In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Backstage with John Mac Master (Part 3)

Jan 24, 2011 8:44:00 AM
By BLO Staff

Kevin Burdette. Photo by Julius Ahn.

Day 4

I’m now blocking the bulk of my scenes, and
my partner is Kevin Burdette. He plays “Death” and the “Loudspeaker” in The
Emperor of Atlantis, and also plays the Father in “After Image” which is the
piece commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera to premiere here, and which opens the
evening’s performance.
In the score Death is described as an old
soldier, Harlequin (my role) as one who can laugh through his tears. The show
opens with us ‘sitting around in retirement”…..What a great day’s rehearsal!….I
won’t spoil your enjoyment of the show by telling you what we are doing; but it
was great rehearsing and improvising with Kevin Burdette, with David offering
thoughtful suggestions…..Over the next few days we would come back to this big
scene again and again, adding, refining – taking what we had improvised,
keeping what was good, polishing the better bits, and leaving the dross aside…..What
a great way to work!

Day 6
We meet the Supers! Traditional opera often
has a chorus; this show does not. But we do have “supers”. These are
supernumeraries, usually volunteer folks from the community who love to be
onstage. They usually neither speak nor sing, but serve as townspeople, “the
crowd”, onlookers, whatever is required….and generally provide atmosphere. In
this case they are being asked to do far more, with really specific actions and
they also move units onstage…and what a terrific bunch they are….the few I have
had a chance to talk to include a couple of voice students at university; a
modern dancer, an aerialist who has studied circus; a couple of folks who are
young actors trying to get established. They are such a focused and intelligent
group, and they are bringing such skill to our show. What a treat to have them
onboard. Generally they work with us in the evenings and some weekend
rehearsals, so they can hold down “day jobs”.
Day 8
We finished blocking the show last night,
and ran the last long section together before quitting for the night. Now we
can see the arc of the show. In the week ahead we will continue to flesh out
each scene, making sure that every moment continues to connect with the
material, that there are no weak spots. We will also be trying to deepen our
connection to the words and music, and start to really flow things together –
trying to get the long arc of the story of our character in the context of this
piece, and in the way in which David Schweizer is helping us tell the
story….Every day is more discovery, more shaping, forming, cutting away….This
is the week to link up all the scenes, and tighten our drama….By next week we
will be adding the technical elements (sound, light, costumes, wigs, makeup –
then finally the orchestra) and while the drama will continue to evolve next
week, we need to have a really solid base this week.

If you have
questions, email and we'll get back to you. 

- John

Topics: Opera Annex, Backstage at BLO, The Emperor of Atlantis

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