It's been a week since I last posted, and a very busy one. Load-in for for the opera's props and scenery into the Boston Conservatory of Music Theater is Saturday at noon; then there's a full run-through, probably two if all goes well, between 2 and 5pm. I will pull all the props from various places, but mostly from my old stock at MIT, tomorrow afternoon. Everything is built, and all the set pieces are painted except one that doesn't have to be put in until next Tuesday so everything's in pretty good shape.
Our director, a smart and very skilled British lady, had the idea that since our libretto tells the story of Isabella Stewart Gardner's life in the arts leading to her building her iconic Museum as a memory play, she wanted the setting to be the Museum. Everyone who enters or exits during a scene would do so through a doorway that was also a museum-style frame. Above is one of the two gilded doorways lying on its side. They're both built to come apart and be bundled for transportation. They'll be mounted on rolling platforms and braced to look like they're on an easel.
There are also four actual easels in the design, mounted back to back on two other rolling platforms, each one holding a large painting that will suggest the location for a scene. Three of the four are copies I've painted of work by artists known to Isabella Gardner or part of her inner circle. Two are by John Singer Sargent; this one will play behind a scene in art dealer Bernard Berenson's office.
It is, of course, Venice. For many years, the Gardners spent a couple of months a year in Venice in a palazzo on the Grand Canal. That palazzo became the model for Isabella's Museum building with its famous interior courtyard covered by a glass, greenhouse-style roof. It's believed to be the first such covered atrium to be built in the United States. The night in January, 1904 when Isabella opened the Museum with a huge party for Boston society (including many who had snubbed her because of her unconventional ways and close associations with the "bohemian" arts and gay communities), it looked somewhat like this:
The entire building was lit by candlelight. I found a picture of the courtyard more or less as it was then with two story-tall palm trees and flowers in bloom, which stunned the guests on an icy winter night, and painted it as I imagined it might have looked with candelabra everywhere.
The set was built using a large amount of the scrap lumber, some left over from construction of the house, some from Fritz's barn, including all the picture frames. I bought some decorative bits at Lowe's and cut them up and the results aren't too far off from what's in actual museums.
It's nine days to opening -- it's an exciting time!