The review is more or less congruent with the danish reviews after the premiere last year, so the opera must be said to have had a rather rough birth.
As hinted in my former post (The Touring Test #1), I thought the performance was both a success and a failure. A success because of the audience reception, which was warm (and actually favored Ruder's in particular), and a failure for one particular reason: On stage, the production suffered the worst possible technical breakdown.
The crux of the opera is the hanging of Selma, a tricky technical affair with a ton of safety procedures, all to ensure that Selma, who is literaly walking the plank 5 meters in the air, doesn't fall or get caugt in anything nasty. On a musical cue the plank dissapears beneath her, and she is left dangling from what looks like the noose, but is in fact a body harness with the noose only attached by a very thin thread. The effect is stunning and powerful, and even if she only falls about 15 cm and is in no actual danger, the build up of tension at that point, her screams and leg spasms etc. all create a strong illusion.
So, what went wrong? Something (perhaps some misguided gaffer-tape) prevented the plank from falling when it was released, so after an intense 30 seconds of our stagemanager shouting "Jump! Jump!" from the wings, and panicky cartoon effects being almost physically visible from the performers on stage...
In hindsight, Gert should never have gone out on the plank to push her off, because had the mechanism suddenly worked, he would have fallen with nothing to save him. Gives me the creeps to think about...
I imagine Ylva must have been momentarily traumatised by having to jump to her death, and I swear I heard a very honest (and very swedish) "Neeeej!" escape her throat as she jumped. I spent the remaining couple of minutes of the opera with my head buried in my hands, repeating the same four-letter word in my mind over and over again. (Not the one that rhymes with 'duck', the one that rhymes with 'pit').
|Just your standard run-of-the-mill Newyorker.|
That moment makes or breaks the opera. The 70 minutes that precede it are meaningless without it, and the intensity of the effect leaves a longlasting impression. That night, it failed.
I don't know exactly how many working hours and how much money have gone into preparing for this tour and for this performance, but at that moment it felt like it was all for nothing. It was heartbreaking, and incredibly frustrating.
As always, it's hard to say how many people even recognised that something was wrong, but the shouts from the stagemanager should have alerted them to the fact. Nonetheless, the audience applauded heartedly, and the initial responses were really quite positive.
I have enjoyed working on "Selma" immensely, growing attached to it from early on, proofreading the score for Edition Wilhelm Hansen, conducting rehearsals in Copenhagen and now following it on tour to the Big Apple. I enjoy the compositional stile of the piece, especially in the duets between Selma/Bill and Selma/Kathy and never grew tired of working on it, which is more than I can say for some of the more established pieces I've worked on.
Hopefully another opportunity will arise for me to personally conquer New York. This was a great and interesting trip, but it certainly left me hungry for more.
P.S. did I mention that one of our pianists got bit in the foot by an angry rat? Well, that's New York for you I guess.
“If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.” - Woody Allen- Jesper