How to direct an opera
April 21, 2009 5:26 PM Subscribe
What's the difference between directing a play and stage-directing an opera?
I've wanted to work on an opera for years, and it looks like the opportunity might arise in the next several months, working with a composer-friend in a new company. So, what can I learn in the next six months or so to make me ready to work on an opera?
Some background: I've been involved with the theater on some level or other for my entire life. I took a few directing classes in college. I've directed a handful of plays and writer-directored a few projects, all with no budget and very small casts. I'm not a big table-work person; I'd rather get people moving around onstage as early in the process as possible. I come in with a basic floor-plan and blocking mapped out for some key moments, but most of what happens between and around those key moments happens in the process of messing around and experimenting.
I'd like to think I'm pretty competent at text analysis. I do as much research as I can before the first rehearsal, and have the text divided into workable sections with some clear objectives laid out for each section. I try to plan rehearsals pretty meticulously and let people know what we'll be working on ahead of time, so as not to waste anyone's time. Directors whose writings have had a big impact on my approach to directing include William Ball, Peter Brook, Anne Bogart.
But really, and despite the fact that I spend a lot of time around opera singers, I don't actually have much idea what takes place in an opera rehearsal. I hear stories of misguided theater directors dragging singers through useless activities that don't contribute anything to the final product, and I very much do not want to be that director. What will singers put up with?
In case it's not obvious, the piece we're talking about is modern and very minimal. It'll be a small cast - about 5 principals and a chorus of 4-8 people. The orchestra will probably consist of one or two people on various instruments. My friend will be the music director. There won't be any union people or anything like that.
I know the most obvious answer - sit in on some rehearsals, which I definitely plan to do. What else can I do? What can I read? What can I watch?
Thanks a lot.