Archive for March, 2010

Post-opera thoughts – by Jessie Hethcoat

As one of my fellow bloggers said, “This is like a marathon!”

Blogging in 25 minute spurts is pretty demanding, but I’m giving it my best shot! The Bernstein piece was very cool. I’ve never seen contemporary opera or anything close to Trouble in Tahiti.

In it, there was a trio of “suburban” singers, who forcefully recommended the joys of suburbia to the protagonists. The characters from the Monteverdi acts were also part of the Bernstein piece. This one wasn’t exactly an upper, but it was gorgeous, sensual and an English major’s wet dream.

Courtesy of Cory Weaver/ Portland Opera

Let me explain further. This Bernstein act along with the Monteverdi ones was filled with symbolism. As the characters travel through time, the concept of love develops. Plutone and Venere (Pluto and Venus) continued into the 1950s, where they were still major players in the developments.

Rich with dichotomy, the Bernstein and Monteverdi pieces truly did work together. They taught a lesson.

Bernstein also wrote West Side Story and several other critically acclaimed operas. Like Monteverdi, he is recognized for his innovation, referred to as the “first great American composer.”

All in all, a solid evening. Much better than this Tuesday, which I spent watching Cats.

Check out my blog!! http://jessiereads.wordpress.com/

And have a fantastic day.

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At the intermission – by Jessie Hethcoat

Wow. I would say that I’m speechless, but that wouldn’t make me a very good blogger, would it?

We just saw the Monteverdi acts, which were written around 1600. According to Muni, Monteverdi was one of the first if not the very first person to compose opera. You could definitely hear it in the music as well. I’m not sure if it was just my untrained ears, but it seemed like the aria and recitative were more fluid than in more recent operas.

The transition between acts was fluid. One of the lost souls from the first act became the narrator for the next.

Much of the music for this opera was played on the harpsichord, which we saw in our backstage tour. The harpsichord being used was made locally.

It was gorgeous. Very slow and simple, but this opera was beautiful. It was not just the music, though, it was also the visuals. The stage used a projector, which is the first I’ve ever seen in an opera production. Spencer, my photographer, noticed Ground Zero in the projections during the battle sequence of the second act. We confirmed with the stage director that Ground Zero, among other pictures of destruction, were in the background.

I’m really liking the “student” aspect of this performance. I always enjoy understudy and student performances because it’s usually very apparent that the performers are both giving their all and trying to prove themselves, which proves for an interesting and inspired performance.

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Before the opera, blogging – by Jessie Hethcoat

After arriving at around 6:00, we begun our whirlwind tour of the Newmark Theatre backstage. This particular performance is a Studio Artist production, that accepts performers from different conservatories and training programs for opera performers.

Because many (I think all) of us are relatively unfamiliar with opera, the tour was a 101 crash-course in the backstage operations that it takes to run a smaller opera. We were able to see the backstage and we actually ran into “Pluto” while backstage, who will be a part of the Monteverdi acts.

The backstage was surprisingly small, there was barely room for the seven of us on the tour to walk through without running into the lighting on the sides of the stage. For this size production, there are only four or five backstage hands rather than the 30 to 40 that it takes to run a show in the Keller Auditorium.

The benefits? At this theater, every seat is no more than 65 feet away from the stage.

We just finished meeting the stage director, Nic Muni, and receiving our backstage tour Laura Hassell, director of production for the Portland Opera.

Each of them were extremely helpful in giving us an idea of what has gone into making this opera. While Hassell’s main domain is the technical aspect of making the show happen, Muni has been working on the conceptual aspect of this production for a year now.

According to Muni, the two Monteverdi acts that we will see tonight have never been performed together; and the Portland Opera has pulled elements from each of the works in order for them to relate to both each other and the Portland Opera season, Love & Marriage. Interestingly, Muni and others made their own arrangement for this evening. Muni is anxious to hear what others think about how they have arranged it.

I’d like to thank Spencer Degerstedt, my friend and official photographer today for making others and me nervous by snapping shots when we least expect it and also covering the backstage tour/ conversations.

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I’m Jessie Hethcoat, a reporter from The Beacon who focuses on arts and entertainment writing. This evening, I’m one of four college bloggers for the Portland Opera’s opening night of “Trouble in Tahiti” by composer Leonard Bernstein. I am absolutely, unequivocally excited.

I’ll be blogging on my personal blog (http://jessiereads.wordpress.com/), The Beacon blog and posting on my Facebook page.

First, we’re scheduled to arrive and receive a backstage tour with other college bloggers. Next, we meet with stage director Nic Muni and subsequently blog, before the show begins. The show starts at 7:30, and we will then blog both at intermission and after the show ends.

This production of Trouble in Tahiti is a Studio Artist production. So the bloggers (as well as the performers?) are students. As far as I’m concerned, all of us will be trying to do the same thing: impress the hell out of those professionals. Key word, trying.

Courtesy of Cory Weaver/ Portland Opera

All blogging will take place in the lobby of the Newmark Theatre in downtown Portland at 1111 SW Broadway (at Main Street), where the show will take place.

Now, a bit of background on the opera itself, for me and for you. The fabulous Alexis Hamilton, director of education and outreach for the Portland Opera, provides all the information you need for a Portland Opera production. Her study guides are on the Portland Opera website.

Composed by Leonardo Bernstein, who some refer to as “the first great American composer,” this opera is not one of the most famous in existence; but it is certainly recognized for its innovation and purely American aim.

Composed in 1952, Trouble in Tahiti advertises “the charms of family life” and the cult of domesticity. My guess is that the Portland Opera will have a similar take on this opera as they did with Cosi Fan Tutte. Mozart wrote Cosi , and the Portland Opera used a production with a 1950s setting to make the questionable (sexist) assertions about women a little more tongue-in-cheek.

From what it seems, Bernstein’s opera gives a good deal of sympathy to Dina, the housewife of the opera. Unlike Mozart’s assertion that “Women are All Like That” in Cosi, Bernstein’s opera further investigates the plight of the housewife and her abused emotions.

As well as Trouble in Tahiti, there are two other acts Il ballo delle ingrate (The Dance of the Ungrateful Women) and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda by Claudio Monteverdi.

Blog ya later.

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Congratulations to Beacon editor-in-chief Andy Matarrese and reporter Hannah Gray. Both are finalists in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards for Region 10 (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana).

This is a big deal for a few reasons, one being that The Beacon was competing with not just weekly college newspapers, but the gigantic esteemed dailies as well.

Andy is one of three finalists for Best Editorial Writing.
Hannah is one of three finalists for General News Reporting.

The other two finalists in Hannah’s category were reporters from The Daily from the University of Washington and The Daily Emerald from the University of Oregon, both gargantuan schools with big newspaper staffs and reputable journalism programs.

The other two finalists for best editorial writing are from Washington State University – another journalism behemoth- (The Daily Evergreen) and Whitworth College (The Whitworthian) Although Whitworth is even smaller than UP, it too has a journalism program and its paper has an excellent reputation.

Whoever gets first place will be entered in the national SPJ Mark of Excellence competition.

Winners will be announced at a banquet in Seattle on April 10. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Andy and Hannah!

-Ms. Adviser

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Just to elaborate on Rosemary’s previous post…
The Associated Collegiate Press runs a “Best in Show” contest at its national convention (in Phoenix this year). Entries included excellent college newspapers from around the country. About 80 colleges and universities took part. The largest (and most competitive) category was for weekly newspapers at 4-year colleges/universities. The Beacon placed 7th!
Congratulations to EVERYONE on the staff. You should be proud! -Nancy

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After a whirlwind tour of the Valley of the Sun, The Beacon staff members chosen for the trip to the ACP journalism convention are back in Portland. I’m happy to say that The Beacon was awarded 7th place honors in the Best in Show contest among 30-40 other four-year university weeklies. The award — don’t let the “7th place” fool you, it’s a really big deal — is a deserved testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff. The University of Portland is lucky to have so enthusiastic and skilled a student newspaper.

And thanks to Rosemary for the kind words. As I said, the award is symptomatic of all the hard work put in by the staff, and it pains me greatly that more of them were unable to join us and share in the glory. Hopefully, winning an award validating how bad-ass we know we are and the knowledge those who went shall pass on will offer some solace.

My notebook is full of good tips and strategies I’m excited to share and pursue. The design guy I saw was cool. He gave me some tips I’m pumped to try out, and helped validate that my philosophies on newspaper design aren’t totally crazy. Rob Curly, one of the keynotes, was very refreshing to hear. His philosophies on technology and journalism show that there is some hope out there. A lot of what he said kind of gave voice to some stuff I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while. It’s nice to see there are people out there trying different things when it comes to reporting in our brave new world. I’ll sleep a bit better at night.

My favorite part about these kinds of things, however, whether it’s time with some pro who comes by the office or if we go somewhere else to learnthings, is the stories. One speaker, three-time Pulitzer nominee and investigative journalists Robert Anglin was ten pounds of bad-ass in a five pound bag. People ask him if he got into journalism to help people, to use his reporting to make the world a better place, he told us. He said no, he just wants to punish people. His big kick was holding those in power accountable, and boy does he like to do it. He’s been shot at, had murders come to his door, been threatened, name it. Someone asked him, though I may be over-simplifying his question, if the search for truth in or line of work could ever do more harm than good. Anglin told him, “That’s bullshit … the truth always serves the public good.” My kind of guy.

Another guy I met was Jeff Hana. He’s the adviser for the independent student paper at the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces. He was my critic for the critique session, and he had some good points that I’m looking forward to discussing with the other editors. Most of what we ended up doing, as I’m sure you can guess, was talking shop. He was a crotchety, older fellow, and had no problem telling it like it was with my paper, and his stories told me he didn’t mind doing the same thing at the paper he advises either. Beyond the fun exchange of war stories, one thing he said really stuck out. He encouraged me and the staff to experiment and remember we work at the paper to learn about journalism. He made sure to hammer it home before I left: “If someone tells you the paper looks like shit, tell them it won’t next time.”

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