A Quiet Place at New York City Opera
Five singers and director Christopher Alden talk about Leonard Bernstein's psychologically tense work.
Mon Oct 18 2010
Although A Quiet Place, Leonard Bernstein's opera about a marriage and a family exquisitely unraveling, took 25 years to arrive in New York, it seems appropriate that the work is receiving its first local staging this week at New York City Opera, a company known for championing American works. And because City Opera is also committed to promoting the next generation of artists, it comes as no surprise that five singers will make their company debuts in this production. TONY asked the singers to talk about their experience mounting the work, with director Christopher Alden lending further insight into each performer's character.
, soprano (Dede)
On debuting at City Opera: "Everybody wants to go for it and tackle a piece like this, which is incredibly difficult. It's an intense energy in the rehearsal room, and I think the audience will see that, too."
On the character: "She's a very colorful character, very damaged by her parental situation, on this journey to finding the 'quiet place.' "
On the music: "Dede's lines jump all over the place; she's very manic at times. And other times she has some beautiful, striking lines to sing."
Alden says: "Dede was scared away from relationships to some degree, from connecting to people. Her first true relationship now is with her brother's boyfriend, who is now her husband."
, baritone (Junior)
On debuting at City Opera: "It's a great advantage we have that [librettist] Stephen Wadsworth is living in New York and can be part of the process in this piece."
On the character: "He's a very troubled individual.... I'm kind of finding it difficult to shake Junior off when I leave the rehearsal hall."
On the music: "He gets to express these psychotic outbursts by singing a jazzy number, one of which in Act III is sort of a striptease that takes place at his mother's funeral of all places."
Alden says: "It seems a bit of a throwback to the past where anytime gay characters were presented, they had to be shown to be problematical people."
, mezzo-soprano (Dinah)
On debuting at City Opera: "I just had a coaching with one of the pianists, Susan, and she had worked with Bernstein.... Seeing him through the eyes of this woman makes everything so much more personal."
On the character: "She so desires to have the honeymoon phase again in her marriage where everything's perfect and everyone smiles and laughs."
On the music: "It's amazing how different the pieces are. I heard the third act for the first time, and I was like, Oh, my God! This doesn't sound like the second act."
Alden says: "She dies in a car accident, and she's been drinking, so it's clear on some level that that was her only way out of this marriage."
, baritone (Young Sam)
On debuting at City Opera: "It's fantastic.... Christopher Alden is a big believer in process. We spend a lot of time talking about character."
On the character: "He's fairly misogynistic and is not particularly nice to his wife. He's having an affair with his secretary, probably is a serial affair-haver. It's a very unsympathetic character."
On the music: "I think it's an interesting juxtaposition between two kinds of styles and seeing how Bernstein evolved over the years. He was much more risk-taking and adventurous in A Quiet Place."
Alden says: "When [Sam and his wife] are together, they don't get very much pleasure from their relationship. You only see Sam coming to life after winning a handball tournament."
, tenor (Franois)
On debuting at City Opera: "The time for this show to go on is very interesting and in a perfect place. The fact that it's never been seen in New York before—it's cool to be the first cast doing it."
On the character: "He's sort of the outsider looking in, I think. It's the first time he's been home with his wife and boyfriend, and he has to deal with a whole bunch of new family right away."
On the music: "It's such an interesting mix of twelve-tone and jazz; it's not like other things Bernstein wrote. It's something completely new and also something completely special."
Alden says: "There's a lot of Bernstein in many of the characters. [In Franois] there's that fantasy of bisexuality or a gay man suddenly turning straight."
opens at New York City Opera Wed 27.