Robert Jones asked:
>Why do companies like this exist? And why do they insist on putting on
>operas so impossibly out of their league?
To which Larry Kent answered:
>I think that these companies exist because they have a name that looks
>impressive and they're able to book a U.S. tour of one-night stands and
I don't think neither the question or answer is truly fair.
Such touring companies have existed for decades - especially when travel to
cultural centers - for the majority of citizens was formidable and
daunting - if not downright impossible.
A number of decent (and better than "decent") singers began on the rosters
of touring companies. These companies offered the best opportunity for
young singers to work in leading roleswith scaled down orchestras in young
voice friendly (mostly) halls. These singers also became savy with
stagecraft, with the often hit-or-miss stage direction they received, as
well as learning to do their own make-up, fix a costume and adjust to the
rigors of gypsy life on the road.
By the time some of these singers reach a major house they've already got a
wealth of stage experience having endured conditions of every kind and
audiences of every stripe. This (to me) is far preferable to the bulk of
singers who seem to be endlessly enrolled in post graduate work, often
doing little more than primarily working on scenes and arias and after
endless competitions at age 30+ still haven't sung a complete role with a
professional company. (I'm not maligning the students so much as the
system they are part of).
That the standards of these touring companies don't match those of a world
class house should come as no surprise. Neither should they be expected.
These companies have not a fraction of the resources that a large company
has. Plus, they're on the road a different city every night in most
Having done a tour or two tour myself, I found the experience rewarding and
frustrating, difficult and ultimately what made me change my mind about
pursuing an operatic career. There's no money, the hours are endless,
accomodations generally horrible cheap motels or sometimes the overstuffed
home of a small town's odd local wealthy opera buff (emphasis on odd);
costumes or scenery don't arrive when you do (or sometimes at all!) you
play in everything from beautiful renovated art deco movie theatres now
serving as "symphony halls" and "opera houses" to acoustically dead junior
high cafa-gym-atoriums usually with the lingering perfume of fried fish
sticks and gym socks. You've really gotta wanna sing.
The up side to these touring companies is that for a small city such as
where I currently live, they provide a service that a larger company, like
the Met, used to, but no longer sees the need to: bringing world class
opera to city's and towns where the love of and need for exists, but which
see very little.
I'm thankful for the annual tours of company's like "Teatro Lirico"
or "London City Opera."
Not everyone needs stage elevators and I've seen
Last year's Turandot from "Teatro Lirico" was musically a thrilling and
rewarding experience introducing me to three amazing singers of great
promise: 31 year old Irina Bozhedomova (Turandot); Roumen Doykov a really
thrilling Calaf; and the stunning, vocally radiant and dramatically
compelling Liu of Su-Jin Lee. Not to mention Alexander Tinkoff, Milko
Mikilov and Pancho Chopov as a Ping, Pang & Pong with comic timing and
vocal chops worthy of being in any world class company.
Yes, the sets were cheap and sparse, the costumes right outta the Halloween
Section from Party Shop , the titles didn't work half the time, the
programs didn't arrive in time for the performance (which happened last
week at the Met) and a 40 piece orchestra cannot begin to full justice to
Puccini's sprawling score. It was still one of the most exciting,
Turandots I've experienced.
I look forward to this company's "Trovatore" here in Portland next month.
I saw a Cav/Pag with this company a few years ago with an absolutely
stellar, compelling "Cav" followed by a "Pag" that numbers among the worst
things I've ever seen in an opera house (the Nedda even REFUSED to come out
during curtain calls!) I wouldn't trade this experience for anything!
Otello the following year was not so good (this was the season this company
changed its name). But even the bad performances are needed, if for
nothing more than to have the experience and balance with which to
judge "good" performances.
The bottom line for me is: Any opera at all is better than no opera at
all. I realize mine may not be a popular stance or shared by very many.
But when you're hungry, sometimes even a plate of cold spaghetti can become
the most wonderful feast.