The Prodigal Child (May, 2018)
For the final project for my Master's Degree, I was required to direct an one-act opera that would appear in a double bill performance with Madeleine Broseh's project. I began searching for operas during my 2017 spring break, and came up with a list of five operas. In April, I submitted my ideas to my musical collaborator Tyler Tucker. We were collectively able to eliminate a few ideas, when we arrived at The Prodigal Child as my selection.
When I first heard the recording of this opera, I was immediately arrested by the prelude. I had never heard an opera that began so intimately, and without the bombast heard in common opera overtures. This was one of the early signs that this piece was perfect for production in FSU's Opperman Music Hall, which seats slightly over 400. The opera also featured a small cast - a baritone, mezzo, and soprano - which was encouraging given how summer casting at FSU normally operates with a smaller auditioning pool.
But one of the most interesting features of the opera is who it came from: New Zealand's Dr. Michael Williams. For whatever reason, composers from that country have not yet pierced the American repertoire yet, and this seemed like an important opportunity to initiate that process. Over the summer, I contacted Dr. Williams to begin the process of asking for the rights to perform and stage his opera. He was a very kind person to work with, especially considering the time difference between us. He approved Florida State to produce the project, and I proceeded to prepare notes about the show.
During the fall, I was enrolled in a dramaturgy course with Dr. Mary Karen Dahl. Her introduction to dramaturgical methodology opened my mind, and gave me the framework I needed to analyze the piece. My process identified areas of inspection, including the piece's structure, the topic of grief (especially in relation to stillbirth), and the effect of modest forces in an intimate story.
In the winter, I reached out again to Grant Preisser to ask if he would mind designing for my show. He was eventually added for both The Prodigal Child and The Medium, directed by Broseh. One of the primary challenges in producing the two pieces was developing a shared stage space, not only to put the pieces in conversation with one another, but also save time and resources. I am glad to say that Grant came up with very clever designs that allowed The Medium to be firmly rooted in Baba's apartment, and The Prodigal Child to feature constantly shifting location by moving platforms and projection.
April and May marked the beginning of the the rendered process, as we cast the show, began building the sets, costuming, and discussing lighting. Staging was finished in six rehearsals, and the project received two tech rehearsals and two dresses. The collaboration in this final week was very important between myself, Preisser, and Katie Redd, as we tried to use the lights and projections to enhance the poetic nature of the opera.
The Prodigal Child was not without challenges for nearly every department involved. But it was fulfilling to me to bring a new piece to a curious audience and see it supported by the full production and support of the Florida State Opera.
Performance Production Credits
Producer: Florida State Opera
Music director/conductor: Douglas Fisher
Set designer: Grant Preisser
Lighting designer: Katie Redd
Costume designer: Julia Mattheson Bradley
Hair & Makeup designer: Sophie Kraemer
Stage manager: Caroline Bankey
Anna: Susannah Woodruff
Albert: Stephen McCluskey
Mary: Sofia Scattarreggia