Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

A View From The Bridge (3)/Drama. Music. Melding.

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Arthur Miller’s play, A View From The Bridge, is an exploration of cultural crosscurrents in an adapting immigrant community in 50’s America.

It is also an unflinching view of a marriage, strained with too much unspoken, festering with human wants that ultimately erupt in a public tragedy of classic proportions.

As theatre, the work is a raw coil to an inexorable end. It is also a very visceral opera, with a score that makes our ears full witness to the anguish of a man’s disintegrating moral compass.

The confluence of music and theatre articulates the dimensions of a unique type of sung drama. Kim Josephson, who is the originator of the role of Eddie Carbone, is adamant as he says, “This work comes out of a particularly American tradition of theater. Arthur Miller is an American cultural institution. And Bill Bolcolm responds in a particularly American manner to the text. It reconfigures the stage. It is new opera. And people are up on their feet by the end of it.”

The morning after dinner with the composer, I attend the first Production Meeting.

Though they have been in detailed correspondence over the months, this ‘at table’ discussion is the first time the members of the full production, as well as artistic team, get to meet.

Beth Krynicki, the production’s Stage Manager, facilitates the introductions, identifying departments, director, conductor and assistants.

Christina Scheppelmann, Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera, welcomes everyone and expresses her deep regard for this particular work. She is proud of WNO’s involvement in bringing it to Washington audiences.

The meeting proceeds. It involves questions and answers to finalize issues of costumes, scheduling, props and design, the “fight” choreography, and ‘supernumerary’ criteria. (‘Supers’ are stage extras in non-singing roles.)

There are music issues to discuss as well. The score of the work has traveled through several productions, countries, and years. The copied score being used is the one from the Met production, which is the most extant version available of the cuts, cues, new music, and adjusted time markings of the opera.

To everyone’s satisfaction, the meeting has stayed within an hour. The principal cast now arrives. Maestro John DeMain greets the composer. Bill beams, “It’s like a reunion.”

Catherine Malfitano, Gregory Turay and Kim Josephson premiered their roles in Chicago. John Del Carlo and Richard Bernstein came to the cast when it premiered at the Met in 2002.

Bill is introduced to the newest members of the production. Christine Brandes has the role of ‘Catherine’, and Kirk Eichelberger has the role of ‘Louis’.

Bill looks to the last member of the cast. “Hi. Who are you?”

Greg Warren.”

“Oh. You get to go ‘Yeah’”.

“Yeah!”

Greg has the role of Mike, and is a former recipient of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Award.

With palpable excitement everyone moves to take a music stand and a chair. Bill and the production team spread out over three, six foot tables. Everyone in the room is working from a copy of the score.

Maestro DeMain is seated in a conductor’s chair that is slightly raised above the rest of us. He opens the oblong volume of the orchestral score. He takes his baton in hand and, before instigating a single note of music, looks at the composer.

With this gesture, it is no small thing to realize that we are at another moment in the chain that forges into history of this opera. We are witnesses to the wishes of the composer, his thoughts – his intentions. We will all leave this room with that first-hand information, to participate- whether through conversations or the reprisals of roles -in the onward momentum of this new, American operatic work.

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