Re-thinking Lilith

8232Leonardo da Vinci famously observed that “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” However, it’s also been noted many times that art must breathe and evolve. In this spirit, artists occasionally seize an opportunity to re-examine and re-fashion an earlier work, with the goal of imbuing it with fresh insights and nuances gained through time and distance.

Such is the case with Lilith, an opera by composer Anthony Davis and librettist Allan Havis that premiered at UC San Diego in 2009. Lilith explores and celebrates the ageless erotic myth of Lilith, Adam’s apocryphal first wife who preceded Eve in the Garden of Eden and was subsequently exiled. That premiere production featured a cast of veteran singers supported by a jazz-influenced ensemble in a “concert” (i.e., unstaged) version of the complete work.

8232Forward to Fall 2015, and a workshop production of the first five scenes of Lilith semi-staged for a small audience. Workshop productions, common in theatre (though less so in opera) allow the creators to explore and refine the work in an intimate setting. Freed from the pressures attendant to a full staging, the artists are encouraged to experiment and take risks. Acclaimed Stage Director Keturah Stickann, Visual & Interactive Designer Peter Torpey, and their collaborators bring their combined theatrical experience to bear on this “re-creation” of the opera, making extensive use of windows, mirrors, screens and shadows to reflect the myriad contours of a female identity – Lilith – betrayed and split into two halves. Projections are strategically employed as visual representations of the paradoxes of Lilith’s roles in Paradise and in contemporary life.

The music also takes a different form. The cast is composed of young, up-and-coming singers, and rather than a larger ensemble Music Director Alan Johnson leads a piano/bass combo. Combined with the compact setting and innovative staging, the overall effect is to sharpen the focus on the eon-spanning conflicts between Lilith and Adam, and Lilith and the Creator.

Watching the original production, the supplemental features, and the new workshop production – cleverly titled [Re]Creating Lilith by Your Humble Correspondent – offers the viewer a rare opportunity to trace the creative evolution of a work from inception through refinement to re-definition. Da Vinci would be intrigued.

Watch [Re]Creating Lilith.

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Contributed by John Menier, UCSD-TV Producer

The Elixir of Love – San Diego OperaTalk!

In this episode of OperaTalk, Dr. Nicolas Reveles discusses Gaetano Donizetti’s comedic opera “The Elixir of Love” or “L’elisir d’amore,” in which a con artist convinces villagers that a bottle of wine is a love potion.

What better place to discus the powerful effects of wine than at a winery? Reveles visits the beautiful Hacienda de las Rosas Winery to illustrate just how enchanting wine can be.

Donizetti had written hit operas before, including “Anna Bolena,” an historic opera about one of King Henry the 8th’s wives. But Reveles says that none came close to the success of “The Elixir of Love.”

Donizetti was in the midst of writing four operas in one year when he was commissioned to write a new one for the Teatro Cane Bianco in Milan. He wrote “The Elixir of Love” in just six weeks and it gained such popularity, it was the most performed opera in Italy between 1838 and 1848.

Learn more about this classic opera in “The Elixir of Love-San Diego OperaTalk.”

Check out other programs in the San Diego OperaTalk series!

Lear on the 2nd Floor

Composer Anthony Davis presents a modern take on Shakespeare’s classic, King Lear.

Lear on the 2nd Floor tells the story of Nora Lear, a neuroscience researcher suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. As Nora loses her bearings and autonomy, she is increasingly at the mercy of her three quarreling daughters. In this version, Nora’s dead husband Mortimer is Shakespeare’s fool and her constant companion, as she wanders through a world where past and present blend and reality bends.

Davis’s music incorporates diverse styles and influences, ranging from classical opera to jazz to reggae. This performance by UC San Diego’s Kallisti Vocal Ensemble includes various music styles from classical opera to reggae, as well as a libretto by playwright Allan Havis.

Check out our other chamber music videos.

Indulge in 'Aida'

Verdi’s evergreen favorite “Aida” returns to San Diego Opera this weekend in a production designed by fashion icon Zandra Rhodes.

Get a look behind the scenes as cast and crew prepare to mount the grandest of grand operas with UCSD-TV’s “Opera Spotlight,” premiering tonight (April 19) at 9pm. (The video will be available online April 22 at this link, where additional broadcast dates and times are also available.)

How about getting to know the production’s cast and creative team, including Ms. Rhodes? Just watch “Stars in the Salon,” featuring a lively panel discussion hosted by Nick Reveles.

Or perhaps you need a primer on the opera which many consider to be Verdi’s greatest work? If so, watch “OperaTalk! with Nick Reveles.”

Now how’s that for operatic indulgence?

Who's Behind That 'Murder in the Cathedral?'

This week, San Diego Opera is busy is preparing for a murder, set to take place Saturday night when their production of  Ildebrando Pizzetti’s “Murder in the Cathedral” takes the stage. Based upon the drama by American poet TS Eliot, the story revolves around the 1170 murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket by henchmen of King Henry II in Canterbury Cathedral.

In UCSD-TV’s presentation of “Stars in the Salon,” premiering tonight (Marchy 26) at 8pm and online now, host Nick Reveles joins the cast and artistic team behind the new San Diego Opera production to discuss the intricacies of this unjustly-negelected masterwork.

Then check out “OperaTalk!” where host Nick Reveles provides a guided historical tour of the work, including its basis in Eliot’s play, the development of musical themes, and Pizzetti’s melding of words and music for maximum dramatic effect.

Before you head to the theater to enjoy the show, make sure to tune in Friday, March 29 at 9pm for the premiere of UCSD-TV’s behind-the-scenes documentary, “Opera Spotlight.”

Want to catch up on San Diego Opera’s season so far? Check out our Opera video archive!