Lost Childhood

FROM THE FRONTLINES

Lost Childhood logoLost Childhood
Music by Janice Hamer
Libretto by Mary Azrael
Based on the memoir by Yehuda Nir and his conversations with Gottfried Wagner
Commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects

____________________________________________________On July 29, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Steven Osgood said:

It is now a few hours since our performance and I am happy to report that “Lost Childhood” was a huge success! The cast rose to the occasion magnificently. The audience reaction was overwhelming.

I will reflect more on the experience when there is more time. Perhaps during the 12 hours flight home tomorrow!

-)

____________________________________________________On July 26, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Steven Osgood said:

Dress rehearsal is tomorrow, and things are shaping up. It was a very intense day again today, working some details in scenes in the morning, and then teching Act 2 in the afternoon.

There were some riveting moments this afternoon as we worked through Act 2. The dentist scene with its “Smell the Jew” ensemble is grotesque, and I think walks the fine line we need it to. There is a wonderful hush and stillness to the following scene with with the Hidden Jew and Julek whistling. The complexity of the situation is nicely captured during the instrumental passage that closes the scene. It is very touching.

The two scenes in the dentist office are proving some of the most difficult material for our singers to work on. The characters of Dr. Schmoll and Christine both spew such horrible words, that it is taking all they can muster to invest themselves in the characters. It is a wonderful challenge and exercise for the performers, and the more difficult it is for them, the more they are striking the right tone.

Tomorrow morning at 11 is our dress rehearsal. It would have been nice to have another run-through in the last couple of days, but the demands of the master schedule made it impossible. It will be an exciting morning, and everyone will desperately need the day off we get on Saturday.

____________________________________________________On July 25, 2007 at 5:45 pm

Steven Osgood said:

We are in the home stretch!

I rejoined the cast and the rest of the team yesterday after a week back in Virginia for another job. It seemed like a relatively short trip, but knowing how much takes place in any given day, it was a long time away. In my absence Ned Canty arrived in Tel Aviv and staged the entire opera. I am sorry to have missed that process.

I arrived back in Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon and went right to rehearsal. In the afternoon they worked through Act 1, and I got there in time to conduct a work-through of Act 2. It was very exciting to see all the work that has been done.

One of the tricky things is figuring out the right moment to introduce the composer into the rehearsal room. In this case, I know the cast is all very nervous about how things are coming together, and that the presence of the composer will be a moment of some trepidation. Today we were teching through Act 1 primarily, and it did not seem like the right timing. There are just SO many things going on during tech, musical values can be very elusive. Sorry Jan!

Tomorrow though Jan will be with us for most of the day. We begin with some individual scene work, and then after lunch continue with tech of Act 2. Still very much a working day, but the difference is that today the cast had a chance to meet Jan (as well as Yehuda and Gottfried) and, I am quite sure, got to see that she is no horrible monster. -)

I am thrilled with the dramatic work that has been done in staging the opera. There are always so many surprising moments– things I had never imagined happening in the opera, which seem so inevitable as I watch them. A little exchange between Lala and Christine in the dentist scene… the sight of Ludwig’s body lying on the stage through the entire final duet…. The richness of the piece, which I have appreciated on an abstract level for years, suddenly takes on such a tangible quality! And the vividness of each singer’s character has gained tremendous shading.

The symposium was very well attended this afternoon, but I will let someone else write about that. My day starts early tomorrow, and as always is quite intense. Plus the first opera production opens tomorrow night, so Lost Childhood will be capped by Barber of Seville.
____________________________________________________On July 25, 2007 at 5:48 am

Charles Jarden said:

Yesterday I joined my colleagues Steve Osgood, conductor and Ned Canty, director at the Vocal Arts Institute where rehearsals for LOST CHILDHOOD are underway. The contrast of being outside in the heat, sun and seaside town of Tel Aviv and walking into the dark, drama-filled halls where the intense rehearsals are taking place is quite startling. There is a story floating around the Institute of a chorister in the LOST CHILDHOOD, a child of survivors, who broke down and couldn’t sing in a rehearsal because she was so choked up by the emotional impact of the story. Everyone here is a little nervous about how the audience will react to the story, the libretto of the opera, which is a change from our orientation back in New York…there is a very large article in today’s paper with a couple of good images, so the symposium tonight, with the composer Janice Hamer, and Gottfried Wagner, whose life was an inspiration to the librettist, Mary Azrael for on of the main characters in the opera. I am looking forward to observing the meeting of the Tel Aviv audience with the operatic arts and this charged subject matter.

____________________________________________________On July 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Steven Osgood Said:

It is the end of a very long day here is Tel Aviv, and we are all extremely tired. But it was a very good day of work, and we made a great deal of progress in putting together this opera musically.

Dan Saunders and I added an evening session tonight, to accommodate a conflict with tomorrow afternoon and still not lose our precious minutes of rehearsal. So the morning started with some individual coachings, and then review of the family scenes which begin the opera. These were coming together quite well, and the work we did Monday was clearly pushing things in the right direction.

After lunch we tackled the Ludwig/Julek scenes and the Julek/Christine scene. We were able to play with these scenes quite a bit, and but the end of each section we were finding a nice subtle shading of the dramatic motion. We reviewed the 2 beautiful duets that Julek and Lala have, and then dove into the 30-or-so pages of music that we had not yet rehearsed. The cast, even at the end of a hard afternoon, focused very well, and we got just about everything done.

Then a quick dinner of kebabs (YUM!), followed by 3 hours of work with Judah and Manfred. We worked separately for a little while, and then spent some intensive time on the final duet of the opera.

One of the singers asked me today if, after 8 years of working on this opera, I get tired of the material. Of course I had a wisecrack in response! But then the real answer– that the material is renewed every time we begin rehearsals, especially in a case like this where the entire cast is coming at it fresh. They each bring new things to the music, this affects deeply my work. We were talking a great deal about the characters today, and what makes them tick in each scene. Having to rearticulate that information, helping new actor/singers build their arc through the opera is extremely exciting, and then… well, there is nothing tired about it at all!

Tomorrow morning at 11 the entire cast will meet for the first time, and we will sing through the piece. Everyone will arrive VERY nervous, and I expect there will be tons of mistakes. But this first sing-through is an exhilarating experience, and I have no doubt that there is going to be a surge of excitement right right around 2:00 tomorrow afternoon.

____________________________________________________On July 8, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Steven Osgood Said:

Many of us are now in Tel Aviv, having arrived today (Sunday) from all parts of the globe. Dan Saunders, the Assistant Music Director and Pianist for Lost Childhood, was on my overnight flight from Newark. We are a little worse for the wear, as is Dan Klein (the singer playing Manfred), but are excited to get started tomorrow afternoon.

A couple of weeks ago I had to put in my request for which singers I would see for how long on the first couple of days. Tonight the final stage of rehearsal prep was preparing my list of which pages I need to cover tomorrow in each of the 30, 45, 60, or 90-minute sessions. And as usual, the long list of scores pages and scenes is very sobering. We have an awful lot of music to put together in the next 4 days!

I have exchanged emails over the last month or two with virtually all of the cast members. Some have even been in the New York City area, and I have had some extensive coaching time with the singers playing Manfred, Judah, and Mamousha, as well as a couple of sessions with Michael Scott, who sings several small tenor roles scattered through the opera. It is a great relief to have this advance work done, and to know the lay of the land with several key players in the cast. By the end of the day tomorrow I will have seen 75% of the singers, and by the end of Tuesday it will be 100%.

The goal this week is to carefully put the opera together musically. Coaching of scenes will dominate Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is flexible now to accomodate what needs extra work based on how tomorrow goes. Thursday will start with our first sing-through of the opera (or crash-through as I often think of it). Thursday afternoon will have some in-depth further coaching of scenes, especially the first few scenes of the opera, which will be staged right away next week. Friday can be some individual coachings as we see needed over the course of this week. Saturday is off, and Sunday… staging begins!

Boy there is a lot to cover tomorrow!

____________________________________________________

On July 6, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Ned Canty Said:

I leave a week from today to begin staging rehearsals for Lost Childhood, and the best thing about it is the level of connection that exists on every level of this project. I have been working with the creators of the opera for a year and a half on the libretto, and last year directed a libretto workshop. So I know and love the piece itself on a very deep level. This will be the fifth show I direct that Steve is conducting, and working with him is always a cause for celebration. Best of all, I will be returning to Tel Aviv and IVAI where I have directed 5 shows since 1999 (Cherubin, Rape of Lucretia, Cosi fan tutte, La Boheme and Falstaff, if you’re keeping score). The audience in Tel Aviv is second to none, and I am thrilled to be putting on a show for them once more. The colleagues at IVAI are fantastic, and I always love being around so much talent in such a concentrated space.

More soon.

____________________________________________________

On July 6, 2007 at 12:04 am

Steven Osgood Said:

It is now two days before I leave for Tel Aviv to begin rehearsing the cast of “Lost Childhood.” I have a hard time wrapping my head around the long road this opera has traveled with American Opera Projects, and am very excited that it is going to take us to Tel Aviv and the International Vocal Arts Institute.

Within a couple of weeks this should be a quite extensive look at the rehearsal process, from first music rehearsals through staging, dress rehearsals and the performance on July 29. We will encourage cast members and members of the production team to post comments, and provide a glimpse from their own vantage point.

Right about this time in every production I enter, friends and colleagues routinely ask one question– “Do you feel ready?” With “Lost Childhood” the answer to this question has two extremely different sides. On only a couple of other occassions (again all with pieces that AOP developed) has my knowledge of a score been so intimate and deep. AOP began workshopping this opera in 1998, I believe. I came on board with the project in 1999. I have conducted virtually every workshop, and have been enmeshed in the revision process for the opera all along. I am comfortable with this opera in a way that I can never be with a standard rep piece like “La boheme” or “Le Nozze di Figaro,” and that is a wonderful feeling going into a first rehearsal.

On the other hand, I feel absolutely unprepared for what it is going to be like bringing this opera to production in Israel. I can only imagine how intense the experience will be for everyone involved, and look forward to suddenly being in the middle of it.

First rehearsal is Monday afternoon. I’ll fill in a little on the advance preparation that has been done between now and then.

5 Responses to Lost Childhood

  1. Actually, AOP currently has “The Summer King” in development (performed this month!) that focuses on Josh Gibson, the great African American baseball player and star of the Negro Leagues. Before Night Falls and The Golden Gate both deal with gay characters and issues. And that’s not talking about past projects; those are just the ones in development! Now what we can agree with is that we don’t just need more African American and gay operas – everyone does!

  2. Sherrone Bubb says:

    You need more African American operas! The plight of the black Americano.
    What about gay operas?

  3. W. Wilson Jones says:

    Jan, Mary, Yehuda, Gottfried, Steve and Ned-

    I look forward to hearing about your success, as I wish I were present with you. This workshop is another milestone toward the world premiere of this work.

    All the best,
    — Bill Jones

  4. Miriam Charney says:

    Dear Steve, Jan, MAry, John, Gottfried, Juhudah!! and of course Joan and Dan too —

    I’m dying to know how it all went. Glad to read these blogs about LC in Tel Aviv, as I work on Carmen and recitals in Chautauqua. I do wish I were there with you for this culminating experience of so many years work.

    I’m sure it was amazing tonite. Looking forward to reports.

    with love and Shalom
    M

  5. Claudine Torfs says:

    My heart is with you!

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