This is one of those rare posts where I write about my work.
If there is a name for the stage director's version of "writer's block" I wish I knew what it was. I am directing not one, but TWO productions of Hansel & Gretel this winter.... one, a full blown, give-the-technical-director-nightmares style show; the other a truncated version that includes a different set of children onstage for every performance... an educational tour.
Hansel & Gretel certainly has its fans, and I am going to admit, I have not really been one of them. While I adore the orchestral music, the vocal lines leave me bit cold. What can I say?... I am a Baroque gal! More importantly, the dramatic pacing is a bit sluggish for my taste. Most scenes are about 5-8 minutes longer than (I feel) they need to be. (When I said this to a musician pal, he responded... "Aren't most of the scenes about 8 minutes long?".... exactly. hehehe. I kid, I kid.).
All that is good to consider, but at the end of the day, I have been hired to direct the show and it is my responsibility to help shape something that delights and enthralls our audience. Period.
It has been really difficult to work on a piece that I don't connect with. I generally like to spend a LOT of time listening to a piece I am directing.... let the music "tell me" what needs to happen onstage. I have not been as dedicated to that particular task on this show.... I have done it, but bringing myself to the task has been a much greater effort. I have had periods of serious doubt, feeling like I have lost the capacity to tell when something is good or bad. It is so much easier when you fall in love with a piece and every measure seems to be full of musical gold!
A bright light: I am actually just finishing work on the educational tour version, and to tell the truth, as we began to perform for audiences, everything was suddenly better. This show is cute. Audiences are really enjoying it, and I am beginning to see it through their eyes. "Good pacing here" I think, or "Ah, that was just thing....not too complicated, not too simple." Of course I see myriad problems, too, but I know they are out of my control now.... it is up to my singers to fill out their parts, really curl up and make themselves at home.
I woke up in the night the other day, worrying (this is normal during a show or the days just prior to it) and after a minor freak out, wrote down these things:
1. Focus on the task at hand. Worrying about the future is useless....and I actually began to feel a little better about it all.
2. Know you will do the very best you can do.
3. Know there is nothing more you CAN do.
4. Know there is no one else who can do what YOU will do.
5. Approach the task with love in your heart.
I may not ever count Hansel & Gretel in my top 10 favorite operas, but I am growing more and more fond of it. And frankly, I am working in the best of all possible worlds here: the folks on our production team are really good their jobs... they are excited about their work, and really want to create an amazing product. These qualities are surprisingly rare in this biz, and I am all too aware of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such folks.
And sometimes, when I am studying the score all alone in my room, thinking and planning.... I get excited in spite of myself. This show is all about losing your way, being brave and coming out a little stronger on the other side. That kind of magic happens every day.
UPDATE: I've since fallen a bit in love with this old chestnut. Nothing like a little together time with one of the most popular operas in the repertoire. :)