Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yesterday I drove down to Boston and began my part of the job in Intermezzo’s production of “The Inman Diaries” by moving furniture and props into the Massachusetts College of Art theater. During the staging rehearsal last night I got a good sense of the director’s use of stage areas. I also climbed up high over the auditorium, walking the lighting catwalks to inventory the available equipment and map where instruments are hung.

Acoustically, the space is far better than we'd feared. While it certainly helps that we have several cast members with large and/or well focused voices that project very well, you can’t fake acoustics if a space is badly designed or made of the wrong materials—and opera is an art form in which amplification is not tolerated.

The MassArt auditorium in the school’s Tower Building became infamous even before it opened, as the theater from whose Balcony you cannot see the stage. I haven’t had a chance to get onto the Balcony yet, but I do know that audience is never seated there and its only use is as a position for a projector and a couple of lighting instruments. Apparently the Balcony’s problem is some combination of insufficient pitch to the seats and a concrete front rail that’s way too high.

I’ll spend the day in Boston again tomorrow pulling more furniture and small prop items from MIT’s stock where I’m no longer part of the Theater Section but a rental client like so many of Boston’s prop masters and designers who used to come to me to furnish their productions.

So, how do I like my new status and career? I LOVE it. Designing for Intermezzo’s productions is the only theatrical design job I’m keeping in this phase of my career, and they do only two productions a year. For the rest, I’m enjoying my research, reading, doing outdoor work on the property—and taking part in the construction of the new house.


Speaking of which, yesterday morning we heard a cement truck going up the new road just after 7am, and dropped work on breakfast to go up after it. We arrived on site just as the first cement was coming down the chute for the final section of the slab—the great room and the entrance vestibule. This is the section that had to have hand-troweled expansion joints. We went up the hill a couple of times before noon just to watch the process and the result is very fine indeed. All these photos were taken yesterday morning.

Close-up of the finished joints before the final smoothing and finishing of the top surface. This morning when we went to the site, the concrete surface was beautifully polished.

The only structure missing from the roof now is the square, copper-topped ventilation cupola. With luck, it will have been dropped into place by my next post. The roof joists had been finished as of this morning and by tonight, the entire roof should be sheathed in plywood. The plan is to shingle the high roof and make the central, two-story mass weatherproof, then move forward to roof the great room (a big job--the roof trusses will be built on Fritz's parking lot) and our bedroom wing.

One of the two Shanes up on the roof, which has three pitches, progressively steeper as you go up. At the moment, everybody comments on how "Asian" the roof looks and it's not unlike some Indonesian or Japanese roofs I've seen.


Luciano Pavarotti died during the night of pancreatic cancer, in Italy at age 71. All the big news shows reported his final day's decline and passing. He was a huge media phenom, a man who wasn't handsome, wasn't slender or elegant, but one who communicated very directly to his public, seemingly one fan at a time. Anne Midgett summed it up in a quote for the Today Show, saying that he was cuddly, a teddy bear and very human.

The quality of the voice was extremely high and in the early phases of his career it was both beautiful and controlled by a rock solid technique. One of his great achievements was the care and preservation of the voice even as he began to take on material way too heavy for this lyric tenor. Toward the end the tone tried out a bit and the range shortened but the central core held and held.

With time he joined the Three Tenors circus and began to bridge opera and pop. The media this morning reported this as some sort of breakthrough for an opera star, totally ignorant of the mixed careers of singers from a hundred years ago when soprano Alma Gluck became rich by selling two million copies of "Carry me back to old Virginny" on fragile shellac 78rpm discs, or when the major part of the last six years of Enrico Caruso's recorded output were popular and "salon" songs in various languages. Those singers didn't "cross over" as much as include all kinds of music in their recitals and recording activities as a matter of course.

Luciano kept on taking high-visibility opera engagements for about five years too long, leading to some embarrasing major cancellations. But when you've had that kind of career, it's hard to let go.

One thing none of the news anchors has mentioned--and it was a huge part of Pavarotti's communicative skill--was his forty year public love affair with the Italian Language. The words were important to him, not something that had to be endured in order to get The Voice some material to perform. The vowels were round, rich and caressed by the tone, the consonants crisp. well projected--but nothing was mannered or over-pronounced. He was a larger-than-life personality and talent and he gave enormous pleasure. Addio, Maestro.

Very sad, the news from Italy about Pavarotti. I hate the "good ones" leaving us.
Now, who is in the picture in the blue shirt on the roof? Looks a little like he's going pee-pee! I can hardly wait to see the place in person sometime. It's almost like I can sense it's calmness, it's spirit, the peace and beauty of the mountains around it.
There is amplification in the Santa Fe Opera, which they try to justify because it is in the open air. Their system is ingenious as it does not use direct miking, but frankly I did not focus on that part because the whole experience was so exotic.

The photos of your home going up are bound to fuel escape ideation in your readers...hope all goes well!
that was the best obiturary tribute to him that i have read; you do a fine job as always.
Wow, it's going to be beautiful!
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