I returned to the spacious mansion in Winter Park to see the dress rehearsal for Gian Carlo Menotti's, "The Medium." Robin Stamper, the pianist asked actress Susan Neves how she felt. "I feel comfortable." she said. "I'll do the best I can at this point in time and if there is a mistake, I'll be able to fix it for Saturday's performance." Frank McClain, the director, on the other hand was nervous. There were thousands of infinite details that had to fall into place to make the performances perfect. This was to be the first run through with all the lighting and props.
Frank let me know that six people had bid on and won the chance to see the dress rehearsal at a fundraiser. When the door bell rang, Frank shouted out, "Places everyone!" The six winners entered and Frank spoke with them for a while. Kathy Miller was a warm inviting hostess offering wine and cheese. None of the women had seen an opera before. Frank let them know that they were in for a treat. Frank warned the small audience that there was one gun shot in the show and no one could be hurt. I knew as I started the sketch that I wanted to catch Shannon Jennings singing "Old Black Swan." Her performance was mesmerizing. When the seance began, I couldn't resist sketching that as well. Unfortunately Brent Reilly Turner as Mr. Gobineau is mysteriously missing from the sketch. I had already painted the black piano which made it impossible to sketch his face. The only solution was to leave his chair empty.
In the final act, Susan as Baba grabbed the gun from a dresser drawer when she was startled awake by David Grindrod as Toby. She waved the gun around as if aiming at ghosts. Several audience members flinched. The gun fired with tragic consequences. When the actors each came out to bow after the show, Susan Neves got the loudest applause. Of course with such a small audience, the applause felt polite rather than thunderous. I absolutely loved the production. Something about the intimate setting gave it added punch.
Frank gave the cast his notes. Regarding makeup, he felt Susan looked too beautiful in the final act. Susan didn't fully agree with the premise that Baba was a heavy drinker. In one scene she forgot to bring her bottle of liquor with her. She was supposed to take a heavy swig from the bottle. She added, "You didn't read clause 451A in my contract which states, 'I must be the most beautiful one 0f all'". Frank and the cast laughed. Bobbie Demme San-Filippo doing make up agreed to add darker rings under Susan's eyes. There were many more subtle staging notes but, as an audience member seeing the show for the first time, the production seemed flawless. After two years of darkness, opera is back in Orlando!
The show will be staged at the Orlando Repertory Theater on December 3rd at 7:30pm and December 4th at 2:30pm. You can get tickets at floperatheater.org or call 407 718-4365.