Monday, June 21, 2010

1260 North Weatherly Drive

I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Los Angeles, California, recently - my first trip to California - and had a long list of things to see.  The Getty Center? Sure. Universal Studios?  Okay.  Grauman's Chinese Theater? Check.  But do you know what was at the top of the list? The one thing I wanted to see above all else?  This quiet two-bedroom three-bath home on a hill in West Hollywood.

This, Ladies and Gents, is 1260 North Weatherly Drive, once home to Mr. and Mrs. Igor Stravinsky.  That's right - the greatest composer of the 20th century and my favorite composer and chief influence lived and worked right here.  My favorite opera, The Rake's Progress, was written within these walls, as were countless other masterpieces.  This is the headquarters for the mid-century musical avant-garde.  Igor probably entertained W. H. Auden, Toscanini, and Oscar Levant right on that balcony.

The house is off the beaten path, but is throwing distance from the famous Sunset Strip, where bands like Motly Crue and Guns N' Roses were discovered at the Roxy, the Viper Room, and the Rainbow. It's minutes away from the spot where Andy Kauffman first took the stage and where River Phoenix shuffled off his mortal coil.

Of course, it's still someone's house, so I didn't get to spend a lot of time there.  I found the house, got out of the car, snapped two photos through the iron fence, and got out of there.  I didn't see any activity, and I'm not sure the owners even know the importance of their address.  I didn't want to bother anyone.

A few days later, I sought out another important address: 6340 Hollywood Boulevard (between Ivar and Vine).  It's the location of a burger restaurant, but I was more interested in what's just outside.

That's right - he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In fact, Igor is the only classical composer to have a star on Hollywood Boulevard.  Suck on that, Beethoven.

I saw other stuff in Los Angeles and had a great time, but these stood out as two major highlights in an exceptional week.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A New Opera

I'm proud to announce that I've started in earnest on my second opera!  It will be called "Heart Mountain" and, like my first opera, "Mata Hari," it will be an original story based around historical events.

What about the first opera, you ask?  Well, it seems I was a little too ambitious with that one.  It's a big three-act production with lots of roles, a chorus, and a big orchestra in the pit and no opera company wanted to/was able to risk the expense for a brand-new, untested opera.  Their loss.

So I've planned this new opera to be the complete opposite in nearly every way:

Mata Hari: 4 main roles, 6 minor roles, plus a chorus (20 singers total)
Heart Mountain: 4 singers total

Mata Hari: 35 to 40-piece orchestra in the pit
Heart Mountain: Piano, 'Cello, Clarinet, all on stage with the singers

Mata Hari: Three acts, two hours
Heart Mountain: One act, 60 minutes (80 tops)

Mata Hari: Three sets
Heart Mountain: A wall.  Otherwise, no sets.

Mata Hari: Declamatory style, with singing throughout. Basically a sung play.
Heart Mountain: A "number" opera with some talking between songs. The same idea as "The Magic Flute"

My idea is to make it as economical as possible, with only eight to ten people involved: four singers, three musicians, a director, and one or two technical personnel to handle lighting and stage manage.  I'm writing the clarinet part for myself and it's possible that one of the singers or musicians could direct.  Or the director could be a stagehand.  It's something we could bring to schools or to the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in a few years. My hope is that Heart Mountain will open some doors that will lead to Mata Hari getting produced.

So far, I've done a lot of research, created the story, planned everything in an outline, and have written the introduction music and one of the songs.  Instead of polishing the libretto and then adding music like I did with Mata Hari, I'm going to write the music and lyrics together, letting one inform the other as I go.  I've only just begun and I'm a long way from finishing, but the first steps in a very long journey are laid out and I'm on my way!