Five Questions with Greg Carpenter
opera talk with Greg Carpenter – Opera Colorado’s General Director
Greg Carpenter is the fourth General Director in Opera Colorado’s history. He guides both the artistic and administrative operations of the company. We sat down with him to learn more about the upcoming world premiere of The Scarlet Letter.
Why The Scarlet Letter?
I feel that it is important for Opera Colorado to produce new work in order to keep the art of opera alive and relevant in the 21st century. Lori Laitman’s opera brings together her lyric, accessible music with a timeless story, whose major themes are as relevant today as when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the novel over 150 years ago.
What does producing a world premiere require that producing another opera does not?
With a world premiere, you are starting from scratch. The opera has never been presented before, so there are no costumes or sets to rent, no recordings to listen to – nothing to reference except the score and libretto (and the original novel). You have to hire a design team to create sets, costumes, lighting and projections, and coordinate with the stage director so that everything and everyone works together harmoniously to bring the story and music to life. With a premiere, you have access to the composer and librettist, so there are many phone conversations about casting, about changes to the score, about how each scene will play out. When we presented a new production of The Magic Flute last spring, we did not have access to Mozart and his librettist to talk about what they envisioned. Premieres add a whole new level of detailed communications and take years to coordinate.
What does producing a new opera like The Scarlet Letter mean for Opera Colorado?
First and foremost, it means that we are able to offer our patrons and the broader community the opportunity to experience something fresh, new and relevant. We are contributing to the growing cannon of 21st century opera works that are being created by companies across the United States. When you look at opera companies across the US that are thriving, you will find one thing in common. They are all producing or presenting new works. The world premiere of Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter is our contribution to the growing national excitement around the future of opera in America.
With opening night less than two months away, can you give us a status update of how production is going?
All of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together nicely. The cast is set and all of their travel and housing is in order. The set is about three quarters of the way completed. Most of the costumes will be completed by March 31st and ready for final fittings when the cast arrives for the first day of rehearsals on April 11th. The chorus begins rehearsals on March 28th, and the first set of orchestral parts for Act II arrived today. There is always a significant amount of last minute detail work that gets done just as the artists arrive, but Katie Preissner, our production manager has everything well in her grasp.
Is there a part of The Scarlet Letter that you particularly love? An aria? A scene? A role?
Since I have not heard the complete score yet (and won’t until we get into rehearsals), it is difficult to say what my favorite part of the opera is. I’m sure that as I sit in rehearsals and become well acquainted with the music, I will find favorite moments in the piece. Based on the reading of the one hour tour version we presented last March, I can say that I find Lori Laitman’s music for the chorus very compelling.