Last Minute – an Opera Adventure!

In 2014, Operaimprovisatörerna got an offer from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra to cooperate in a production for a young audience. Together with Alexandra Orrgård Solén I developed a performance concept for the production. I took responsibility for the theatrical aspects of the concept whereas Alexandra Orrgård Solén was the producer and responsible for the musical arrangements. The concept Last Minute  – an Opera Adventure! (Sista Minuten – ett operaäventyr!) was performed with four performances at Hjalmar Bergman theatre in Örebro in October 2014, with Andreas Hanson as conductor, seven performances at the Concert Hall in Örebro in October 2016, Eric Solén as conductor. In February 2017 OI performed the production again, with Gävle Symphony Orchestra with Eric Solén as conductor.

Prerequisites for the project

Due to organizational reasons, the performances (both in 2014 and 2016) would be conducted in concert light, which was a challenge for us. The stage light is usually an important component in our work, and we often collaborate with light designers. It gives a very good visual and dramatic foucs, and the light designer can help phrasing the dynamics of the scene. We needed to find way to create a visual and dramatic focus, even though the stage was not designed for opera performance. We decided to focus on the musical work and giving a lot of time and space for each other in the scenes with orchestra.

Since opera nor improvisation usually are not known concepts among young people, we needed to integrate an introduction which displayed the main features of the concept, so that the audience would be able to follow the process. since Bergman and the conductor had a constant dialogue during the opera, and the orchestra had the visual focus of the stage, we decided to include this part as a parallel visual process of the opera. While we improvised the operas, it was possible for the audience to instead follow the musical process between the musicians behoind our backs.

As it was vital that the audience heard all of our words in order to follow the action and the narrative, it was decided that we should wear microphones. The sound sound system was also very important for all the musicians (both Bergman and the conductor/orchestra) in order for them to improvise along with our words and actions on every possible moment.

Bellini
”Ah, non credea” (La Sonnambula) ”Casta Diva” (Norma)

Bizet
”La fleur que j’avais jetée” (Carmen)

Mozart
Symphony No 20, 1st Movement, Allegro
Symphony No 21, 2nd Movement, Andante

Purcell
”When I am laid in earth” (Dido and Aeneas)

Tjajkovsky
Arabic dance (The nutcracker suite)
Dance des Mirlitons (The nutcracker suite)
Trepak (The nutcracker suite)

Verdi
”Caro nome” (Rigoletto)
”Ella mi fu rapita” (Rigoletto)
”Possente” (Rigoletto)
”Eri tu” (A Masked Ball)

Rossini
Temporale (The Barber of Seville)

Apart from these pieces, the orchestra played an ouverture (2014 the ouverture from Il Barbiere di Seviglia, Rossini and 2016 the first Movement from Symphony no 1 by Beethoven). As a finale, we performed the finale from Don Giovanni by Mozart, with a new Swedish text by me. The orchestra was welcome to join in on the opera improvisation parts out of choice. We also decided to add one improvisation piece, where the conductor could lead the orchestra in a live extemporization.

We designed a set format for all except the major part of the performance: the opera. In this concept the classes received a letter from us, asking each class to bring one item. When the audience arrived they put their item into a big box, which is collected by the pianist. In the beginning of the performance, the singers take them up on stage and present them as being part of the story to be created. After the ouverture and a brief introduction to aspects of improvisation, playing sheet music and getting suggestion from the audience, an opera of about 27-30 minute is improvised, featuring the items from the audience. Although there was no set order of the orchestral pieces during the opera, we created a dramaturgucal frame in order to adress issues of presenting the genre(s) and the work methods to the audience.

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Conductor enters, applause.

Ouverture: Beethoven Orchestra, Gregor and Eric looked for the singers.
Singers enter, prepare, fight for the audience focus.

Introduction
Gregor introduces the setup for the performance.
Opera and improvisation as genres are introduced
with short examples in dialogue with the audience.

Presenting the items
Singers take the items out of the trunk together with
timpani – ”free improvisation”.

Improvised opera
About 27-30 min.

Final: Mozart
Singers and orchestra perform the final. Singers and
Gregor thank the audience, down to the salon and put
the items back into the trunk.