Monday, April 18, 2011

Checking In with Director Chris Alexander

Last week marked the start of rehearsals for The Magic Flute, which opens on May 7 and wraps up Seattle Opera’s 2010/2011 season. Director Chris Alexander (photo, left, by Rozarii Lynch) will be giving us a weekly behind-the-scenes look at the process of getting Mozart’s fantastical masterpiece to the stage, and we touched base with him to see how things have been going so far. Here's what he said, along with a couple photos from rehearsal:

What did you and the cast work on in your first week together?
We blocked Act 1, which means setting people on stage so they know where they’re standing and so we have the set up of a scene dramaturgically. For me, it’s always an adventure in the first week because I get to know everybody, and they also get to know me. (Of this cast, I only knew two of the singers—the Monostatos, Doug Jones, and then Phil Cutlip who is one of the Papagenos.) Then we go into Act 1 and find our style, which means establishing how this Magic Flute looks in comparison to others. I have a lot of singers on stage who have done their parts many times before and so they have to adjust to my ideas. I also have to have big eyes and big ears to see what’s good for them, because they have to stand on stage afterward, not me. So this first week is always trying to get to know somebody and get the part right for them so that they can present their beautiful music in the best way.

Marcy Stonikas, John Tessier, Anya Matanovic, Philip Cutlip, and Lindsey Anderson rehearse the Act 1 Quintet.
Photo by Alan Alabastro

What will you be working on in the second week of rehearsal?
The second act. We block out Act 1 in the first week, and Act 2 in the second week, and get it so that everybody knows exactly what’s going. And then in the third week, we put it all together.

Have you come across any surprises in rehearsal so far?
Well, in Magic Flute you have a lot of animals coming on stage and you have a lot magical effects. And we’ve been dealing with a lot of that magic to find out if it works or not, and the happy surprise is that what we have looks quite startling!

Director Chris Alexander and Assistant Director Jeffrey Buchman visit with one of the animal puppets appearing in The Magic Flute.
Photo by Alan Alabastro