So, there are only a couple more weeks until the Ring opens, and I think I’m almost ready!

Today, I met Star, who plays the horse in Götterdämmerung, the last opera in the Ring cycle. Turns out, there was another horse who had previously performed in multiple Ring cycles for Seattle Opera, but this is Star’s first one! She’s never performed in an opera before. Today was her first time onstage at McCaw Hall, and she seemed to be handling it pretty well! Apparently, Corliss, the horse's owner has been playing music from the Ring in the barn, so Star has gotten used to it by now! I watched once first, as Corliss walked Star up the backstage ramp and onto the set of Brünhilde's ledge. Then, the second time, I got to walk ahead of Corliss and Star on the set! Star got a little uneasy around the Reel Grrls’ boom microphone (she thought it was a snake!), but, for the most part, she seemed to be getting used to the spotlight! But I could tell she was a tad nervous, because she left some horse poop on the stage!

I took a few pictures from offstage with my phone:
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Then I met with Jonathan Dean, Education Artistic Administrator, who told me all I needed to know about the Ring! He told me all about the main characters, and how everything I’ve seen and learned about so far in the “Confessions” project all fits together to create four epic operas! I also learned that it took Wagner 25 years to write the Ring cycle – I haven’t even been alive that long! Hopefully I remember everything he told me by the time I see the show…!

Then I headed back to McCaw Hall, where the Ring orchestra was rehearsing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many musicians or musical instruments in one room before! The orchestra was rehearsing in a huge rehearsal space, and there were over a hundred musicians in there! I felt totally out of my element! Everyone in there seemed so focused, whether their job was to play a ton of notes, to follow along with the sheet music, or to take notes of what needed to be fixed. This was the first time I’d actually gotten to hear live orchestra music from the Ring, so it was really exciting for me! The music has so much depth to it – it’s almost overwhelming! I can’t believe Wagner actually wrote sixteen hours of intense music!

The next Ring activity I see from the Seattle Opera will be the final product – I’m so nervous and excited I can’t stand it! Wish me luck – I mean, hope I break a leg!
 
 

Today was another exciting day shooting “Confessions!”

First, I got to sit in on a rehearsal of the dragon, Fafner, at McCaw Hall. It was amazing to see Fafner in action – the dragon is huge! One of the crew members stood in for Siegfried and practiced fighting Fafner and stabbing his tail. At one point, Fafner’s head was being lowered down onto the set, and it kept moving for a little too long, and all the sudden, I heard a “creeeeak” – the tusk almost broke! Whoops…the crew fixed it promptly though!

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Above, the film crew shoots Fafner from the house
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here, they shot my reactions to seeing the dragon for the first time
Later, I met with Chuck Whitmore, who works with the supertitles and the images projected on stage. He even put my name into the computer and made my name come up as a supertitle! That was really exciting; I felt so honored! He also showed me some of the projections for the end of the Ring cycle, with fire and water. I only got to see it on a computer screen, so I’m really excited to get to see the large projections during the full performance!
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Then I went back to the Seattle Opera offices and rehearsal spaces, and met up with Luretta Bybee and Emma Grimsley, two artists in the Ring cycle. And they’re mother and daughter! Luretta plays the First Norn and a Valkyrie, and Emma plays the Woman in Black. But that’s not all of their opera family! The father of the family, Greer Grimsley, plays Wotan! I asked them what it’s like being an opera family, and if it’s common to have a whole family of opera singers. They said they’re pretty much the only one! I also talked to Emma about what it’s like being a younger person involved in opera – she’s still in high school! She said she tries to get her friends interested in opera, and to get them to come see her shows. In this picture, the Reel Grrls crew captures the interview; Luretta is sitting on the steps to the left, Emma is sitting to the right, and I'm interviewing from the left side.

As always, I learned a lot today! I’m seeing more and more pieces of the Ring cycle, and I can’t wait to see how they all fit together – only a few more weeks until the show!

Photos by Ilona Rossman Ho.
 
 

My body is sore right now. And I can’t figure out if it’s sore because of wakeboarding this morning or the third “Confessions” shoot today.

The shoot started out simple – I showed up and McCaw Hall and got a tour of onstage, backstage, the audience – everything!

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I interviewed Pete, the Properties Manager, right in front of the stage! He told me all about the recently renovated McCaw Hall and the sets that were on the stage. Pete also showed me a bunch of the props from the Ring cycle! I got to hold some swords, and I even got to touch the ring!

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Then I met up with Julianne Gearhart, who plays one of the Rhinemaidens in the Ring cycle. She told me all about what it’s like to fly in the air while singing! I’m sure glad I don’t have to do that! She basically has to pretend she’s swimming around every time she’s on stage!

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Then I interviewed Richard Paul Fink, who plays Alberich in the Ring cycle. He has to do a ton of stunts in the show, like flips and jumps and climbing!

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After I interviewed him, we went on the stage and he showed me some of the moves he has to do! The stage was set for the first scene, on the river bottom, so he showed me how to pretend I’m walking on a slimy surface (even though it’s really just made of Styrofoam!). He also taught me how to climb up the set (from the audience you’d never know how he does it!), and jump from one part of the set to another! I think that all might be the reason my body is sore right now! But luckily, I had my athletic clothes and kneepads on, so I came out without needing any band-aids.

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look at Richard jump right over me!
After all of that excitement, I got to play with fire! The pyrotechnician for the Ring cycle, showed me how to light parts of the stage on fire! And it was so easy! All I had to do was move a tiny little switch, and, voila! Flames! I was very entertained. If they left me alone there I would’ve played with the fire for hours.

After I got my pyromania out of my system, Jim gave me another backstage tour, so I got to see even more of the sets! I even got to see the dragon, which, right now, is in pieces, but I’m excited to eventually see it all put together! Jim also showed me how some of the sets rotate around, so they can be used for multiple scenes! I’m looking forward to seeing those in action!

The last part of my day was spent watching a rehearsal of the first scene from the whole Ring cycle. I got to watch the Rhinemaidens get into their costumes (it took a while to pout those complicated harnesses on!), and then sing and fly (or swim!) around on stage! I saw Richard in action with a few of his stunts. So I got to watch a few of the aspects of the Ring that I had already learned about fit together!

Slowly but surely, I’m learning a lot about the Ring! So many new and exciting things happened today – I don’t know if next week can top it!

photos courtesy of Ilona Rossman Ho

 
 

We had our second “Confessions” shoot this week, and it introduced me to a lot that I have never experienced before!

I showed up at the Seattle Opera offices on Monday morning, and we shot some footage of me entering the building. A few minor technical difficulties ensued, but the wonderful Reel Grrls crew fixed them promptly.

Then I went on a tour of the costume shop led by Susan Davis, Seattle Opera's Costume Shop Manager; I have never seen so many pieces of clothing in my life! I saw so many things in the costume shop that I can hardly remember them all! I saw people working on costumes for the Ring (apparently there’re 214 costumes!), I saw never-ending racks of costumes from past Seattle Opera shows (I swear the fabric went on forever!), I saw the dying room where they dye fabric that needs to be just the right color, and I even saw bloody bandages (fake blood – or so I hope).

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But the best part of my tour was when I got to try on a Ring costume! It was a costume of one of the Valkyries – it had a long skirt, a vest of armor, a jacket, and a hat. The hat normally sits on a large opera wig, but I don’t have a wig, so I had to hold the hat on my head. The hat had huge wings that stuck straight out the back – I had definitely never worn a hat like that before!

Then I got to interview Speight Jenkins, the General Director of Seattle Opera. I Googled Speight before interviewing him, so I thought I had a good idea of what questions I should ask, and a good background of his life in relation to opera. I wasn’t too nervous for the interview. But then, as the interview appointment drew nearer, more and more Seattle Opera employees told me “not to be nervous, you’ll be okay.” And I thought, “Don’t be nervous? I wasn’t, but now I am!” Everyone kept telling me he is “God in the opera world” – something I, most certainly, am not. But once I was finally face-to-face with Speight, my nerves were, mostly, gone. He was nice and warm, and answered my questions with long, full answers. Phew! And guess what, he knew all about the "Confessions" project and he even voted!
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Then I got to the most exciting part of the day – I got to fly! No, I didn’t fly a plane. I got to fly like the Rhinemaidens in the Ring (that's how they portray swimming in the Rhine River during the opera). I was suspended in the air from two cables attached to a harness at my hips. I was a bit nervous as I slowly rose towards the ceiling of the rehearsal space, but soon I was doing front and back flips! I was so proud of myself! Thanks so much to the crew who helped me not fall to my death!

And I think that basically covers the shoot! Other than what I’ve already mentioned, I squeezed in a lunch break, walked up and down a ton of stairs (the rehearsal space is in the basement of the Seattle Opera office building!), and was interviewed by the Seattle Times. It was a day full of a lot of excitement! I’m starting to see the how the Ring cycle fits together, piece-by-piece. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

photos courtesy of Ilona Rossman Ho
 
 

As you may or may not know, I was recently selected to host Seattle Opera's new documentary, "Confessions of A First-Time Operagoer." I'm so excited to have been chosen, and I am so grateful for all of the help and support I received during the week of the voting!

If you voted for me... or made anyone else vote for me... I owe you a favor!

Each week I'll be posting a blog about what opera-y things I did that week. So, without further adieu, here's the update so far:

     We started shooting “Confessions of A First-Time Operagoer” this week! It was a lot of fun. I felt like I was on my own reality show!

     The Reel Grrls crew told me they wanted to see what I do in life, how I interact with my friends, etc. So I told them about how on a lot of Mondays, some of my friends and I go to Varlamos, an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood. Monday is “Calzone Night,” so the calzones are cheaper (for a college student with little income – like me – cheaper, is always better).

    

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So the crew followed me to Varlamos. I had to warn my friends before we went that there’d be a camera crew there – my friends aren’t as big of fans of being on camera as I am! When my friends and I got there, we had a table already set up for us (usually we have to wait for a while – it gets crowded!) with lights and cameras and everything! The crew sat one table over and got calzones for themselves (they’re hard to resist!).

The crew filmed my friends and I eating (there’s probably some really attractive shots of me shoving food in my mouth…!), reminiscing about life, and they even interviewed some of my friends, testing their opera knowledge and seeing if they thought I could make it through this project! Hopefully my friends didn’t say anything too embarrassing about me…! And hopefully they don’t hate me too much for making them go on camera! I told them this “Confessions” project can be like “Laguna Beach” and one of them can have their own spin-off afterwards…

     I’m getting really excited for next week’s shoot. I’ll be diving head first into the excitement of the Ring cycle! Wish me luck!

photos courtesy of Ilona Rossman Ho
 

    Author

    Cassidy Quinn Brettler
    Emerson College
    Acting and Broadcast Journalism
    Alpha Epsilon Phi
    Class of 2011

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