Working as an apprentice at a summer festival can open career doors not just for the singers, but for those of us lucky enough to have found positions on the production staff. It was my enormous good fortune in 1982, following what had already been a splendid summer at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, to be in the right place at the right time when Santa Fe Opera called looking to replace a member of the production staff. There, in addition to my mainstage assignments, was an opportunity to assist Metropolitan Opera tenor, James Atherton, in his work with the Santa Fe Apprentice Program, an endeavor that resulted in an invitation from his sister, Anne Atherton Randolph (the new Executive Director of Opera Memphis), to join the Company not only as resident production stage manager, but also stage director for the Company's extensive education and touring division. I loved my time in Memphis, eventually logging two terrific seasons on staff and many return trips as a guest stage director.
Here I am, in my second season with the Company, looking on with Ms. Randolph as Tommy Watson transforms glamorous Rosalind Elias into the Witch in HANSEL AND GRETEL in a production which was also the occasion of the celebrated mezzo's professional debut as a stage director. I loved every minute of working with this great singing actor.
It is always a pleasure to direct Kallen Esperian, pictured here as Norma and Manon Lescaut, two of our Opera Memphis collaborations (which also included the title characters in LA TRAVIATA, MADAMA BUTTERFLY and TOSCA.)
In addition to my duties as production stage manager and stage director for the Opera Memphis eduction/outreach program, it also fell to me to come up with novelty items for an Opera Memphis boutique. Here is a crowd of my theater pals (and my friend, Kelly, who was the real hero in all of this Holiday madness) showing off its efforts in the creation of original HANSEL AND GRETEL handpuppets. (There were, in addition, THOUSANDS of gingerbread cookies. I'll find those pictures some day.)
The beautiful Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee.
Dear Jimmy Atherton. I learned so much from this warm, gifted, creative performer/director, and I still miss him very much.
Works directed for
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA
Final bows for HMS PINAFORE, my stage directing debut at Opera Memphis. Steve Crout conducted Christine Flasch, Randall Black,
Hillary Nicholson, David Evitts, Donald Sherrill and Richard Best. VERY funny.
In 2000 Michael Ching, the General/Artistic Director of Opera Memphis, mounted a new production of MANON LESCAUT for Kallen Esperian, and invited me to direct it. Michael conducted and Adam Klein was the des Grieux.
Bill Clarke's design was a knock-out. Here are his beautiful renderings for Acts I & II.
June Anderson's cancellation of her scheduled appearance in the title role of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR put a definite wrinkle in Opera Memphis' gala plans to open the newly rennovated Orpheum Theatre in 1985, but my replacement suggestion was met with cool disapproval by the new Opera Memphis administration. It was apparently too late in the game, however, to find a suitable box office draw to replace Miss Anderson, and they finally just had to take my word for it that Cecily Nall would be an excellent choice. Expertly supported by John Fowler, John Brandstetter, Ken Carter, Sara Beth Causey (and the wonderful Paul Nadler in the pit), Miss Nall made a feast of the occasion, literally stopping the show after 'Regnava nel silencio,' and capping the evening with the best sung and acted mad scene I, to this day, have ever witnessed.