Opera Praktikos has released a film of its first-ever opera production.
Earlier this year, the company presented outdoor performances of Händel’s “Orlando” at Campos Garden in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. The production was originally set to take place on May 27 and 28, but inclement weather forced the opening night to take place on May 28 with an additional performance added on the 29th.
Per Marianna Mott Newirth, who co-founded Opera Praktikos with Gregory Moomjy, the idea for the shows, starring Hans Tashjian, Jeffrey Mandelbaum, Elyse Anne Kakacek, Hai-Ting Chinn, and Heather Hill, originated about eight months earlier during a dinner meeting with countertenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum.
“Countertenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum and I had a mind-blowing discussion over dinner about what baroque opera in a garden could be,” Newirth, who also served as production’s Creative Producer, told OperaWire. “The next day he called with an outline and eight months later we were holding our sitzprobe at Campos with an ensemble of extraordinarily talented artists.
“It was like seeing a mirage on the horizon and just working at it until it became real. All the right people came along at the right time to make our ‘Orlando’ possible, notably Marty Jeiven, our Executive Producer.”
The film production was created by H. Paul Moon, who happened to come across the first performance of the show. He offered to return the next day, on May 29th, and film the performance with his own audio and video equipment, including a Sony a660 camera, a Blackmagic 6K camera, and a Sony a7 IV. He even found a volunteer to help out with the production.
“She had never shot video, let alone operated a Steadicam—but like everyone today, she grew up watching movies; and she knew the languages of framing and composition,” Moon told OperaWire. “She really nailed it.”
He added that the improvisatory feel of the entire production added to the experience.
“Had it been too produced, it would have lost that community feeling; had it been indoors, it would have lost the surrounding splendor of flowers and environmental sounds and audience interaction, honoring them instead of just singing to them,” Moon added. “It shows, namely, another path to a bright future for opera. And I’ve just never seen anything like this, after years of searching far and wide on YouTube and beyond for opera in the outdoors, reinvented, reconfigured, scaled to the audience right where they live.
“My takeaway is that top-quality opera is possible, literally, anywhere; in a garden, at a grocery store, and on a grand stage,” concluded Newirth. “I want those who watch this video to be immersed in the visceral intimacy of what this piece was for the community and to find a moment of joy as part of the community in a garden on the Lower East Side.”
The video can now be viewed via YouTube (or watch it below).