Sunday, May 2, 2010

Last Night at the Museum of Flight

Seattle Opera’s gala, featuring Amelia, couldn’t have been held in a more appropriate place: at the Museum of Flight, with airplanes hanging over, beside and around those who had dinner and heard from several participants in the production. Composer Daron Hagen and librettists Gardner McFall spoke about the creation of Amelia; interspersed in their conversation with General Director Speight Jenkins were three arias. Though the space was not meant for singing, all three singers made each aria moving and effective. Ashley Emerson radiantly sang the opening piece in the opera, the young Amelia’s musing about her fascination with flying; Jennifer Zetlan received applause and cheering for her rendition of the Flier's aria in the first scene, its text based on what Amelia Earhart actually said in her last few minutes before her plane went down in the Pacific; and David McFerrin sang the Letter Aria, Amelia’s father last communication to his family, with heartfelt intensity.

Both Hagen and McFall offered new insights into the creation of Amelia, fresh points not made in their earlier public presentations. McFall talked about what it meant to her to use her father’s words written in letters to her mother in the Letter Aria and among other points Hagen discussed what it was like to orchestrate the opera and to compose for the specific singers who were scheduled to sing the world premiere.

All five artists were warmly received by the more than 200 patrons who enjoyed a reception before the dinner at another area of the Museum of Flight. The area where the dinner was held, amidst maybe six or seven huge planes, had a stage created on which was placed a piano. All who spoke or sang used the stage, and to improve visibility all that went on was seen additionally on a large screen. David McDade, Seattle Opera's principal coach/accompanist, accompanied the singers.

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