Romania in 2019-2020?
I have maintained certain superstitions across my professional life, like the infamous taboo in the theatre of using the title name of Shakespeare's "Scottish play" when inside the building or anywhere within the production itself. Never mind that I felt cursed the only time I was involved in a production of Verdi's Macbeth with Opera Roanoke in April 2007. The Sunday Matinee performance found my voice disappearing because of allergies and encroaching laryngitis. One of my colleagues had broken the taboo earlier that week in a dressing room... (#OverheardAtNOLA #SingerSobStories)
I am actually wary about divulging details of a proposal or application before the process is completed and I know the outcome myself. So I'll break my own taboo and share about the prospective projects in Romania in which I'm involved.
I just applied for my first Fulbright Scholar grant, after receiving an invitation from the Faculty of Music and Theatre of West University, Timisoara (UVT) to join them for the 2019-2020 year.
Here's the project summary I submitted:
"This project aims to fulfill the invitation to join the faculty of West University, Timisoara, Romania for 2019-2020. In addition to teaching on the music faculty, I would help produce and stage-direct the professional world-premiere production of Romania, Revolution: 1989, by Virginia composer Aaron Garber. I would do some teaching and advising for the “Academy for Excellence”, the first-of-its-kind training program in Romania specifically for musical theatre performance. This three-layered collaborative project is the result of multiple arts partners from Virginia and Romania, including non-profit colleagues like Rotary International, AGAR (Amherst Glebe Arts Response) and Opera Roanoke."
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and so the proposed December 2019 premiere of Romania, Revolution: 1989 marks almost to the day the start of the democratic revolution which toppled one of the last dictatorships at the end of the so-called "cold war." Indeed, when Aaron conceived his one-act opera it was a two-person cast telling this fast-paced story. Baritone Philip Bouknight created the role of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and I had the pleasure of portraying the first incarnation of the student "hero" who represents the voice of the people.
In my project statement, in answer to a question about what this residency would mean for its recipient, I mentioned this unique dynamic. To have the opportunity to direct a new and full-length version of an opera I helped premiere is rare. I am eager to discover all that our cast will teach us as we work together on this opera (which Aaron is presently composing...)
During our visit to our friends at UVT and Rotary Opera Timisoara this past spring, Aaron and I heard auditions and cast most of the roles for his new opera, and we begin formalizing the plans for its prospective December 2019 production in the National Opera House. It was on this balcony (above) that political leaders spoke during the cold-war years of the communist regime, so it was fitting that from the same platform the democratic rebellion leaders spoke and inspired.
My young Romanian tenor friends are especially eager to have the opportunity for us to continue to work together. Some of them are with me (pictured above) in the Opera House lobby following the Dec. 2017 Romanian premiere of Aaron's one-act opera, which I was thrilled to be doing. (And I was nervous as all get out! That opera house was the most intimidating space in which I've sung!)
I would not be surprised to find my proposal rejected in favor of a STEM-field proposal (ahem: the correct nomenclature is now STEAM and the "A" is not for agriculture or Hester Prynne. It's "Arts."
Regardless, I hope to be there at least to direct the production and help see Romania, Revolution: 1989 realized in the place of its birth on a very special occasion for its city and country.
To all my friends in Timisoara: Ciao! Ne vedem în curând!
Hope to see you soon!