Halifax Summer Opera Workshop: Guest Blog post from Tony Radford on a director’s perspective

Greetings all, I am the director of Carmen in which I am also performing the role of Zuniga.  I am responsible, along with the musical director Tara Scott, for constructing a vision for the show and leading the cast through the process. I am also part of the cast working in a physical and mental way with my fellow actors.  As a director one can prepare for the opera by doing research, examining the libretto, blocking the scenes and meeting with the production team, but  there is very little I can do to prepare for the mental challenges of making an opera with other actors and people who I have never met and never worked with.  We all throw ourselves into this show knowing that what we are creating will be unique.  This might be rather surprising to some, as most people have the impression that opera is an old-fashioned and oft repeated art form.  The music was written 140 years ago and it has been performed thousands of times but every production is different.  This production, I already can tell is going to be special and moving and very important.  Here is why:

The opera Carmen has many levels, but on one fundamental level it is a tale of personal destruction.  Don José’s descent into what might be described as murderous madness is extremely troubling and very dark. Carmen’s wish to be herself in the face of tragic destiny (which she comes to see very clearly as a destiny that is unavoidable) is heroic and at the same time very tragic. It’s these themes that the cast and our opera program are trying to digest, along with the physical demands of rehearsing. They rehearse hours on end, without a break, sweating, standing, singing and trying to remember their lines. In rehearsal they explore joy, laughter, tears, anger, frustration and uncertainty as they delve deeper and deeper into this world, perhaps too deep, to explore the boundary of their passion, rage, and angst.  The concepts of murder, death, independence and destiny are thrown into this emotional mix and at the end of two weeks we put it on display in performance. The rehearsal process can be messy and thus, very human. In my position as director I see every minute unfold.  This is real life; this is hard work; this is intense work and their youth and passion for the process is unique in the world of opera.  The commitment that these actors feel for their craft and their enthusiasm for this tale will make our show something I know Haligonians will want to see. So there it is, Halifax Summer Opera Workshop from my point of view.  We are half way through HSOW ’12. Buy tickets, you don’t want to miss our production of Carmen.


Dr. Anthony P. Radford
Assistant Professor of Voice, Opera
Voice Area Coordinator, Director of the Fresno State Opera Theatre
California State University, Fresno
Board of Directors, National Opera Association

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