What’s your process/plan thus far when it comes to musical preparation (i.e. group music rehearsals, virtual sectionals, language work, etc.)?
There are about four main phases to the completion of Orfeo Remote from the musical side:
1) To start, I have recorded every note and line of the opera at home on my harpsichord and chamber organ (and occasionally a tambourine!). These recordings provide accompaniments for Zoom coachings, and reference recordings for performers to listen to in recording their music. I am coaching everyone in the cast via Zoom - it's actually working quite well! Alessandra Visconti has created audio files of the Italian diction for choruses. Alan Darling and others are also coaching singers.
2) We are now at the stage of adding some vocal and instrumental lines that will assist performers in making their final recordings - I call these "enhanced" reference recordings. I am also making videos that show me conducting to these recordings to communicate inflections and releases (such videos are made into Youtube links that I send to performers). Assistant Conductor Victor Huls and Chorus Master Andrew Major will make at least one conducting video each, and are providing wonderful assistance for the project.
3) Using the "enhanced" reference recordings and conducting videos, all performers will record their lines and submit them to the various accounts we have organized to receive them.
4) As the individual recordings come in, I will be assembling the final composite audio recordings that Joachim Schamberger will use as the "soundtrack" to Orfeo Remote. The goal, however difficult it may be to achieve, is to render a final musical product that belies that we were all separated as we created it.
What’s been your biggest challenge with this project so far?
The biggest challenges are time and technology! Enormous time issues because the project will require over 1,000 audio recordings generated by myself and the performers, to say nothing of all the videos for the filming. It's rather daunting to manage while also teaching six classes online. As for technology, I would have never dreamed around March 15 all I would have to learn before and during our Spring Quarter. Joachim, who is a tech whiz, has been so helpful, as have many other people. My wife Josefien Stoppelenburg has already edited more videos than I can count. I'm a conductor, but this "stay at home" time has forced me to translate the manipulation of sound on the podium into sound in recordings. As I start to hear glimpses of what the finished product will be like, it's pretty much as exciting as if we were actually together!
Please tell us a few of your favorite things about Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.
It is amazing to consider that this "fable in music," as Monteverdi called it, is 413 years old but as relatable now as it would have been to the audiences of 1607. The variety of music is staggering, in both sonorities and emotions. From the loftiest joy to the deepest grief, it is all there in both glorious sound and timeless words.
I also love that for our vocal and instrumental students, working on this project and this opera is an educational goldmine. They will learn so much that will stay with them their entire lives.