Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Take a look behind the scenes at 'Tosca'

Whether or not Samuel Johnson was correct that opera is "an exotic and irrational entertainment," it's definitely a complicated one. Opera Carolina is offering two behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to get its opening production of the season -- Puccini's "Tosca" -- onto the stage. 

It will start at the beginning. The company is inviting visitors into the rehearsal studio this Saturday, Aug. 29, as the cast -- including principals who have performed Puccini's thriller before, but not necessarily together -- sings through it together for their first time. Accompanied by piano, they'll tackle the entire, three-act score, Opera Carolina general director James Meena says. 

It should be a busy three hours. Then the spectators will go home, and the cast will get down to the nitty gritty of Puccini's stormy but tuneful tale of love, lust, murder and a double-cross from beyond the grave. They'll spend nearly two weeks polishing the music, putting together the staging with director Jay Lesenger, and adding the Charlotte Symphony. 

Opening night, with Meena conducting, will be Oct. 13 in the Belk Theater. The next afternoon, Oct. 14, the company will hold an open house at the Belk. The activities will include makeup and costume demonstrations, a tour of the theater, and activities for kids, Meena says. 

There's no charge for either occasion. But Opera Carolina asks that  visitors call to RSVP, especially since space is limited at the rehearsal studio. 
The company will make behind-the-scenes glimpses a regular event, Meena says. It hopes that will help more people bond with Opera Carolina and opera in general. 

"I'm guessing we won't get a huge response the first year," Meena says. "But if we can build it up into something people look forward to, it will strengthen our relationship with the public, and hopefully get people interested in seeing more of what we do." 

Besides showcasing the art and craft that go into producing opera, Saturday's rehearsal will also spotlight one of the challenges -- finding a place to rehearse. Since Blumenthal Performing Arts converted the studio behind the Belk Theater into a pocket-size theater, Meena says, his company and the Charlotte Symphony have had to go elsewhere -- carting around their singers, players and equipment. 

"Both of us are using churches," Meena says. "It's not where a real, professional company should be working, quite honestly. We make do. ... But it sets a standard that I'm just not happy with." 

"This is very much on my to-do list -- to address the issue of poor rehearsal facilities in town," he says. But there's no easy solution.

"Support space is just not sexy," Meena says. "Nobody (who might help pay for it) wants to put their name on a rehearsal facility. So it's kind of hard to address. But it's something we have to get done."