So there is one heck of a to-do on the opera lists about NYCO crisis, and well there should be. A lister proposed the following, and I agree, as you will see in what may be my longest posting ever on any blog...
an opera-l lister wrote:
> 7) Productions should have "minimal" sets but be innovative, try to "reuse"
> sets from the operas. I know it is risky but ideally they should design all
> the sets for all the productions in one shot. And the reuse them.
> Too risky...I can hear the critics (as well as opera-l folks) screaming about seeing the same tired staircase in Giovanni (painted black), Lucia (painted brown), Rigoletto (painted gray)and Cendrillon (painted gold)...minimal sets can sometimes be about as expensive as maximal ones...you can build beautiful, efficient sets inexpensively - lots of companies do it across the country...just not in New York City...better to share productions with other companies with very high scenic standards such as Santa Fe, St. Louis and others like that...
> But, in the end, it's all about the singing. If you don't have good singers - nay, great singers in an even, balanced cast - who cares what the set looks like? If the singer cannot draw you in musically and dramatically and connect you with all those little notes the composer put on the page...why go?
> And this CAN be done on a budget of $36 (let's round it up to $40 just to be safe) million a year...no, Mr. Mortier, it's not enough to go wild and crazy, but we can life with that. Who wants to hang around three and a half hours just to boo the director at the curtain call? Not me!
HERE IS MY ANSWER
Sign me up - back in the day when I was still designing, I costumed a Traviata for a cast of 70 on....$1700.00
2 people (my self and one of my best friends) BUILT all the women's costumes, including all the corsets/petticoats, the men wore their concert tails for Acts One and Flora's party, I built the country coats for Pere Germont/Alfredo, and damn it, we had a fine looking opera. All the fabrics were bought in New York, not your local craft store.
(anyone who wants photo proof just email me)
Thats $24 a costume, people.
And before you say "oh, it must have looked like garbage" I was famous for making really good looking period 'stumes on no money. Thats why companies hired me - because they knew it would look good and not break the budget. That meant they could spend money on, oh the orchestra and the singers. Just sayin'.
My friend (the one mentioned above) has always said he would design a Rosenkavalier for a dime if it had good singers, just so he could sit through the tech rehearsals and listen.
Back in the 1980's a terrible trend started where as a designer/stylist you were spit upon for spending less - I was actually fired from a film shoot (a modern day shoot) because I did NOT spend the entire budget, $6,000. On 2 characters, folks. 2.
Now I won't go into the whole union thing, because it is isn't my bailiwick, but opera productions don't NEED to have that expensive of production costs. They can look sumptuous and beautiful without breaking the bank. I know a designer who has designed for Ms.Fleming, and he brags about how many hundreds of dollars a yard her fabrics cost. But in a darkened theater, can you *really* tell? I say no.
;) - I think this just became a blog post.
Your gift keeps music on the air!