Cast: Orlando, William Towers; Angelika, Dominique Labelle; Dorinda, Susanne Ryden; Medoro, Diana Moore,; Zoroastro, Wolf Matthias Friedrich with dancers from NYBDC: Caroline Copeland, Sarah Edgar, Alan Jones and Jason Melms
Conducted by Nicholas McGegan with Stage Direction/Choreography by Catherine Turocy
FROM THE DANCER’S POINT OF VIEW BY SARAH EDGAR
Ladies and Gentlemen, I hereby offer my meager description of the delight of performing with The New York Baroque Dance Company in the opera Orlando at Drottningholm. First of all, you should know that the Drottningholm Theater is one of the very rare 18th c. theaters in which many parts are still original. The set designs are faithful copies of the sets found in the theater when it was rediscovered in the 20th c. (before that it was used as a storage house), and the stage designs are flown in and out of the stage using ropes, according to the way it was done in the 18th c. We had 17 stagehands flying any number of sets and objects in and out, and in the last aria of the 2nd Act (Orlando’s “Hello everyone! Now I am completely Mad!” Aria) we made them pull practically every rope in the theater— the set itself changed a couple of times, the cloud machine came down to whisk the lovely Angelica away, a boat glided across the River Styx (with waves, thanks to our Supers!), and a chariot carrying our magician, Zaroastro, flew across the stage as the curtain came down. Everyone on the stage and in the orchestra pit spent most of the time at the theater in amazement at how different doing a baroque opera in a baroque theater really is. The acoustics of the theater were stunning, and it was fantastic to really hear the orchestra.
Orlando was directed by our charming leader, Catherine Turocy, and she is brilliant at coaching the singers in a natural and historically-informed performance. The mix of comedy and tragedy in Orlando is particularly highlighted in this production, and all of the singers brought new depth to this aspect in their performances. The dancers played the genies of Zorastro with Caroline as the genie of fire, myself as the genie of water and air, and with Jason and Alan as the Salamander genies. Although there is no dance music per se in this opera, we helped maintain the magical element of the plot. I really enjoyed the quasi-grotesque nature of our roles, exploring the off-kilter spirals so beloved of 18th c. gesture and relating to my fellow dancers in a more exaggerated way than when we are “people” onstage.
Our dressing rooms were the actual rooms where the performers lived in the 18th c, with even 18th c. wallpaper on the walls! Since Drottningholm was the summer residence of the royal Swedish family, the performers lived there the whole summer season with their families and pets. They were paid in wine and given free room and board— typical of the aristocracy to not actually pay! I heard that Gustav III loved novelty, and the performers were not allowed to do the same show more than twice in a month. Whew!
The people who worked at Drottningholm– the dressers and makeup artists and production staff– were all very helpful. We made ourselves right at home and hope we can go back sometime soon!