As stage director for Stanford Opera Workshop, I've had the opportunity to design and produce many operatic productions starring students from the Stanford Music Department. Usually collaborating with Professor Marie-Louise Catsalis, the Musical Director and Producer of Stanford Opera Workshop, and Professor in Vocal Performance Nova Jimènez, I've worked on these pieces in many different capacities, learning how to do everything from choosing the individual songs and scenes that will comprise a production, blocking scenes, teaching improv and acting technique to students, designing and constructing sets, creating and collecting prop and costume pieces, stage managing, and working with professionals from the San Francisco Opera. Most of these productions were offered as courses in the Music Department.
Inspired by Punchdrunk's Sleep No More, we will give the audience black masks and candles and set them loose to observe and interact with whatever they'd like in our a-linear, 'haunted house' Don Giovanni, set near the Stanford Mausoleum. Not only does this make the audience an important part of the work, it enables the actors to explore their characters beyond the traditional limitation of who gets to be onstage when. Everyone is onstage, all the time, making character arcs clearer and the theatrical experience fully immersive. Throughout the area will be hidden small props, lights, and objects that will either be used in future or past scenes, or add a secret clue, like letters and trinkets from Giovanni's former lovers, makeup and hair products, strings of warm-colored light, a spinning desk chair, and clothing items . In this way, the show will reference exploratory video games, in which a player can examine the parts of the world that interest them and thereby craft their own experience. This project is currently in development and will be performed in Spring 2015.
In this pedestrian performance of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, we performed 16 scenes in different locations around Stanford campus, interconnected by a walking tour led by Figaro. In our modernized version of the story, Figaro and Susanna are young Stanford alums returning to campus for their wedding, the Count is a startup tycoon whose success has gone to his head, and Cherubino is a lovestruck undergrad. The production featured a 4-part mobile orchestra, a 9-person cast, and was funded by a SPARK! grant. I conceptualized the project, wrote and received the grant, co-wrote the script, cast and mentored student performers, produced, stage directed, mentored the undergraduate music director, accompanied on rehearsal piano, assisted the stage manager, co-designed and acquired props and costumes, and communicated with university administrators regarding space usage regulations. I also wrote a rhyming English translation of the libretto during the conceptualization phase, before choosing to perform the show in the original Italian. Figaro Program Master Cue Book, with maps
With support from Stanford Live, I directed a production of Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, in miniature, with main roles sung by Stanford students and SF Opera professionals, a chorus and orchestra composed of community members from Stanford and from the German International School of Silicon Valley, and stage management and lighting design by SF Opera professionals. In my staging, champagne provided inspiration for the set (two enormous champagne bottles in Act II) and party-goers poured bubble solution into champagne glasses and blew bubbles throughout the chorus scenes. The set, which I designed, was a simple rig of hanging gold ribbons which were tied up for Acts I and II, then released to create the illusion of a jail cell for Act III. Besides stage direction and set design, I tech directed, co-designed and acquired props and costumes, created the supertitles, supertitle cue book, and mentored the student supertitlist, and worked closely with Marie-Louise Catsalis, the music director and producer. See Stanford Daily review. Dress Rehearsal Act I Dress Rehearsal Act I-Act II Dress Rehearsal End of Act II-Act III Fledermaus set design
The works of Shakespeare have inspired many artistic 'spin-offs' for centuries. In this course we studied works from the genres of opera, operetta and musical theatre from the point of view of reproduction, adaptation and transformation. We performed excerpts from the following works: Verdi's Falstaff; Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor; Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict; Porter's Kiss Me Kate; Bernstein's West Side Story and Elton John's The Lion King. The final product was a staged production, written, directed and performed by our team (with homage to Shakespeare).
For this production, I stage directed and served as Arts Intensive Program Assistant, which means I assistant-produced the class and co-taught students. I also mentored the students writing the script and co-designed and acquired props and costumes. This production was music directed by Marie-Louise Catsalis and Nova Jimènez gave vocal and movement direction.
This production intermingled Gounod's opera and Bernstein's musical, portraying different Romeos and Juliets together. Condensing the story allowed a fundamental message to emerge more clearly: innocent love succumbing to prejudice and hatred. By alternating between the opera and the musical, we created a story that mixed elements of each - the elegance of a waltz with the gritty roughness of a street fight. Besides stage directing, set designing, and stage managing, I set-constructed, co-designed and acquired props and costumes, co-wrote the course syllabus, and mentored students on performing their backstage roles. This production was music directed by Marie-Louise Catsalis.
This project involved scenes featuring the unfortunate Queen Genevieve de Brabant, a semi-mythic figure whose honor was destroyed when she was accused of betraying her husband King Siegfried. The central focus of my staging was a canopy bed, which served as a reminder of Genevieve's supposed adultery, a backdrop to the scenes taking place in a forest, and provided an intimate, feminine setting for the scenes at court. Between the scenes, professors from Art History, German Studies, Religious Studies, and Musicology gave 5-minute presentations about different aspects of the myth. This production was music directed by Marie-Louise Catsalis.
For Opera-tions, I stage directed the third piece and was the stage manager for all three pieces, each of which examined a different aspect of the process of making opera: Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor, Henry Cowell's The Commission, and Giancarlo Aquilanti's First Night at the Opera. For First Night, which had its world premiere in this production, I filmed the actual audience entering the auditorium and then projected that film while the singers performed their parts as opera-goers attending a premiere and finding their seats in the "audience." For this production, besides directing and set designing the third piece, I called lighting cues, tech directed, constructed sets, and designed and acquired prop and costume pieces.
This production was created during Arts Intensive, a 2-week period in September in which undergraduates with little to no experience focus intensively on improving in an art form. I stage directed the students in a production of Mozart pieces, which were tied together loosely by an abstract storyline about a magic feather (symbolizing love and composition). This production was vocally directed by Nova Jimènez and music directed by Marie-Louise Catsalis.
As the concept designer and dramaturg for Der Jasager, I imagined the piece set in an ant colony, emphasizing the totalitarian message of Brecht/Weill's work and giving the piece an unsettling otherworldliness. Each character, including the chorus (students and parents from a local German school), was given an ant mask, which they then removed to confront the audience in the final number. Various aspects of ant biology were woven into the piece and an Entomology professor spoke on a panel with a Musicologist and a Brecht scholar after one of the performances. This production was stage directed by Nova Jimènez and music directed by Marie-Louise Catsalis.