I have just completed one of the more intriguing projects in recent memory. Twisted was an event planned to celebrate the season opening of BalletMet Columbus, Opera Columbus, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
Almost a year in the making, this program consisted of favorite opera arias, choruses, and symphonic interludes. Majority of the music involved singers, but the twist was that they were then choreographed for the dancers (and singers). Val Caniparoli, Ma Cong, Edwaard Liang, and Jimmy Orante set these pieces without regard to the actual plot line of the operas represented. What emerged was a fresh, new take on very familiar tunes. High points for me were Val’s setting of the Storm scene from Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, Ma’s setting of the Habanera from Carmen, and Jimmy’s interpretation of the farcical sextet from Cenerentola. Most stunning was a highly charged setting of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 which Edwaard set.
Logistically, the performance was a challenge, as the Orchestra was upstage of the dancers/singers. I followed the action by virtue of a video monitor, and the singers were able to follow me on monitors mounted on the balcony rail. Luckily, I had participated in several weeks of rehearsals with the company in studio before adding the Orchestra to the mix, so the process was as seamless as it could be.
The whole thing came together extremely well. The Orchestra, returning from a six week vacation, was primed and ready. The singers were extremely versatile and anxious to please. The dancers relished in the presence of live music, something all too rare, I’m afraid, for BalletMet. We all checked our egos at the door, and created something new.
At a time when funding, both developed and earned, is critical, collaborative events like this are essential to our collective survival. If arts institutions are to survive, they MUST synergistically embrace their peers and create new and exciting art.
This certainly was the dawn of a new era for the performing arts in Columbus. Let’s hope it is sustained!