"...above all, a composer must be possessed of a feeling so intractable as to be ruthlessly and shamelessly stubborn in his or her belief that the opera must exist.
from POW's handbook Making Opera : A Guide for Composers and Librettists
Prodigal Opera Workshop
YEAR I: Crafting Liberetti
The workshop will take approximately two weeks to complete, with
four intensive day-long sessions with working days between. The
workshop will culminate with a public "proto-performance" of works
DAY I: CORE SUBSTANCES
Basic dramatic necessities, dramatic outlines, character sketches,
structural balance, etc. will be discussed.
DAY II: DRAMATIC PHYSICS
Textual precision, "musical" text, stage time & musical time,
dialogue will be tightened and honed to proper libretto proportions.
DAY III: MUSICAL WORDS
Poetry, thematic elements and operatic exposition will be overlaid onto the dramatic structures. Subjects such as style and narrationwill be addressed.
DAY IV: BONE STRUCTURE
Librettos need to be as bare as a skeleton so the composers' music can provide substance. The plays will be stripped down to their essential "librettic" elements.
Composers will be contracted to set a few minutes worth of the librettists' text so that different potential musical avenues for each libretto can be explored. POP will hire highly-skilled vocalists to realise these mini-scenes with piano accompaniment in a kind of revue format with a real audience. Our guest speakers and composers will offer commentary and insight into the operas' possible futures.
A major and unique component of POP's mission is in giving composers and librettists the skills and practical experience necessary to craft operas which will endure on the stage and hopefully in the minds of season programmers. All of the great opera composers of history, Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Strauss, Britten, were men of the theatre who developed their works on the stage as well as at in their minds at at their pianos. As is still the case with Musical Theatre and Spoken Drama, revisions, edits and theatrical accommodations were once the standard method of producing a successful opera. That culture is now all but totally forgotten, and the results are telling; how many contemporary operas find their way back into the repertory after their moment in the spotlight has faded? Some of the blame is to be placed on cultural problems with opera houses, but surely there is something to be said for the practical wanting in the artist's workshop! If the great masters of the form painstakingly reviewed and revised their work in the light of the stage, how can any of us hope to replicate their success without it?
For that reason above all, POP is proud to embark on a quest to revive a working, practical approach to opera composition. Over a 3-year cycle, librettists and composers will come together to hone their craft, improve their skills and resuscitate this important process in forging drama.
The initial phase of the series is all about the words. Libretto-writing is a rather independent art altogether. Imagine, would you like to hear the text of your favourite opera recited as a play without its music? A librettist must, somehow, create a good structure for musical drama, while not completing the most pivotal portion of the work: supplying the drama (characterisation, emotion, drive, catharsis, etc.); that is the Composer's job! With this difficult task at hand, Year I has been designed to provide librettists the option of inserting themselves into the process of creation from initial spark to final opera.
POP will invite guest speakers and teachers to lead a series of lectures and workshop sessions. These speakers will be men and women of the theatre--playwrights, poets, stage directors and composers. Librettists will be subject to philosophical discussion as well as nuts-and-bolts craftsmanship in developing their work for the composers' pens.