Monday, November 21, 2022

Highs and Lows of an Opera Workshop


The Steiny Road Poet and her collaborating composer went to an opera workshop in Washington, DC recently because we always learn something from these productions, and we want to know what else is out there.


First Steiny will preface this discussion with an admonition from our opera theater director—workshops should NOT be reviewed. The purpose of spending the time and money to hire a venue, singers, musicians, and music director is to see what happens when all the parts are put together. What works and what doesn’t. The audience is supposed to help by making comments.


The audience was told up front that the event, a two-act opera, was scheduled for three hours. About 45 minutes in, Steiny passed a note to her composer saying I can’t understand a single word, can you? This was an opera based on a Hemingway novel, which in Steiny’s mind means every word should be easy to hear since Hemingway’s writing is known for its simple word choices. Steiny’s seatmate’s answer: nope and for that matter, is it in English? She was being facetious.


Steiny found the music beautiful and accessible, but one number blended into the next without differentiation or emphasis. Her partner’s response—very monochromatic, lack of variety, too much ensemble singing and little in the way of emotional high points which are usually created by a single voice singing an aria.


Moreover, the highly talented singers had been placed behind the orchestra (clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello, base, piano). This made it easy for the music director to cue the singers but then the orchestra overpowered their words. This raises the question where was the opera theater director in this lineup of players? Oops, the printed program listed the composer, librettist, music director, and dramaturg but no opera theater director who would have never allowed the singers to be placed so far away from the audience. For that matter, opera workshops are normally done with piano only.


While the church had good acoustics for a musical program, the wooden bench of the church pew got harder and harder to sit on. Steiny and her partner also realized that not only was Act I too long (running 90 minutes), but the summary (available through a QR code) didn’t reveal any action on the stage beyond the main character walking in and out of cave. Yes, there was a love story and some shouting but that didn’t provide enough excitement to forget their aching backsides. While some comments were written out for the composer and his colleagues and left with an usher, the QR code provided another easy way to send them feedback. Steiny and her partner left at intermission. Both learned a lot and plan to keep these lessons close as they work on their opera.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Launching an ARC


What is an ARC? Some kind of rescue boat in the hungry mouth of a flood?


Well, yes, sort of.


An Advance Reader Copy or ARC is an early peek at a book that a publisher is trying to float above the deluge of other new books. The publisher is fishing for a review. More specifically, a review from a big reviewer like Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal.


Getting reviewed by the Big Guys of publishing often means the book will be bought by libraries and teachers. This means the author’s book gets wider distribution.


The big drawback for a small press (usually meaning limited resources—financial and editorial) is that the book needs to put its best foot forward (with as few errors as possible) and it is NOT for sale. It’s another case where you cannot go fishing when you are hungry.