Art and Music under the City Sky

Opera isn’t really something, as they say these days, in my wheelhouse. While I love the music, I find the singing and performance styles to be too over-the-top for me. Drawing out a moment so extensively loses…I don’t know…perhaps the genuineness of the moment. I’ve written before how my tastes run toward realism and naturalism, and I appreciate expressionism….but that’s not opera.

Back in college in I was in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac (not an opera) and the most memorable piece of direction we were given was delivered in a loud, excited exclamation: “It’s a f***ing opera!”

But I digress.

Along the banks of the Mississippi River, on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, is a partially destroyed flour mill – destroyed from a massive fire. There’s now a roofless courtyard surrounded by partial century-plus old walls.

Turns out it can be beautifully transformed into an open air theater.

And in this case, Pagliacci.

It’s a f***ing opera.

This is where I was the other night, under the setting sun, feeling the breeze. It was a beautiful night and a number of things, some unexpected, made for some surprising magic and art.

The setting sun during the first act – perhaps the longest light cue I’ve seen.

The beauty of the lighting during the second act, illuminating the performance and musicians and crumbling walls, with darkness and twinkling city lights beyond.

The passersby along the river who would stop and look in our direction, hearing the the music and singers. Wondering.

The wind that accompanied the prima donna’s aria, and the way it made her skirt flow in the breeze.

The timing of the bicyclists as they sped down River Road during the orchestra strings’ momento di agitato. Countered by the tug boat going down river accompanying an adagio moment.

The people who peaked in on the performance from the upstage gate, and the two children who sat on the ground there, watching the final pieces.

As soon as curtain call ended, and the houselights rose, a helicopter flew overheard, returning us to the city.

By the end, I found myself quite moved. And inspired.

I want to create a whole site-specific, theatrical piece, where all the elements – the sunlight (via the time of day,) the weather, the smells, sounds and the seemingly random (completely and effectively) planned interjection from people on the streets, cars, overheard planes, perhaps flocks of birds…..

…all those elements come together to create a whole world, a whole experience, to tell a story.

Sounds like film. Or smellovision.

I want it live.


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