Tag Archives: postmodernism

A Tale Of Two Spaces (em and Z) Review: Companion Piece and A Hand in Desire

Share Button

I’ve been heard to complain about the lack of experimental theater in the Bay Area, but this week has paid off quite nicely with two pieces that make me feel quite a bit more optimistic about San Francisco’s willingness to take chances with non-narrative theater.

Companion Piece

On Tuesday I saw a very early preview of Z Space’s ‘The Companion Piece’. I believe this was the first public performance of the piece still in development,Continue Reading

Leave a reply

#operaplot winners announced (irony and post-modernism are shut out)

The judge has spoken and the winners have been announced. (I was kinda hoping that Jonas Kaufmann would record this momentous announcement in rich Wagnerian tenor in a full orchestral setting). With almost 1000 entries, narrowing the field to 5 winners was surely a daunting task and there was no doubt that many worthy entriesContinue Reading

3 Responses to #operaplot winners announced (irony and post-modernism are shut out)

  1. […] More #Operaplotting | It’s Time To Admit That I Have A Problem | How To Write An #Operaplot | Operaplot Winners Announced – Irony And Postmodernism Are Shut Out Vancouver Opera Blog – Do You Operaplot? Another Musicology Blog It’s The Most […]

  2. Hi Brian,

    Appreciate your comments/critiques on the whole #operaplot deal, and got a chuckle out of your “scholarly taxonomy” of entries. That is part of the fun, isn’t it, seeing the disparate roads people can travel within 130 characters?

    Having now unexpectedly finished in the top 5 for two consecutive years, and neither time having had what I thought was my best entry selected, I can understand whence you’re coming in your analysis. Both years, I had personal lists of my favorite 3% or so (that included liberal doses of @MMmusing, @nbrockmann, and @frindley), and have been completely shut out in those picks, if memory serves.

    The wild card is always the particular judge’s sense of humor, of course, and so we’re always at risk of something not translating, especially with regard to the snarkier, more irreverent wing of our culture. For my part this year, recognizing that potential for misunderstanding, I tried to spread my entries around: a couple of limericks, a couple mildly snarky ones, a couple with a more ‘literalist’ bent, and a couple of wild cards. I figure it’s my best shot, in case the judge doesn’t share my sense of humor (which tends more toward wordplay and snark. I’m still hoping we’ll get a judge one day who fully appreciates that most elegant of creatures, the #operaplot limerick). I’d like to think others will adopt the same strategy as time goes on; flexibility is key in subjective matters.

    At any rate, my point is only this: the contest gets better when we offer constructive criticism, which you and I and others have done in blogs and on @missmussel’s website. However, you and @jenniferstumm and even @eighthblackbird really put those of us who do win in an awkward spot when you deride the winning entries as “tame”, etc., publicly (especially using what is now an otherwise quiet hashtag). It’s not our fault after all, that the judge chose the entries he did, but as no one else gets his entries critiqued publicly by the masses, could we also perhaps keep criticism of the winners in perspective, too? We’re just opera enthusiasts and logophiles like you, who happened to get lucky, and I think all of us know that we did, so the public critiques come off as particularly harsh in that light.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and consider this. From one extreme iNtuitive (INFJ) to another, I’m looking forward to playing the game with you again next year.

    Very best,
    James (@musicbizkid, aka the luckiest #operaplotter who ever #plotted an #opera)

  3. Brian Rosen says:

    Hey there James. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    I certainly was concerned about trying to state my observations and opinions about the winning selections while being sensitive to those who did win (yourself included). I tried to use objective criteria, noting the nature of the winning selections rather than imposing too much judgement. (“Straightforward” and “conservative” is as harsh as I get.)

    I do agree that the best gift we can give each other as #operaplotters is the gift of attention. No one likes slaving over a clever bon mot only to see it lost in a sea of other #operaplots, which happens all too easily. I’d venture a guess that if not for the added value of actually producing an audio track, my Oedipus #operaplot would have been completely unnoticed. (I’m still frustrated that my own Nixon in China #operaplot has barely registered a blip on anyone’s radar. Come on, that’s frickin inspired!) I ultimately decided to write this entry not to dismiss the winning entries, but to ensure the many many un-winning entries that their efforts were not for naught, and to reenforce their suspicions that being declared an official winner should not be considered the sole yardstick for success.

    Unfortunately as an ENT, I know that I can easily bruise an INF without even realizing it. That certainly wasn’t my intention. Hopefully it’s nothing a nice dinner at Mangia! and a good opera won’t solve. 😀

    Oh… did you take any classes with my good friend Jon Holland at Berklee? He was my “little brother” at Interlochen Arts Academy way back when…

Leave a reply

How to write an #operaplot

Looking through the 900 odd (sometimes very odd) #operaplot entries, I started noticing some distinct trends, a number of “schools” of #operaplot authoring. This isn’t that surprising, there are only so many ways one can distill a multi hour convergence of music and theater into a coherent series of 140 characters (130 excluding the #operaplotContinue ReadingContinue Reading

12 Responses to How to write an #operaplot

  1. Chickenfeet2003 says:

    “Batter my ears three noted score” was Dr. Atomic

  2. Dale Matt says:


  3. Irene Vartanoff says:

    Irene Varatanoff (to my knowledge) does not exist, and this entry is not one of the 25 I submitted under my correctly spelled name. But the entry is very good, so whoever wrote it, congrats.

    • Brian Rosen says:

      Ah. You’re right. I copied that off of the OM summary, but searching the twitter archives shows that its actually RalphGraves’ submission. Thanks for letting me know!

  4. Brian/MvsT: This is a fabulous collection and assessment! Thank you! I love being defined a lyric…but, you see, I’m really a dramatic coloratura trapped in a lyric’s body! 😉 😉

    You too have proved that the body of strong entries is quite large… 30 or so, me thinks. Honestly, I think J.K. should just set up a pin-the-tail-on-the-entry to pick the top 7, it’s so subjective this year.

    San Francisco, eh? Perhaps our paths will cross one of these days.

    Enjoy my “Best of…” here:

    • Brian Rosen says:

      Yah. I have my favorites, but it will all depend on his sensibilities.

      I’m sure our paths will cross. I’d venture that we have several facebook friends in common. And if the ROTL prod of Into the Woods you were in was the one with Maggie as Cinderella (as far as I know, the only one they’ve done), I’ve seen you on stage.

      • NO WAY! That was indeed the production, and Maggie was my Cindy. TOO FUNNY! (Is she a friend?)

        That was in the earlier beginnings of ROLT. They just won 6 BATCC Awards…they’ve come a long way!

        Take care!

        • Brian Rosen says:

          Yep. Maggie’s a good friend. We’ve been in several shows/operas together. She’s played my wife at least once. She’s actually the main reason I saw that production (I had just finished music directing her in A Little Night Music.) I’ve heard great things about ROLT these days. Lots of friends in their productions. I would have LOVED to do Jerry Springer this time around, but I’ve got prior commitments. 🙁

  5. […] wrote a fantastic assessment of several emerging categories of entries titled: “How to write an #OperaPlot.” My La Traviata/Copa Cabana entry was grouped under “Lyrics.” I jokingly posted […]

  6. […] my above “Copacabana” Traviata entry was included in musicvstheater’s “How to write an #operaplot,” under “The Lyrics,” on his blog Music vs. […]

  7. […] Digestible Opera Chunks | More #Operaplotting | It’s Time To Admit That I Have A Problem | How To Write An #Operaplot Vancouver Opera Blog – Do You Operaplot? Another Musicology Blog It’s The Most […]

Leave a reply

On the virtues of being baked

Two weeks ago I swung by the free Hot Air Music Festival at the SF Conservatory.  It was an all day affair with dozens of pieces from composers who, save for four, all shared a trait that almost guarantees that they’ll be largely unknown and unheard, specifically, they’re alive. I was only able to attendContinue Reading

Leave a reply

Live! Nude! Opera!

Disclaimer – this essay doesn’t have a lot to do with nudity or sex. The title and photo are there to draw your attention to a topic that you may otherwise find fairly dry and uninteresting, even though I happen to care about it a lot. Specifically this is an essay about how opera survivesContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Leave a reply

Stravinsky the Comedian

Some really great theater can happen when opera composers play with the conventions of the genre. In the comment section of the “What’s Opera Doc” post, Eph brought up a great bit in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Pinkerton, the brash American lieutenant  interrupts his aria almost mid phrase to offer his guest a drink of  MilkContinue Reading

2 Responses to Stravinsky the Comedian

  1. You see interrupted songs more often, I think, in musical theater, which maybe lends itself to the device better than opera because song and speech are being juxtaposed all over the place already. For example, in My Fair Lady, Freddy is rhapsodizing about Eliza’s behavior at the race the day before, and just as he recalls her cry of “Move your bloomin’ …!” he’s interrupted by someone answering the door before he can complete the thought. (A particularly canny device, because the whole point of Freddy’s little bit of song there is to remind the audience where we last left that part of the story, and this gently nudges the audience to remember for themselves how the line ended and thus to remember the situation and Freddy’s foolish naivete.)

    A fairly common structural device in musicals is to sing a chorus or two of a song and then, without stopping for applause, have a short dialogue scene which wraps up the action of that scene and/or points ahead to what’s coming next. Meanwhile, the music of the song continues under the dialogue. That bit of dialogue business finished, we return to the song for one more chorus, or sometimes just a repeat of the last line or two. The reason for this: The end of a song gets applause, so it’s desirable to end the scene and the song at the same time so that the applause adds to the sense of conclusion of the scene and helps cover some of the transition to the next scene. Whereas the lamest way you can end a scene is to have the song end and then have maybe three or four lines of dialogue and then the scene ends. If your scene continues with more dialogue after the song, generally you need that dialogue to be substantial and significant, like a minute or more and containing some real plot, or it will come off as an anticlimax after the end of the song. So if the bit of dialogue you have isn’t important enough to stretch out to a minute or so, and you can’t cut it and you can’t place it before the song even starts, then what you can do is put it *within* the song.

    That’s not quite the same thing as what you’re talking about, as it’s not meant for comic effect — in fact, the writers are ardently hoping that it doesn’t call attention to itself as a device — but very similar in terms of structure.

    Another favorite interruption of mine from musical theater: In the act two opening number of The Most Happy Fella, the chorus number is abruptly interrupted in the middle of a phrase, the lights change, everybody on stage freezes except for two characters, and these two characters sing what they’re thinking about while everybody else is having a good time. Their music is completely different in mood, tempo, rhythm, everything — where the chorus is lively and joyful, their duet is brooding and anguished. Then they finish, the lighting changes back, and the chorus resumes its lively number in midphrase exactly where it left off.

    So what Loesser has there is a song actually being interrupted by a whole other song. And not for comedy, either — the effect is to make vivid these two people’s unhappiness in the middle of a crowd that’s celebrating. It’s a powerful moment.

  2. Here’s a favorite interruption of mine from opera: In the ORIGINAL version of Ariadne auf Naxos, in Zerbinetta’s big showpiece, at one point the orchestra crescendos to the point where it drowns her out, you can’t hear her singing her line. Zerbinetta gestures impatiently to the conductor in the pit to get him to quiet them down. The orchestra gets quieter, Zerbinetta gestures her approval, and she continues. Unfortunately when Strauss and von Hofmannsthal revised the opera, they shortened the showpiece and dropped this little moment of silliness.

    There’s a lovely joke of the same sort in Haydn’s 60th symphony: The last movement begins with a lively theme, but after a few measures there’s suddenly a terrible dissonance. The conductor stops the orchestra and has all the strings check their tuning. The pair of violins that is found to be incorrectly tuned then plays the offending note while tuning it, so you hear it slide up a half step. Then the movement starts over from the beginning and continues without further mishap. All this — the orchestra stopping, the tuning of the strings up a half step — is carefully written out in Haydn’s score.

Leave a reply