Opera to Go! Tour to Midland

Friday Feb. 20- Day 6

Today was our last day of our Midland tour. We woke up early today for our 8:30 am show at St. Mary’s school in San Antonio. We had performed “Magic Flute” at this school last year and had fond memories of the packed room of over 200 kids. This year was like last in that they were very receptive and fun to perform for. I have a feeling this will become a tradition to sing here as the last show of our annual tour.

Opera to Go! can never perform the last show of any run without some added flavor. This final performance of Little Mermaid was no exception. Everything was running smoothly until Cecilia unexpectedly fell on her way off stage after an expected push from Dennis. I wasn’t able to see it, but evidently she fell pretty hard and will most likely have a bruise. She unfortunately had to immediately run back on stage and as the giggles tempted her, she stopped them with a bit of Sprechstimme in an evil “witch tone.” The show continued on without a problem and during the final scene where Princess Agatha (I) throw everything from the basket into the ocean, the Sea King (Dennis) surprised me by throwing everything back at me. That last show prank was a new fun “twist” in our plot, but we quickly got back on track and we triumphantly completed our last show of Little Mermaid.

The kids loved the show and asked us many questions as usual. My favorite was the one that said “Did you know that the octopus was peeking out from behind the set at the end of the show? AND the clam was too!” I said, “WHAT?!!! I HAD NO IDEA!” I love when the kids think that we don’t know what’s going on. They are so cute.

After our show, we loaded the vans and headed back home. We HAD to stop at the infamous Buc Ee’s on our way home because I still had some treats I wanted to get. We continued on a bit farther and ate at Frank’s restaurant where evidently “Those who know eat here.” It was good food and 80 minutes later we were home.

This tour of Little Mermaid was a joy for all of us to be in. It was well received by everyone and I know that each of us in the cast will miss it. Now our cast breaks into 2 groups for the rest of the season. Cecilia, Alex, and Erin will begin working on Romeo & Juliet, and Dennis, Michael, and I will work on Daughter of the Regiment. We will miss this group but we know it will not be the last time we sing together. There is always next season.

Hannah Lu, Princess Agatha in Opera to Go!'s Little Mermaid

Opera to Go! Tour to Midland

Thursday, Feb. 19- Day 5

Our last day in Midland started early in the morning after checking out of our nice and cozy lair, the Midland Hilton. We weigh anchor at 8:00 am, and after being lost for a few minutes, our very own Michael Walsh, OTG's baritone and co-pilot on this mission, gave a demonstration of why we call him "SeƱor G.P.S."

Thanks to a keen sense of ubiquity, Michael guided us to our next destination aided by the daring navigation of our fearless captain, (and music director), Kade Smith. We anchored at Parker Elementary School safe and and on schedule! at 8:29, keeping thus, a flawless record of on-time arrivals.
The performance started smoothly, but at the climax of the show a little boy covered his eyes and loudly mumbled with a locked jaw, "I can't see this!!" while the evil witch Jezhibaba with a wicked laugh tenebrously emerged from the abysmal depths.
After having a successful show on a full-house (or full-cafeteria to be precise), we parted to our next and last destination, the "De Zavala Elementary School", this time performing at the school's gym. Taking a little time to check out sound, distances and proportions, textures and density of the surface on which we would perform is always important. Given the staging for this show, there's pretty much crawling, and sometimes, (not in the script), sliding and bouncing off the floor, (exempli gratia, soprano Hannah Lu, or mezzo Cecy Duarte). This time it was cement, pretty different from the usual semi-soft wooden floors or even softer materials we perform on. Fortunately with no such incidents this time, the only thing we had to worry about was to give our audience a great time and the best show they have ever witnessed!!!

Alex Magallon, Prince Jonathan in Opera to Go!'s Little Mermaid

Opera to Go! Tour to Midland

Wednesday, Feb. 18- Day 3

Our second morning in Midland got off to a rocky start. We woke up to find our passenger van with a new accessory – a parking boot. We had children to edu-tain (educate + entertain), so all the singers loaded into the back of the cargo van among the sets and costumes and took off for our first of three performances.

Midland was kind to us however and we got the boot removed with no charge. Our first elementary school of the day presented one of the smallest stages yet. Performing with Opera to Go! definitely teaches us to be malleable to our surroundings.

Back to the Carver Center for our second show and during load in an honest to goodness tumbleweed rolled through the playground. The building itself (much like a good portion of Midland) seems frozen in time with old-fashioned lockers and a muted color pallet of yellows and dark jewel tone tiles. These huge levers, reminiscent of a Frankenstein flick, controlled the lights for the theater. This time around we figured out just how to use them to our advantage. Over the course of the show our stage manager Derek deftly coordinated a blue lit opening (we are under the sea after all) fading into red for the sea witch’s entrance. We had a slightly older crowd of 4th-6th graders and some of the lovely ladies from the party last night.

We had a brief period between shows to catch a bite so we looked for some hot eats and cool treats. Lured by the Texas stop sign for some not-so-healthy grub at Dairy Queen, we couldn’t escape without tasty Blizzards. Since the time between shows was so short a bunch of us decided not to completely change out of our costumes, so I had the distinct pleasure of wearing the top half for the whole restaurant to see… glittery sash and all. My jeans covered my green thorned tights, but still nobody seemed to care. Just another day at the DQ, I guess. Our third school brought us a younger audience who were very energetic and eager to participate in the short song we teach them at the beginning of the show. At one particularly hilarious moment when the sea witch is offering the mermaid the magic potion to transform her into a human, a young boy shouted out ‘I can not watch!’ Like Michael said, sometimes it’s a challenge to keep it together on stage and keep ourselves from laughing! At the end the kids gave us an unusual but endearing token of their appreciation. Their mascot is the tigers so we got ‘the tiger paw,’ which was two leg pats, two claps and a big ‘grrrrrr!’ It was awesome.

The evening brought some alone time which was mostly filled with some much needed napping. The cast descended on a quaint local trattoria called Luigi’s for some good Italian food. We had hoped to indulge in some bowling but all the lanes were full and we couldn’t agree on a movie choice at the local drive-in. Instead we piled into a hotel room for some rowdy games of Scatergories before drifting off to bed – resting up for our last day in Midland.

-Dennis Arrowsmith, Ocean King in Opera to Go!'s production of Little Mermaid


Opera to Go! Tour to Midland

Tuesday, Feb. 17- Day 3

Today was our first day of performing in Midland. The day began bright and early with an 8:00am departure for our first school of the day. We all knew today would be challenging since we had three performances scheduled during the day and a concert and dinner reception on the books for tonight.

It was really interesting to see how each of the schools responded to Little Mermaid. The first school laughed a lot and was very vocal during the performance of their satisfaction. The second school of the day seemed very serious and quiet while watching the show. Backstage, we all wondered if they even liked the performance, but after the show was over they gave us a standing ovation and had many wonderful questions during our Q & A session. It showed us once again that you can never assume what your audience is thinking!

The final show of the day was marked with several humorous moments. During the very opening of the opera, the stage curtain knocked over one of the coral ornaments that decorate the set. Hannah did her best to get it upright while singing, but to no avail. It was hard to keep composure while watching Hannah struggle with the coral. I don't know why things are funnier while on stage, but it was a very humorous moment and took much concentration to not break down laughing. Seeing her frustration while trying to sing beautifully was hysterical! Later on, during the party scene, there was a slight mishap in staging. While I was bowing my head down in a moment of staged self-congratulation, Hannah's hand made a bee line towards my face and made direct contact. Luckily, she didn't take out my eye! We had a great lunch at La Bodega (special thanks to Sue Solari!), a Mexican restaurant here in Midland. Great salsa and the quesadillas were tasty. I highly recommend it next time you're in Midland. The day ended with a concert and dinner at the Garay home. We each sang an aria and ended the concert with the Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann. I was so proud of my colleagues; I'm so thrilled to be a member of this talented ensemble. I thought we did a first rate job. The potluck dinner was delightful and I got to meet some wonderful patrons of the arts. Whoever made the sweet potatoes did a killer job. They were perfection! Everyone was so complimentary and kind to us. It was awesome to end the day with great food, wine, and conversation. I definitely enjoyed myself today knowing that the community was so responsive and grateful for what we're doing. It made all of the stresses of the day worth it!

-Michael Walsh, Smedrich in Opera to Go!'s production of Little Mermaid

Opera to Go! Tour to Midland

Monday, Feb. 16- Day 2

Little Mermaid is on the road! Yesterday we left Houston and drove to San Marcos, TX. Our first order of business on Monday was a fun one: outlet mall shopping! None of us could resist the temptation of those great discounts.
However, we also had to make it all the way to Midland, TX that same day - about a 7 hour drive - so it was an intense power shop! We had two hours, and we definitely took advantage of it. There were many deals to be had!

After our quick shop, we had lunch and then hit the road. There isn't a whole lot to see in between San Marcos and Midland, so most of us took advantage of the quiet van ride to read, listen to music, and learn our new Opera to Go! scores. Within our group of 6 singers in Little Mermaid, there are three people singing Daughter of the Regiment in the spring (Michael Walsh, Dennis Arrowsmith and Hannah Lu) and three people singing Romeo & Juliet (Cecilia Duarte, Alejandro Magallon and myself, Erin Bales). We each studied our scores to prepare for our new shows, which will start rehearsing as soon as we're back in Houston, on Monday, February 23rd.

But the drive wasn't all work - we took time to play some games, too! One we played was called picnic - it's an alphabet memory game, where each person has to say what they're bringing to the picnic, while remembering what everyone else is bringing, too!

-Erin Bales, Rusalka in Opera to Go!'s production of Little Mermaid

A Midsummer Night's Dream at HGO

This blog entry is from Samantha Smith, a seventh-grader who sings in both HGO Children's Chorus and Girls Chorus. Sam recently performed in Houston Grand Opera's mainstage production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Benjamin Britten.

A Midsummer Night's Dream was by far the most exciting opera I have been in so far. I was part of the children’s chorus, otherwise known as the fairies. I got the chance to be the cover for the solo fairy Cobweb, meaning that if the real Cobweb couldn’t do the part, I would step in.

I was also a part of the fairy Banda (bahn-duh), the operatic term for band. In the Banda I played the finger cymbals. There was also someone playing the wood blocks, and two people playing recorders. At first, the music for the Banda looked really hard, but eventually we all got it memorized and felt comfortable doing it. The music was really cool to learn for the singing parts. In our schedule of learning things, it was music and Banda for about 1 to 1 ½ months, and about ½ a month to 1 month learning staging (learning where to move on the stage). On opening night, the only thing running through my mind was, 'Oh my gosh, I’m going to mess up I know it'. Of course everything went fine and now I look back on it as a success. One performance the real Cobweb actually couldn’t sing the solo parts! So of course I had to sing the part, finding this out approximately an hour before the show. I was incredibly nervous but I did really well considering that I heard the news so close to the performance starting. I think that was by far the most exciting thing for me during the run. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an incredible show and I am very glad that I didn’t miss out on being a part of the magic.

Opera to Go! Tour to Midland

Sunday, Feb. 15: Day 1

We left HGO Sunday at 4:30, headed toward San Marcos, our first stop on the tour. Chuck and Derek were in the cargo van, while the singers and I were in the passenger van.

Along the way we saw an interesting motorcycle, and stopped at Buc Ee's for some jerkey and other snacks. Once we arrived at the hotel and put our things in our rooms, we all went across the street to Chili's to enjoy our first of many meals together.

-Kade Smith, Opera to Go! music director

Opera to Go! at the Heinen Theatre

Alejandro Magallon is the author of this week's blog. Hailing from Mexico, he is currently starring as Prince Jonathon in Opera to Go!'s touring production of Little Mermaid.

Performing at the Heinen Theatre, should be a real treat for every performer, at least it has been for me. Located at the Houston Community College, the Heinen is a true jewel, and not just because of its architectural design.

It has everything Opera to Go! could ask for: 1) a great space that is the perfect size for our productions, which allows for an intimate communication with the audience, 2) a wonderful and professional crew, 3) spacious and fully equipped dressing rooms from which you can keep track of your calls through the sound system while you spend the last effervescent minutes warming up, waiting for the "PLACES" call.
We did The Magic Flute there a year ago. It was my first show with OTG. This year we presented The Little Mermaid, based on Dvorak's Rusalka with a wonderful adaptation and English text by OTG's director Chuck Winkler. We had two daily performances for five days in a row, Jan. 20th - 25th.
One of my favorite things about the performance, besides all the fun I have on stage with the rest of the cast, is what we get back from the audience. We get lots of different reactions from them, which varies depending mostly on their age (They are usually kids in elementary school). Some of the reactions might be the typical crowd giggle, a loud and isolated laugh, or a shy sobbing. I find these, and all kinds of feedback that reflects the audiences' emotions, really interesting, but most of all, deeply rewarding.
*photo by Laura Sponaugle