Sunday, March 27, 2016

Speed Dating Tonight: Notes and Bio

Notes by director Elisabeth Harrington:

"I chose Speed Dating Tonight! because it is very modern and relevant--the text expresses fears and feelings many people seem to have about the "dating game." Also, it is a comedy! Laughing together is a wonderful way to explore the culture and "isms" of the modern dating world.

Opera Workshop rehearsal
The action takes place in a bar where all 15 daters have gathered to interact with one another (5 minutes at time!) on speed dates. As each character introduces themselves through a brief aria, we gain an understanding of the many ways we present ourselves to the world. Some are truthful and accurate, and some are not.

 I think most people will recognize a character trait that they possess themselves, at least to some extent. Some of the "daters" are: Steampunk Girl, Lives at Home, Feeling Awkward, Talkative Girl, Love me, love my Cats!, Combat Photographer, I like this bar! and Panic Attack.

 There are 19 cast members: 15 daters, 3 people who work in the bar (Bartender, Waitress and Busboy) and Kaylee, the coordinator for the Speed Dating event. All but one of the performers are current HSU students;one is a community member. Some sing more than others, but almost everyone is stage the entire time.

 The characters are fresh and modern, and very diverse. Directors have (almost) complete discretion to place the daters' interactions in whatever order bet fits the casts' strengths. This flexibility is crucial , and also ensures that no two productions will be the same. (Just like no two people are the same!)

HSU student Noah Sims at Opera Workshop rehearsal
Since the premiere in 2013, there have been 24 different productions of "Speed Dating Tonight!" largely on university campuses. This will be the California premiere!

 I think audiences will respond to the humanity of the piece--humanity in all its awkwardness as we seek a suitable match! It's something almost everyone can relate to on some level. The casual atmosphere of the show will also appeal to younger audiences.

It is definitely an ensemble show, and features several large ensemble numbers. Each cast member also has one or more extended solo moments (also making the show a good choice for developing the skills of young singer-actors-a definite requirement when I'm choosing repertoire.).The whole show takes place in just around an hour. This, too, is crucial, since we have 9 short weeks of rehearsal each spring semester before the performances (with only 4 hours weekly, unlike the bigger musicals like "Kiss Me Kate!" which rehearsed every night.)"

Composer Michael Ching

Michael Ching is a composer, conductor and arts administrator.  In addition to Speed Dating Tonight!, his opera compositions include an a cappella version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Corps of Discovery, King of the Clouds and Buosco's Ghost.  His most recent opera, which just premiered, is Alice Ryley.

A performance of Ching's piano concerto is included in the 25th anniversary commemorative recording of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.  Ching was Artistic Director of Opera Memphis from 1992 to 2010, and is now Music Director of Nickel City Opera, the regional opera of Buffalo and western New York.  He currently lives in Ames, Iowa.

More detailed biographies are here and here.  Here is Michael Ching's blog.

Speed Dating Tonight! is currently his most popular opera.  It premiered at the Janiec Opera of the Brevard Music Center in 2013, conceived by director Dean Anthony, with lyrics and music by Michael Ching.

"With traditional opening and closing numbers, the middle section of the opera is a group of one-to-two-minute “dater arias” which can be put together according to the number of singers available. The order, key, and, in many cases even the gender, of the daters is flexible.

"Some are moving, some are funny. Some are caricatures, some are sincere. There are twenty-five dater arias and duets from which every producer will choose the ones they want to include."

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