My birthday last Sunday was amazing. Thanks to all for the cards, gifts, birthday wishes, etc. I had a great day, and although 33 hurts a bit more than 32 did (mostly in the feet), I still think I look better with age. Though I have begun dying my hair. Let’s not talk about it. I’ll post some photos with my NEW! CAMERA! as soon as possible, but in the meantime, I have other things on my mind. Not important stuff like saving lives or raising children, or saving children’s lives AND raising children (like my sister, my hero), but stuff nonetheless. I haven’t been doing more pickling, although I am making my way through my beets at a pee-pinkingly alarming rate. No, lately I have been immersed in OperaDans.
If you hadn’t already caught it from my Twitter stream on the right, OperaDans is busy preparing to perform a version of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’ in December. After the contemporary music show Sweet Solitude in June, I figured a Christmassy tale would be a nice diversion from the uber-cerebral. But, being a Solstice-celebrator (remember? remember?), I wanted to find a winter story that was not too Christmassy and not too Santa Clausey. That’s when Zaddik, my genius choreographer, suggested The Snow Queen. And we were off.
We all remember The Snow Queen, right?: A girl, Gerda, and a boy, Kai, are best friends (aww…). The boy gets a piece of evil glass in his eye (I hate it when that happens). Kai’s heart turns cold (typical male) and he shuns Gerda (poor girl). The Snow Queen comes and steals Kai away for herself (cougar). Gerda (the fool) then travels through all the seasons hunting for the concupiscent (i.e., horny) Kai. Gerda finally reaches winter and rescues Kai (whether he wants it or not) and with her hot tears, melts his heart (works every time). They return home in the springtime, and live happily ever after (whatever that is). Ah… fairy tales… may they and the Disney Corporation live on to dupe yet another generation. Suckers.
Right. OperaDans is now in the pre-production stage, just before rehearsals start and the fun creative stuff can happen. For the past three months, it’s all been about planning and administration: budgets, venues, meetings, posters, flyers, meetings, websites, (LATE) funding applications, more meetings, set design, copyrights, costumes, promotion, YET MORE meetings… I’ve been drinking so much coffee my bowels are in permanent flush mode (ooh! pink!). But this is the last week of the real administrative groundwork. Next week, the creative construction begins. Good lord, FINALLY! Let me tell you a bit about the show itself:
You’ve already gathered that The Snow Queen is typically a children’s story. But naturally, there are also many adult sub-themes going on: commitment, romantic love, duty, passion, sexual desire… Giddy up! So OperaDans is going to dive in and make the story suitable for both children and adults. As I mentioned before, there will be a narrator. He is the American actor, Chip Bray who lives in Amsterdam (the colour of his website makes me feel a bit queasy. Consider yourself warned). Chip will tell the children’s part of story- that of Gerda’s journey. And I, as the Snow Queen (I know, I know, you can stop yelling “OF COURSE” now please), will sing songs that provide the more subtle emotional context of the story- and tell the tale from the lonely Snow Queen’s perspective. But, being a classical singer, you won’t hear me Boyle out “I Dreamed a Dream” (new verb alert!). Instead, I’ve chosen songs from around the 1850s- the same period in which Andersen was writing his own masterworks. The music includes songs by Franz Schubert, Gabriel Fauré, and Hector Berlioz… the Jack Johnsons of the Romantic Era. I’m a nerd.
We will be performing twice at the gorgeous Paleiskerk (literally the “palace church”), which is a square venue in the centre of the Hague by the Queen’s palace. The first thing the audience will notice upon entering is that the seats are on all four sides of the room, and the stage is in the centre, like theatre-in-the-round.
Special for the audience is that each side of the room- including the chairs- will be decorated in the four seasons. Each side will be different: autumn with pumpkins, hay bales and dried leaves; winter with spruce boughs, fake snow, and fairy lights; spring with ivy, potted crocuses and tulips; and summer with large potted trees, patio lanterns and brightly coloured flowers. As they enter, people will be invited to sit in the season of their choosing. I’m even considering sprinkling Halloween candy in autumn and chocolate-covered Easter eggs in spring… where can I get those at this time of year?…
Very exciting for me is that I have the stunning Dutch harpist Astrid Haring (a recent graduate of The Hague conservatory) to accompany me. And in a very cool, muse-inspired stroke of genius, she and her instrument will also play the part of the evil mirror. The harp will “twang” out of tune when Kai gets the piece of evil glass in his eye… Try explaining the word “twang” to a harpist whose first language is not English. You’ll find yourself saying, “You know, TWANG” a lot. At different volumes. With a heavier and heavier southern-US accent. I found plucking the air like a velociraptor also helped.
Three dancers will play the roles of Kai, Gerda, and the Goblin (who builds the mirror in the first place). The action of the story and the dance choreographies all take place in the centre of the room around the harp/mirror. The costume design is by the FANTASTIC young fashion designer, Leslie Eisinger from the Art Academy in The Hague. And all of this is being promoted by The English Theatre foundation in The Hague. IT’S ALL SO AWESOME!!!
Whew! That’s it for now. And so far, so good. Now we just have to DO it. 10 weeks to go!