Monday, February 20, 2006

American Opera And The American Experience III

There appears to be a huge chasm between what Americans expect from their taxpayer supported public television system (PBS) and their taxpayer supported (direct and indirect) public performing arts centers, such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Performing Arts Center, at Civic Center. Witness:

Tonight (February 20, Presidents Day) on WETA Public Television in the Nation's Capital, at 10:00 PM:


Episode 2 of 2. Retreat. The world's first large-scale experiment in interracial democracy failed as white resistance flared into violence and Northerners' commitment to Reconstruction waned. Repeats Sunday 2/26 at 2:30 PM.

Tomorrow (February 21) on WETA Public Television in the Nation's Capital, at 10:00 PM:


Episode 6 of 13. By 1941, disasters were unfolding around the Italian war effort and a new front was opening in North Africa; on June 22, Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, invading the Soviet Union. [And by early December, the Japanese Empire has launched an attack on an outlying military facility of the United States Empire.]


And what were the last two (or two of the last) "Great Performances", or "Live from the Metropolitan Opera", American Opera performances broadcast on television in the United States over its taxpayer supported public television system -- PBS, WNET, KQED, WETA el al? None other than the two grand, mannerist, fin de siecle melodramas set in the 18th century and concerned with the erotic fantasies and political plight of French aristocrats: "The Ghosts of Versailles" by the Metropolitan Opera and "Dangerous Liaisons" by the San Francisco Opera.

And one wonders why American opera still isn't an integral part of American culture?

Text and Photo credit: newsletter/nlapr98opera.html With thanks.

Media Production and the Indiana University (IU) Opera Theater

"Media Production played an important role in the IU Opera Theater's February [1998]production of Dialogues of the Carmelites, providing videotape of silent film segments that played during the scene changes. The opera, inspired by an incident during the French Revolution, follows the fate of a group of Carmelite nuns who died by the guillotine for their beliefs during the Reign of Terror.

At the request of Lighting Director and Head of Technical Production Allen R. White, Director Mark R. Clark contacted Media Production's Susanne Schwibs to help locate film and oversee its incorporation into the performance. Dr. Clark wanted to contrast the interior scenes of the convent with film detailing exterior events that threatened the cloistered world.

Schwibs put Clark in touch with film stock libraries, where he was able to locate footage, dating from the 1910s, that depicted the French Revolution. Once the Opera Theater had acquired the film (transferred to video), Schwibs went about digitizing it and, along with Clark, editing it for the production. This involved a number of effects--dissolves, fade-outs, and slow motion. Next came the task of incorporating the footage into the opera production. The edited video footage was projected onto a scrim in front of the stage, framed by the slide projection artwork of Designer C. David Higgins.

A review of the performance in the national publication Opera News singles out the technical and artistic collaboration between the Musical Arts Center and Media Production."


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