, and dancing. This year they are working on The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. The show is directed by Julie Smith, who is enjoying her third year as director of the camp. Around 35 participants ranging in age from 10 to 18 meet at the opera house five days a week for three weeks, leading up to a final performance that will take place on Friday, July 30, 2010 at 6 pm in the Opera House. They are performing the full opera, including costumes and sets, so there is no time to waste!

They got started right away on Monday morning, introducing the show, rehearsing music, and going over audition tips. Auditions were held on Wednesday, and the cast was announced the same day. The auditions are held in front of everyone; it allows the cast to get comfortable singing in front of an audience. Every participant is given a recording of the music so they can practice at home. The goal is to have all music and dialogue memorized by the end of the second week, but some cast members will be off book before that.

I sat in on a rehearsal today to see how things are progressing and was blown away by the talent of the cast! Everywhere I looked I saw work being done; while a sectional was held to review parts of Act I with Julie in one room, some were in the hall reviewing lines and a few were listening to a recording and singing along. The voices are young but strong, and well-suited to the music. I was only hearing the very beginning of music rehearsals, I can only imagine what I'll hear in two weeks at the final performance!

I talked to director Julie Smith about what makes this workshop so special, and she remarked that all summer music programs are special because they provide the "extra oomph" that most kids don't get during the school year in a music class. Gilbert and Sullivan is a great choice of repertoire for this age group because the music is well-known but not too difficult, and the plots are accessible, with issues young people can relate to. Julie hopes that the cast will leave with a sense of accomplishment, increased confidence, and new friendships.

Michelle, a 15-year-old who is back for her second round of Operetta Camp, says she first came to the camp because of her music teacher at school, who encouraged her to get involved in summer music activities. Michelle returned to the camp this year because even though the end goal is the performance, the camp still feels like a workshop.

I looked over the schedule for this week and was amazed at all the material that is covered in such a short time! Over the course of the camp, the cast will be introduced to music history, character development, diction, staging, costumes, rehearsal etiquette, and many other things that are required to get a show off the ground.

The Operetta Workshop is a great opportunity for young people to be introduced to opera, performing, and putting a show together. They meet other people who love performing, and in the end they get to sing on the Opera House Stage! I can't wait to see the final performance!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Create and Perform 2010

Check out some highlights from the Create and Perform workshop's final performance that took place last week at the Opera House!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Create and Perform 2010

For the past two weeks kids from all over metro Detroit have been meeting at the Opera House for the Create and Perform workshop, one of this summer's Learning at the Opera House programs. The program was created by Karen DiChiera as a way to teach beginning composition, creative thinking, and cooperative problem solving to kids ages 10-18. I sat in on a rehearsal for their final performance, which takes place tomorrow, July 9th, at 4 pm.

The two-week program begins with a physical improvisation, where kids mime the use of an object and pass it on to the next person, who turns the object into something else, passes it on, and so on. The kids learn to express themselves through song cycles, skits, improvisation, and instrumental ensembles. Special guests local comedienne Fran Dent and members of the Audubon Society of Detroit stopped by to provide ideas and inspiration. I was surprised to see just how much material these kids have created in just two weeks! At the end of two weeks a performance is given for parents and friends to showcase all of the hard work that has been put in. Unfortunately the audience won't get to see everything; some material is cut to keep the program from getting too long.

One of the things I love about this program is that kids are allowed to create and explore without worrying about the 'rules' of composition. They are provided with an outline, then encouraged to be creative and improvise. Only after they've finished do they look back and figure out what they did. This approach quiets the inner critic and allows the kids to create and work without judgment, and the results are astounding! In just a short time I heard parts of an original song cycle, saw scripted skits, and a large group improvisation. The intense, focused environment provided by Karen DiChiera forces participants to push themselves creatively and work together with young people from different backgrounds.

I'm very excited to watch the final performance tomorrow at 4pm here at the Detroit Opera House, I can't wait to see the end product of all the hard work!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another new face at the DOH!

Hello! My name is Carrie, and like Eleanor, I started an internship at the Opera House this week! I just graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis with a Bachelor's in vocal performance. This is a photo of me singing Pamina in Butler's spring production of The Magic Flute (which you can see this spring at the Detroit Opera House, As a singer, the opera house is a very exciting place for me to be. I love the magic of opera; it moves you in a way no other live performance can. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share my love of opera with you!

The first opera I saw at the Detroit Opera House was Porgy and Bess. Porgy and Bess has a uniquely American feel; the voices are operatic but the subject matter and jazz influence are purely American. It also contains one of my favorite arias of all time, "Summertime." Click the link to see a fantastic performance of "Summertime" by the legendary Leontyne Price.

Of the operas I've seen, my favorites are probably Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach, La Traviata by Verdi, and La Boheme by Puccini, but there are so many more I'd love to see!

During my time here, I'm hoping to give you a look at what happens before the opera season starts, because there's a lot going on! Learning at the opera house is in full swing, dancers from all over the world are here, and of course we're preparing for our fantastic fall season!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the DOH interns!