Monday, August 27, 2012

Interview with SLO "Manon Lescaut" Director E. Loren Meeker

I had previously interviewed E. Loren Meeker for my August feature in Time Out Singapore. Due to space constraints I couldn't include all the quotes she had taken the time to write. Since opening night is this weekend (!!!), I thought why not just publish them here? But first, here's an introduction to her past work via her bio on the SLO's press release:

American stage director E. Loren Meeker has worked with some of the most prestigious opera companies in the world. Recent engagements include Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (Manon), San Diego Opera (La bohème), and San Francisco Opera (Die Fledermaus). Meeker has directed four productions for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s young artist program: Don Pasquale, Così fan tutte, La Cenerentola and Don Giovanni. Other recent work includes Albert Herring for DePaul University, Lucrezia for the Boston University Opera Institute, Cloclo for Chicago Folks Operetta, Die Fledermaus for Penn State University, and the world premiere of A Way Home at Houston Grand Opera.

She has served on the directing staff at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Central City Opera, where she received the John Moriarty Award in 2006. Also known as a choreographer, her work includes Vanessa at Central City Opera, Orpheus in the Underworld at Glimmerglass Opera, and Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni with HGO. Upcoming productions include directing two world premieres with Houston Grand Opera and Candide for Amarillo Opera.


The Mad Scene: What is your take on the story of Manon Lescaut as told through Puccini’s opera? Any special insight that will influence your directorial approach?

Loren: As a director, I feel it is important to create a production that is relevant to today’s audience. To achieve this, the design team and I have developed a modern production that focuses on large themes and emotions that permeate Puccini’s opera – love, lust, and passion; the feeling of being trapped in your environment; the struggle to chose between material desires and the desires of your heart. Exploring these subjects through a character as intriguing and complicated as Manon is a wonderful challenge.

The Mad Scene: Starting with your university training in theatre, how did you get into staging opera?

Loren: Honestly, it was a happy accident. My training for theater had prepared me for opera direction even though I wasn’t specifically focused on opera until after I graduated from Boston University. I grew up dancing, playing the saxophone, singing in choirs, and acting in both straight plays and musicals. In college I continued to develop these skills in addition to choreographing and directing productions. Once I graduated I was unexpectedly given the opportunity to work on my first opera and my eyes were suddenly opened to an artistic world I had never explored before and I was immediately captivated. This art form demands that I use all of my skills to tell a strong story and I love the challenge!

The Mad Scene: How does the addition of singing affect the way you stage a theatrical work?

Loren: For me, the big difference between theatre and opera direction deals with character development and tempi. I consider working in opera a gift because the addition of music provides inside information about who the characters are, what they are feeling, and predetermines the rate at which the story and characters develop. The composer gives me a road map to follow. By carefully studying the text and the music I can learn volumes about the story I am telling. Discovering this road map and interpreting it is artistically thrilling.

The Mad Scene: What would you be expecting from your upcoming trip to Singapore? What kind of research have you done, professionally and ‘touristically’?

Loren: I can hardly begin to describe how excited I am to be travelling to this part of the world for the first time! I have heard wonderful things about Singapore Lyric Opera and so far my work with the design team, which is comprised of all local artists, has been wonderfully fun. I cannot wait to meet the cast and to begin rehearsing. I’m trying to prepare myself for working in Singapore by speaking with colleagues who have worked and/or lived in the country.

My family will be joining me for opening night after which we will spend two and a half weeks touring through Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I never thought I would be traveling, let alone working, in this part of the world so I am devouring as much information as I can about these countries. If you have any suggestions for things to see and do in any of these countries please let me know!

The Mad Scene: Thanks so much Loren! Looking forward to catching the show!


The Singapore Lyric Opera's production of Manon Lescaut opens this Friday (31 Aug) and runs till next Tuesday (4 Sept), no show on Sunday (2 Sept). Get your tickets at SISTIC. 

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