From Page-To-Stage: Conceptualizing

From Page-To-Stage looks at the creative forces involved with bringing to life the Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere of The Lord of Cries.

In this episode, director James Darrah and costume designer Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko reveal an exclusive look at preparatory scenic design, set renderings, costume sketches and more.

AIRED: July 31, 2021 | 0:27:51

provided by the Bank of Albuquerque.

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts &

Education Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

...New Mexico Arts,

a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs

with supplemental funding by the New Mexico CARES Act

and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

...and Viewers Like You.

















>>James Darrah: I mean the most exciting

thing for a world premiere is that it hasn't been done.

>>Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko: When I first started working

with James on this opera,

there was this question of how do you infuse ancient

Greece into the Victorian era and then build this world?

>>James: As designers, as our whole team, we're

looking at: How do we create a world on stage

that feels like a dream?

Inside of your dreams things that in our real

life wouldn't make sense, things that would seem,

maybe intangible or incongruous, that wouldn't

really line up, in dream space, those things always were.

>>James: So for the designers; that was looking at the music,

and the score, and so -

looking at the way it's orchestrated, looking at

some of the sounds in that.

The designers and I, then talked about:

How do all of our design choices feel like the music?

>>Chrisi: As I'm drawing, I'm constantly trying to

channel who these characters are

and then the greatest joy is once the silhouette is created,

and the director is like, Yes!

This is working.

I can see this moving in the wind!

Or, it makes them larger than life!

Then I can start throwing the paint on it and that's

when I feel the magic really happens.


>>James: We started at the very beginning,

thinking of ways to incorporate color and light

and shadow as actual narrative arcs in the piece.

That light tells a story.

That you could watch the entire production on mute and not

hear any of the music, and light would still tell you a story.

Light still gives you information and where we

landed was, really incorporating the idea of

these Victorian street lamps, these street

scenes, there's a lot of juxtaposition of interior

and exterior in the opera and so we kind of created

a set that feels like both at once.

And these lights then, are programmable to

undulate like the music.

That all the lights can take different programming

and move and different flickering shadows and

light glows kind of feel like they're following

some of the story or activated by certain characters.

We've designed the projections to also kind

of react to the characters so Dionysus at one point

assimilates into Victorian London and has a printed

suit and that suit bleeds out onto the walls.

The pattern can spread and take over the walls.

So there is this surrealist, kind of, going

to our dream in our nightmare.

It's like, the whole wall can suddenly have the

print of his costume and he almost disappears into

it and emerges from that when he wants.

We wanted to create something that felt like

it was always shifting, you know, that we should

never feel like we know exactly what to expect.

>>Chrisi: What elevates the drama of the text

and the music in the costumes, is when they're

a little bit larger than life.

When they take up a little bit more space than they should.

The skirts are a little bit longer.

The hemlines are a little exaggerated.

When we have capes, they are voluminous.

In the choices for the fabrics in Lord of Cries,

what we're doing is we're elevating and heightening

the reality of who these characters are.

The colors are a little bit more richer.

We're also doing a lot of layering of sheers.

Where you sort of see the figure and you don't see the figure.

Instead of just a crown on Dionysus's head,

it's going to be that his whole face is surrounded with

metallic, unusual objects, to frame and to shine

light up into Anthony's face.

Opera is so special to me because it's a platform that,

I feel like, I'm embraced as an artist,

or as a painter, and I get to paint the costumes on stage.

>>James: For me what makes opera special is,

it occupies a space that not only is combining a lot of

art forms, but in the performance of an opera,

you are illuminating part of - how we all exist and

feel in our lives, and the things that we hope for,

we dream about, the things that we yearn for.

Those are given literal voice in an opera, in a

way that is almost unable to define, and when it

happens well, you are completely enraptured and

overwhelmed by it.


It's a sound installation that creates music or

rhythms with water.


My name is Sarah Valente and my name is Marcello Ertorteguy.

And we are Stereotank

Stereotank was born in 2009 and our goal was to

use space as an instrument.

So sort of like you can inhabit the musical instrument.

Of course that evolved into many other iterations.

We've been trained as architects.

We moved to New York and then while we were working

in architectural offices, on the side we started to

do art projects in the city, public art,

temporary installations and so on.

And that was also like a perfect territory to experiment

with this idea of combining public art and sound

or architecture and sound into immersive installations.

We found several opportunities, grants and awards,

to be able to propose quick

installations that could be done in the city, just

to targeting some areas that were underdeveloped

or underused that needed activation.

We tried to experiment with sound always sort of

in a very primitive way.

The first sound installation was actually

called "Stereotank" and that's where our name came from.

We took this huge plastic water tanks side by side

and then connecting them.

So the actual string that was creating the sound was

also a part of the structure of the

installation because it was keeping it together.

So we liked that idea of kind of joining architecture

and sound even through structure of a project.

So we were invited to propose a project for Times Square.

We won luckily, this competition.

And we had to design a heart shaped installation.

That was the premise of the proposal.

It had to be related to love.

And we never saw ourselves doing anything like that.

So we took it really sort of our way.

And looking at the heart more from an acoustical

point of view, the heart had some drums embedded.

So people could stop and play, there were actually

like six different, acoustical percussion instruments,

very low frequency sound, beating with a light.

All of these was pulsating while the heart was not

being played by people and we had to figure something

out that was sturdy enough.

And we went back again to the plastic tanks.

Thinking about the afterlife of a project.

We designed the Heartbeat project for being able to

be transformed after it's used in Times Square as

another project that is called Heartseat.


We're going to show a sample of the Cargo Guitar.

The Cargo Guitar was a project that we did in Japan

and these extra long string that within a shipping container.

So that's how the name, we came up with a name.

These a string is amplified but it doesn't

have any kind of effect.

So the string becomes smaller and the tone higher.

When we arrived Miami, we couldn't really treat

public spaces the same because it's completely different.

So what we start doing is actually going first

inside of galleries.

So where we could experiment with space and also people.

So the first one we did is called

Generative Drop Sequencer.


To engage more with public space here in Miami as well

we've been working with some students at FIU

on a seminar that has to do with the public space and art.

I think we have to mention about the little free library project.

It's basically turning the standard little free

library format into an inhabitable little free library.

We've also been working on our own project, our own house,

our own studio.

We start with one idea, but we never really know

how it will sound until we finish it.

That applies to sound, but also applies to working

with the given materials in general.

Because when you have to work with an object that

already exist that has its own properties, then you

really need to adapt to it.

So that's, we think the beauty of working with materials

and with systems that have been designed for other purposes.



"I'm really interested as an artist in ensuring that

the average person is honored, loved and appreciated."

"This is not really artwork as much as it's my

involvement with the community."

"How do we come together, in love and

understanding for each other?

And that's, what I'm thinking about with this painting?"

Here there is art made with love and beeswax.

In the warmth of a bonfire, it roots around in the

memories of home and slices to the heart of identity.

This is the deCordova New England Biennial 2019

23 area artists who the museum has decided are

making the most dynamic art right now

like Chanel Thervil from Roxbury, Massachusetts.

"This is actually one of my mentors,

Napoleon Jones-Henderson.

He's a phenomenal artist.

And one thing I take pride in is being able to make him laugh."

Thervil paints people she knows, but in ways she has

to discover through a series of questions

designed to bring out their true selves.

"The interviews really consists of me asking them

everything, from, "what's their favorite food?"

to, "how did you learn how to be a man?"


"Where did you learn about love?"

Like the range of questions really shifts.

Depending on the person I'm talking to,

because the relationship I already have with them

informs the types of emotions or expressions I

know that their face is capable of."

You'll find her self-portrait and

paintings of her mentors-but always created as busts.

"So for me like getting from the heart to the head.

is really important to me because it's, I feel

like that's where the base of the soul is like in between."

"We're looking at a painting by Anoka Faruqee

and David Driscoll, painters in New Haven.

Um and they are exploring the many ways in which

moire patterning can be effectively presented

on their circle diagram."

Sarah Montross is the Biennial's curator.

She spent much of last fall and winter visiting

all six New England states-touring the studios

of some 60 artists.

It's designed to be a brief, intense process.

"It's a fast-paced show to organize and so we, we aim

for that, in a way in order to capture a certain

energy and newness to much of the work that's on view."


Maine artist Emilie Stark-Menneg is

represented here in both a video and a sprawling

painting-both tap into fantasy and the supernatural.

But they are rooted in the friendship she shares with

poet and collaborator Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon.

"Lyrae is um pictured in the piece, and then.

In the middle there's, with - where the seam of

the two canvases come together is, a,

representation of a mask of Martha Washington.

Um so, she was one of these apparitions that was

coming up for us when we were thinking about.

Friendship, and friendship across racial lines, and.

How do we see each other?"

It's a theme that plays out in cutting parody, and

with a sinister edge in her short film.

"I am constantly going back and forth between

different mediums-sometimes I wish

that I had one, you know, medium


there's this kind of back and forth that...

And I think of the videos as moving paintings."

"There were tendencies contemporary art

tendencies that are rising to the surface and, those

to us then define the scope of the show."

While Sarah Montross says there is no one theme to

this year's biennial, she did find a number of

artists exploring personal narratives.

Like the immigrants Yoav Horesh has photographed in

New Hampshire.

"We're talking about tens of thousands of - of African,

Immigrants and-and refugees, that arrived in

New Hampshire in the past five to 10 years.

And it's a sizable community that unfortunately

we don't really get to have any exposure to."

Horesh uses a large format camera from the 1950s

which slows down his process-allowing him to

spend more time getting to know his subjects.

He's titled his series, New American Farmers.

"They are doing the exact same work that more than a

hundred years ago pioneers that arrived in

Manchester, or New Hampshire to work the mills.

Immigrants from Europe, and immigrants from, Canada.

Now these are immigrants from Africa,

and I think that they have the same place in history.

As, as pioneers that we all very, y'know, proud of."

At the deCordova now, there are layers of

stories and histories.

They crack open our perceptions and

offer different ways to see ourselves.

They remind us of the beauty in the world

and the thrill of finding the art of the new.



>> Angel Lavery: Ballet is not just an activity or a hobby,

it's a lifestyle.


>> Angel: I've always loved movement since I was a child,

I was actually more of a late bloomer, when it came to ballet.

I started around the time of 13 years old.

But I loved it since.

>> Erica Briganti: Ballet is something I have done

my entire life, it's just been this passion inside me,

and I've always kind of wanted to get back to it.

So a few years ago, I got back into ballet.

>> Angel: When I first moved to Detroit, I felt

like I really needed to find my passion and

establish more of an identity for myself so I

went back to taking dance classes, and I realized

how much I missed it, and that's how I started

meeting these wonderful dancers in class.

>> Erica: Meeting Angel, really just the passion

for ballet that we both had was our instant connection.

And again we didn't really see any ballet companies in Detroit.

Most larger cities do have ballet companies, and we

thought that this would be a great chance to really

try to bring that ballet, that art back to the city.

>> Angel: And we decided to start working together

after class and learning choreography together,

and performances starting popping up for us,

so that's how Ballet Edge started.

>> Erica: All of dance just brings a different

connection to people.

It's something that's expressive, and people can

come and just step away from all of what's going

on in the world, and, and just come and watch

something entertaining and something fun.

>> Angel: Our mission is to bring a bold and

innovative twist to ballet through using our trained

classical technique but putting more of a

relatable, modern, twist on it so that all audience

members can relate to our choreography.

>> Erica: We're really trying to bring a new

refreshing outlook on ballet to Detroit.

Our name is Ballet Edge Detroit, so we try to be

edgy and different, and we kind of try to break the

mold of what people typically think of

classical ballet, that it's just tutus and classical music.

We really try to bring something fun and unique

so that everyone will enjoy it.

We're trying to attract all people to our

performances, not just people who are really

familiar with ballet.

So in order to attract all of Detroit, we need to

have dancers that each audience member can relate to.

So maybe an audience member will say,

"Oh, I can relate to that mom, I can't believe she's

dancing out there still.

She's got kids, but she's still holding onto her passion."

>> Nicole Williams: I think that it's very important,

especially as women and for those of us who are mothers.

A lot of times we put ourselves and our passions

and our, our dreams and what drives us,

we put those on the back burner to be there for our

families so it's great to kind of reclaim some of

that and kind of remember who you are.

Everybody just comes from different walks of life and

everyone has their own little back story before they come

to Ballet Edge.

I'm a huge advocate for following your dreams

regardless of where you are, age or stage in life.

>> Angel: I think one of the things that makes us

different and perhaps mature is that many of our

dancers have done other things in their life,

such as work or gone to college.

And those experiences make us very comfortable with

who we are and made us realize how much we love

dance and make us come back to dance.

So we are experiencing the best of both worlds.

>> Nicole: I think it's so cool to go to my job and

people are like, "Oh, what are you doing this weekend?"

And I'm like, "Oh, I've got a five hour ballet

rehearsal." And they're like, "Wow, that's so amazing."

And it is amazing.

But I think it's inspirational because now

other people can see they can do that too.

Not only with dance, but whatever your thing is,

you're never too old or too busy.

The situation is never too chaotic for you to remember who

>> Angel: This group of women is incredible.

They show their personality, whatever the

musicality or the artistry calls for, whether it be sad,

happy, serious, exciting.

They can do it.

And you'll be able to see that in all of

the pieces that we showcase.

>> Nicole: We're going to be getting ready for our show.

We've got some larger pieces, we've got some

small group pieces and we're going to be cleaning,

cleaning, cleaning.

We just finished learning all of the choreography.

So now we make sure everyone's looking the

same way and everyone's arm is the same way.

So it's gonna be kind of a wide range of things.

>> Erica: Angel Lavery does all the choreographing.

She's really open to listening to everyone and

making sure that we all feel comfortable in the

dance because, you know, that's how we're going to

be the best that we can be, is if we're all

comfortable with what we're doing.

>> Nicole: Angel is a great choreographer.

I think she has really interesting ideas when it

comes to choosing music.

>> Angel: I pick out the music first I listen to

the music over and over, and over again.

And I see the choreography in my mind.

And that's how I choreograph.

We try to portray what the music is trying to tell.

So for example, we do a piece called Embrace,

which is to Vivaldi's Winter.

And that is more about friendship and our

relationship together as a company.

We all get along and we truly embrace each other's presence.

We've done a piece to Game of Thrones, and that's

really to portray the theme of that wildly popular show.

It's very serious.

It's about battling and trying to be in power.

We have a piece currently to Beethoven's Fur Elise,

and these are all songs that the majority of

people will recognize.

And they get drawn in, they get hooked in and

they end up enjoying the pieces.

>> Erica: Ballet is very challenging.

It requires a lot of discipline.

We've all been training for 15 plus years.

>> Angel: We are all top professionals and we work

Ballet dancers have great stamina.

They have great flexibility.

They have the discipline to come to class, to stay in shape.

>> Nicole: And I think that the talent that's in

Ballet Edge is just phenomenal.

It's unbelievable, honestly, to me to know

that there are so many talented, amazingly

talented dancers that are right here in the city.

>> Angel: Typically when people see a ballet

company In Detroit, it's a ballet company that passes

through Detroit and leaves, and we are making

ballet accessible to Detroit neighborhoods.

We keep our pricing affordable for everybody to come see us.

We are homegrown and we're proud to be Detroit.

>> Nicole: I'm so grateful for Ballet Edge.

I think that it's so great for so many different

women to be able to come together in the name of

ballet and put together something so professional

and something so unique and something so entertaining.

>> Erica: Longterm goals for Ballet Edge Detroit is

really just to continue growing the ballet company.

We would love to have more dancers and really be able

to put on more shows.

>> Nicole: I think that the climb that Detroit is

making right now, really all it's missing is some ballet.

So I'm really excited that Ballet Edge is right there

growing with the city and making the presence of

ballet known in that growth.



New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES

under What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for "From Page to Stage: The Lord of Cries" series

provided by the Bank of Albuquerque.

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts & Education

Endowment Fund at the Albuquerque Community Foundation

...New Mexico Arts,

a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs

with supplemental funding by the New Mexico CARES Act

and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

...and Viewers Like You.



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