The whole notion of "World Premiere" is changing, and its evolution is manifest as Seattle Opera prepares to launch its first commission, Amelia (May 8-22). It's a sweeping historical drama (the Vietnam war) interwoven with personal memoir (The Pilot's Daughter), based on a book of poems by Gardner McFall, with music by Leonard Bernstein protÃ©gÃ© Daron Aric Hagen.
The complexities of producing a new opera are no less dramatic (and, who knows, might turn out to be more interesting) than the as-yet-unseen work itself. It's not unusual, of course, for the producers of a major Hollywood production to commission a modest "making of..." film. There's always a market for backstage documentaries, if only as a brief feature on the eventual "director's cut" DVD.
But this time, Seattle Opera is going all out. There's a lecture series on the "Making Of" Amelia that goes beyond dusty meeting rooms in neighborhood libraries — thanks to a grant from the Wallace Foundation, 'êCommunity Connections Through Technology.'ê Seattle Opera is collaborating with several community groups to integrate technology into the series. Panel discussions are streamed live (livestream.com/seattleopera) and videos are archived on the site. Seattle Opera is also presenting a Monday night discussion series, called "Creating Amelia," where members of the creative team share their experiences in crafting a new American opera.
During performances of Amelia, The Museum of Flight will install a temporary exhibit at McCaw Hall, exploring flight through historical photographs and Vietnam War memorabilia. Finally, weekly installments of The Making of Amelia video series are being released on Seattle Opera'ês website. Each video has a unique focus'êfrom working with a new score, to costume and set design research, to the rehearsal process'êand will give audiences a glimpse of the many aspects that coalesce in making the inaugural transition from the page (and score) to the stage.
All this community outreach is part of the Wallace Foundation's four-year Excellence Award, bestowed on Seattle Opera to help develop new audiences through technology, and it coincides neatly with the premiere of the opera next month. It doesn't hurt that Jonathan Dean, the creator of Seattle Opera's intelligent supra-titles, has been promoted to chief spokesman for the organization ("Director of Public Media"), filling the roles of the late Perry Lorenzo and of former PR director Hilda Cullen.
As for the terrific videos, they're here.