Performances begin tomorrow night, June 6th at 8 PM for two short comic operas –Bastianello and Luxrezia– at Urban Arias at Artisphere. Director Alan Paul gives us a short preview of what we will see and hear in the intimate Black Box Theatre.
Joel: What is Urban Arias?
Alan: Urban Arias is a company that is dedicated to contemporary opera and contemporary opera composers. It’s run by a great guy named Robert Wood, who is a wonderful conductor. I have had the opportunity to work on a lot of pieces and it has brought together some amazing musicians and you get to hear opera in an intimate setting. It’s such a different and wonderful and different experience than going to a large opera house. You are in the Black Box in Artisphere and you are right there in the story.
I was in rehearsal the other day and I told them, “You are always in closeup! So all the grand gestures you would have to do there [in a large opera house] you don’t have to do here, because as you sing, the audience will be right here with you.”
These are short operas?
Yes. They are about 45 minutes long and have the same Librettist Mark Campbell and different composers. Bastianello‘s composer is John Musto, and Lucrezia‘s composer is William Bolcom. They have a lot of humor involved in them. And what’s most exciting is that there are two pianos. I’ve never worked with two pianos before. I always wanted to do a show with with two piano ever since I heard the cast recording of the revival of The Most Happy Fella.
I saw it in NYC a couple of times and loved it.
It was an amazing experience, wasn’t it? At the rehearsal last week both pianists, who have known each, had never played the score together. They were so fantastic. I asked them, “Have you been rehearsing this together?” And they hadn’t. It was so beautiful and it sounded like they had rehearsed together for weeks.
This is so different for you. You work at Shakespeare Theatre Company, and you just won a Helen Hayes Award for your direction of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
I did and it was a big, big thrill! I didn’t think that I was going to win! My mother was crying and I am up there talking to people and I was so excited. It was a fun night. It was amazing how many people posted something on facebook a few minutes later after I won, and everybody knew about it, and my friends following it closely in NY.
I hear you are directing another musical at Shakespeare Theatre Company.
I am directing Man of La Mancha. What people don’t know is that I have directed opera several times. I am directing a new short opera called Penny at American Opera Initiative at The Washington National Opera on January 23-24, 2015. It’s an hour-long opera by Composer Douglas Pew and Librettist Dara Weinberg.
What is so stimulating about directing opera?
When I was growing in Potomac, MD and all through College – like a lot of other people – I wanted to be a performer, and I wanted to be a singer. There was a voice teacher named Chrissellene G. Petropoulos, who had a great career in opera, and she instilled in me a love for Classical music. I started taking lessons from her when I was 9 years old., and she is still my mentor to this day. When I was going to college I was deciding if I should be a voice major in a conservatory or a theater major, I went to Northwestern because I could be in the Music Theatre Program but they would also give me a classical voice teacher who would allow me to study opera. But I ended up not being a performer.
Music has always been a passion of mine, and I have a past as a Music Director and accompanist. It helped to pay a lot of bills in college by being an accompanist for a voice teacher in the School of Music at Northwestern. And then when I graduated from college and I was living in Chicago it was so much easier to get jobs as a music director than it was as a director, because I could join an existing show as a Musical Director, so music and classical music has been part of my fiber for a long time.
So why should local theatre and music and opera lovers come to the Artisphere to see Urban Arias?
Because it will be a very fun night and you will hear great singing and both pieces are so different. The first piece is romantic and pastoral about a guy growing up, and the second piece is in Argentina about 1900 and it’s sexual and lusty and flirtatious and sensual, so you get two different flavors.
What I really want to impress is that they are all singing actors because they are extremely expressive and they all have a real ability to express a lot of complicated emotions on the stage. It’s been like working with actors who sing. And they can really sing! You’ll be glad you came.
Bastianello is a modern take on an Italian folk tale; a frustrated groom leaves his new bride after she spills a cask of wine at the wedding, vowing not to return until he’s found six greater fools than she is. Lucrezia is an updated riff on a play by Machiavelli, in which a plan to provide an elderly husband with an heir leaves his wife and her new lover equally satisfied.
Bastianello and Lucrezia plays on Friday, June 6th, Saturday, June 7th, Friday, June 13th, Saturday, June 14th at 8 PM and Sunday, June 15th at 2 pm at Urban Arias performing at The Artisphere – 1101 Wilson Boulevard, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, purchase them online.
Review of ‘She, After’ at UrbanArias at Artisphere by Justin Schneider.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld, Director Beth Greenberg, and Principle Artist Emily Pulley on UrbanArias’ ‘She, After.’
Review of ‘Paul’s Case’ at UrbanArias by Terry Byrne.
UrbanArias Presents ‘Blind Dates’ including ‘Craigslistlieder’ at IOTA on August 5th at 7 PM by Robert Wood.