|Director Dan Wallace Miller|
Tell me about your vision for The Combat.
It's an extension of my whole body of work thus far, which has been super non-traditional shows. I am attracted to the post-modern edge. I was so happy (Seattle Opera Education & Community Engagement Director) Barbara Lynne Jamison approached me about The Combat—the chance to do what I’ve done independently, but this time with more resources. I love that Seattle Opera is trying to create difficult and pointed dialogues through our art. Opera gets a bad rap for being the antiquated creation of dead white guys. But in The Combat, we’re taking the oldest opera that there is, a work by Monteverdi, and using it in a contemporary and socially-relevant way. This is our stab at an immersive opera.
|Thomas Segen (Tancredi), Tess Altiveros (Clorinda) and Eric Neuville (Testo) in Seattle Opera's The Combat. Philip Newton photo|
|Taylor Raven (Hannah before) and Jorell Williams (Hannah after) in As One. Rozarii Lynch photo|
|The current Seattle Opera rehearsal studios/administrative building where The Combat takes place. Genevieve Hathaway photo|
It will be a completely different experience. Those of us who spend most of our lives and careers in rehearsals rooms know what it’s like to be so close to the music, to the unamplified voices. It’s so different than seeing a show at McCaw Hall. You can almost feel your entire body vibrate. So audiences of The Combat have the rare opportunity to feel and experience opera in a new way.
I’ve grown up at Seattle Opera, which explains my lifelong love of Wagner. I’ve seen the Ring over 30 times, both in a seat and in the standing-only section. I find that standing through the 17 hours of that performance gives you an alertness that makes you more present. You feel like you’re part of the piece. And that’s even more so when the singer is just a foot away from you. This is not a passive receiving of a story—the audience member is an active participant.
|Maestro Stephen Stubbs leads a 5-piece baroque orchestra for The Combat. Philip Newton photo|
In Tasso’s epic poem “Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda”—of which The Combat is based—there is a pivotal scene that is profoundly offensive. Once we understand that this is a show presented by a narrator, and one who is unreliable, we can understand more about why this event happens in The Combat. Testo represents all the evil things that one can twist faith into.
We’re creating a conversation about faith and dissecting what it means to be someone who believes in a certain religion. We’re examining the God of Abraham, and the connectivity that lies between monotheism to discover the peace between those three.
The most successful show we did with Vespertine Opera Theater was Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias), about a woman whose breast fly away from her body. She turns into a male general, her husband has 1,041 kids—real Surrealist Ivory Tower stuff. We got such a diverse crowd, the most diverse crowd of people that never heard opera before showed up and absolutely loved it. I think if you tailor the experience to what interests people, they will come. Even the bartender at our opera who didn’t want to be there eventually stopped texting, and discretely started taking pictures on his phone. Afterward, he said, “That was the coolest thing I ever saw here—and the Fleet Foxes came through last week.”
|8-year-old Dan rides one of the Valkyrie horses from the Rochaix Ring.|