Jacobs School of Music faculty member P.Q. Phan's opera The Tale of Lady Thi Kinh has workshop performances Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, at Indiana University's Auer Hall.
The opera is based on a traditional Vietnamese work, but Phan has made substantial dramatic and musical changes.
"The original tale had a heavy concern for religion," Phan says. "I've focused more on the drama of women proving their ability to make effect in society. Lady Thi and two other women present a cross-section. I have used some Vietnamese melodies, and the new pieces are written in that spirit. Western opera goers would be sad if there wasn't a chorus. Traditional Vietnamese musical plays don't have one, so I've created a new tradition."
Watching The Show, Watching The Audience
The IU Opera Theater's Vincent Liotta is the stage director. He's a champion of the workshop process.
"It's a little like American musical theater's tradition of the out-of-town opening. It gives us a chance to see the whole piece, to see what works and what doesn't work. Some things that looked good on paper, and even in the rehearsal room, don't stand up and need cutting. Conversely, sometimes you'll see where you need some more material."
Getting a sense of what works is a group project, Liotta says. "Having an audience helps too. If I'm sitting in an audience, I can feel when they are involved, when they may be confused. And for the audience itself, it's a great chance to get in on the creative process, to see a work as it grows and develops."