BWW Feature: PACIFIC OPERA PROJECT at Ebell Club And Other Theaters
A Chat with Executive and Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project Josh Shaw
What are Pacific Opera Project's current plans for the year 2020? How has covid 19 affected them? Can you talk about some projects currently in the works?
POP is in the middle of our tenth Anniversary Season, our most ambitious and expensive to date, with six full productions scheduled. When the shut down order came from Governor Newsom, our artists for Cosi fan tutte had arrived two days earlier. We had already built the costumes and sets and performances were filling up for what would have been opening weekend. Although we sent our artists home, we will pay them the majority of their fees. There are no current plans to remount Cosi simply because the rest of our 2020 season is already full with four productions scheduled for the time between July and December.
We are moving forward currently with all of those productions, but all options are on the table as we await more information. In July, we have planned the United States premiere of Vivaldi's Ercole sul' Termodonte. (Hercules in Thermodon) A ton of work has already gone into this production, finding and reworking the score. It would be a great shame to have to cancel it. If performances are not possible in July, we will postpone this show. The Pirates of Penzance is scheduled at a major venue in Los Angeles for early September. The venue and partner organization plans to go ahead with the big announcement on April 8th.
Productions of Susannah and La bohème: aka "The Hipsters" are planned for later in the year and, currently, we are moving forward with those, although we are considering all options in regards to shorter runs and different venues. We are also considering what kind of programing will be most needed and appreciated coming out of this pandemic. If comedies are what are most needed, we will adjust to bring our audience and our artists as much joy as possible.
Are POP artists streaming anything? What can you do in the current situation? Do you have plans to stream? We'd love to highlight them.
Right now we are "releasing" one production a day on the POP Youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBSRxnvRhi5T3zR2H8AiOqg These productions will remain available through the crisis. We have about 30 recorded performances that we can share. The video quality varies greatly from year to year, production to production, but this is a great chance for POP die-hards to see anything they missed and to see the arc of the company over the past nine seasons.
Just like everyone else, we're scrambling to understand what is digitally possible and worthwhile during this time. We have begun plans for some original content. We are planning on hosting a "live" screening of one of our most Popular Productions. We'll askour fans to all tune into the broadcast at the same time. The stream will be hosted by a staff person or board member, and we'll have interviews with the cast and creative team. Watching in costume, cooking thematic meals, and other kitschy ideas are also being discussed. It could be a lot of fun. We're not quite ready to announce, but let's just say we'll be beaming down to your living rooms April 8th.
Can you help us look back on some of your favorite recent productions with photos and or videos?
We're adding a new production every day to our YouTube channel. There are so many personal favorites, it is hard to say which is the best. For our most original content, I'd point to our Japanese/English Madama Butterfly, our 90s video game inspired #SuperFlute, and, of course, our Star Trek-inspired Abduction from the Seraglio which is coming soon. If the reader is looking for something a little more mainstream, perhaps our double bill of Mozart's The Impresario and Salieri's Prima la musica, e poi le parole would fill the bill. Operas coming soon include Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Rossini's La Gazzetta and The Merry Widder, a Wild West take on Léhar's The Merry Widow
Can you tell us about some upcoming productions to which you are looking forward?
I am very, very much looking forward to Ercole sul' Termodonte. I've already been working on this production for over a year. It's been quite a process just to find the music. Thirty arias and two duets were dug up in the early 2000s, but none of the recitatives. A few conductors and orchestras have put together scores, but Music Director Kyle Naig and I are reworking a lot of the recitative material and substituting arias here and there. That will allow for a more cohesive performance. I spent more time than I ever had before assembling exactly the cast I wanted.
The original production was done during the eighteenth century Papal ban on women appearing on the opera stage in Rome. Opening night featured seven castratos and one tenor. The composer conducted and played the violin solos. We'll present the opera with two counter tenors, two tenors, a mezzo, and three sopranos. We'll have a small period orchestra and we are transforming our small "home" venue, the Ebell Club of Highland Park, into a baroque opera house with box seating. I'm planning on using baroque stage design and the costuming will be somewhat traditional or at least "tradition-inspired". The idea is to give POP fans yet another unique experience at The Ebell-and offer some idea of what it may have looked and felt like on opening night in 1723. The cast list, more information, and tickets can be found on our website.
Photos: Martha Benedict for Pacific Opera Project