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FULL EPISODE

Regina Sarfaty-Rickless – Opera, Mezzo-Soprano

Performing in the very first opera, working with Igor Stravinsky and John Crosby – Regina Sarfaty-Rickless shares a remarkable story of her early days at the Santa Fe Opera.

AIRED: November 06, 2021 | 0:26:49
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TRANSCRIPT

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

and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

...and Viewers Like You.

THIS TIME, ON COLORES!

PERFORMING IN THE VERY FIRST OPERA,

WORKING WITH IGOR STRAVINSKY AND JOHN CROSBY -

REGINA SARFATY RICKLESS SHARES A REMARKABLE STORY OF

HER EARLY DAYS AT THE SANTA FE OPERA.

MODERNGRAM GENERATES INSPIRATIONAL STORIES

COMBINING DANCE AND FILM.

MURALIST EBONY IMAN DALLAS IMAGINES A WORLD IN WHICH

THE 1921 TULSA RACE MASSACRE NEVER HAPPENED.

ILLUMINATING THE NIGHT SKY,

"HATCHED: BREAKING THROUGH THE SILENCE"

IS A MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE.

IT'S ALL AHEAD ON COLORES!

THE VOICE IS A UNITING FORCE.

>>Regina Sarfaty: How does it feel to be part of an icon?

I'll tell you.

The Santa Fe Opera.

Over 60 years, and I was on the first performance.

When I started here, it had 480 seats.

But it was as grand for us as this is today.

>>Regina Sarfaty: There were only 13 singers.

We each did a part in each opera.

Serious.

Funny.

Humorous.

High.

Low.

It didn't matter.

We were a family.

And the Santa Fe Opera is still a family.

Opening night, Madame Butterfly, 1957, felt otherworldly.

I didn't feel I was on a stage doing an opera.

I felt I was doing what I loved to do and what I was

trained to do at The Juilliard.

My teacher always said to me

"You know what to do, Regina. Now go out and do it".

And that was the attitude we all had.

By the third act we knew we had a winner.

The humming chorus of "Butterfly",

you could hear a pin drop in the house.

>>Regina Sarfaty: I think the first question you have

"Am I willing to be unafraid?

To be another character?

Am I willing to take myself, Regina Sarfaty,

and put her aside and become Suzuki,

or Baba the Turk, or Dryad?"

Whoever.

You have to be uninhibited.

I had never been outside of New York State before.

And when John Crosby approached me at The Juilliard,

he was the piano player for the opera department,

and said he was starting an opera company in Santa Fe,

I had never done anything professionally before.

Nothing.

And I said, "Regina, you're nuts."

But if he has faith in you,

you have to have faith in you.

John, he was unique.

He was quiet but not inside.

He was turbulent inside.

He absolutely loved Richard Strauss.

And we did a Richard Strauss opera the first

season, and every season after that for many years.

The first year we did Ariadne.

Now that was a really interesting choice.

Ariadne was gorgeous here, visually.

The breezes just blew our chiffon gowns back and forth.

It was just stunning.

And John, he had so many talents.

He chose these singers in New York, and everyone was a hit.

Just a hit.

How is that possible?

He knew.

He just knew.

It is hard for me to believe that that was 64 years

ago that I walked out on the stage and did Suzuki.

Really hard.

Because to me, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

But it wasn't.

It was a long time ago.

And the Santa Fe Opera has developed a great deal since

However, there is something to be said for

the camaraderie that we had in the first years.

We stayed at the ranch, right here.

We ate together.

We cleaned the pool out together.

John said, "If you want to swim, you have to help

clean the pool out."

We said "fine."

So we did.

What did it feel like?

I use the words again.

Otherworldly.

It was as if we were in another world in the

southwest of the United States.

We were opening an opera house.

Cuckoo, but not cuckoo.

John Crosby was right.

It was not cuckoo.

It was a very smart decision.

>>Regina Sarfaty: The maestro.

Dapper.

Elegant.

Cordial.

Always polite.

A gentleman.

It was a pleasure working with him.

My second performance was The Rake's Progress.

The Rake's Progress is a deceivingly difficult score.

And my part of Baba the Turk was low,

high, medium coloratura.

And I was just graduated.

I said "What do I do?"

Okay, you start from the beginning, note by note by note.

And the fact that the maestro was going to be

sitting at every rehearsal made me work even harder,

but more diligently.

Every note of the coloratura had to be perfect.

Every note of the high and the low had to be perfect.

I wasn't perfect perfect, but I was almost perfect.

In the score that I have, he wrote "Sarfaty."

He always called me "Sarfaty."

He never called me by my first name.

"Sarfaty."

All three performances were wonderful.

And it stayed with me for 64 years.

Maestro Stravinsky was here for my first Carmen.

And he was sitting in the first row with his beret.

And I finished the Habañera, my first aria.

And I hear, "Olé!"

Mr. Stravinsky shouted it out and I said to myself,

"Who else would do that?"

What better experience could anybody have as a young person?

I'm very grateful.

>>Regina Sarfaty: There's something about the human

voice that touches people.

Whenever I attend a performance, an operatic performance,

I always look around me and I'm always

impressed by people's awe of how sounds can come out

of two little cords that are here in your throat

that can fill a huge opera house.

I've sung for 8 000 people.

The human voice is a uniting feature.

It can bring all cultures together.

A live performance cannot be compared to anything

you see on the television side.

Nothing.

It just gets you.

The sound of the voice gets you.

And every voice category is different.

So, my advice is, go to the opera!

DANCING WITH THE DANCER.

So Moderngram is something I started with Shaila Emerson

and it is a collaborative group of

people and artists that I found and love and I consider

family that we do different dance for camera projects.

I met Erica a few years ago.

We just started talking about dance because we

both had that connection and then she was like I'd

love to do some dance films if you ever would want to.

It completely peaked my interest obviously,

but we made our first dance film together, it's called Ravendoe.

It was more of just an idea from what we were

both going through at that time.

It was really spur of the moment.

We planned it in a week and we just went out into

the woods and dressed up as animals.

It ended up being like super inspirational to

continuing doing dance films together.

A dance film is cinematography catered

towards choreography or choreography for cinematography.

So you would approach how you would film something

differently than you would like a short film or like

acting or a narrative because it's movement based.

The videography would be used to help shift what

the audience can then be looking at, so it gives the

choreographer or the producer more control over what their

intention is and what they're trying to communicate.

The camera gets to move with the dancer and in a

way get in their face, get in their movement and then

you can see more of the details of what's going on.

Things that are smaller that humans can,

or the audience can relate to.

At a performance you can only see them so far.

In a dance film you're right there where their

breathing or looking at you and you can see the

color of their eyes and this way we're able to add

music and sound effects and different kinds of

shots that are very intimate and it describes

dance and story telling in a different way.

My inspiration for anything that I do that's

creative comes from a deep seeded desire to unearth

things that are stuck inside that I don't know

how to process or talk about and then the concept

of moving past those things.

What is the strength involved in that challenge

that I can find in my body, and in myself.

I mean that's what art is, you express the inexpressible.

We have a lot of oxymoron ideas or

conflicting ideas in our dance films.

Visually, I think it comes from the moment, it's very

spontaneous and most of our stuff isn't really planned out,

so it's just kind of fun to bounce ideas

off of one another when we're working through

our personal emotional things and just our life

and kind of adding that into the dance films.

I think it just helps bring out like

raw emotion within the dance film.

I really enjoy leading or guiding another dancer

through movement while she or he is being filmed.

And then I get to be the one kind of helping them

flow through the movement and helping them find what's

honest in their movement and what's beautiful or real.

For Shaila, she has to be very much in tune with how

the movers are moving and a lot of the times with

some of the locations that we're in they can't stick

with the choreography, they have to improvise.

She doesn't know what's coming next.

Being a dancer and shooting dance, it's just

like a whole new level.

I take the camera and I dance with the dancer and

so it's almost like for the viewer you get to be

dancing with the dancer and it's like a whole new

emotion you get to experience within the dance film.

I think what I want people to take away from what

they watch is that they can relate in some way to

what I created or get something out of it, even

if my intention is not the same as what they interpret.

It's just a way to connect us all especially when

filming things in life can be chaotic and unrelatable.

I love that ability to connect with people

through something like that and just share and I

think vulnerability is one of the most valuable

things as humans as far as connecting each other.

IMAGINING A BETTER WORLD.

My biological father came from, you know,

from Somaliland.

And literally like when the civil war broke out,

bombs are being dropped on your house by the government.

So it reminded me of what happened in Greenwood.

One minute, everything is fine,

and then the next moment it's all gone.

My name's Ebony Iman Dallas, and I'm an artist.

I love to tell stories through my work.

I would definitely say a lot of my choices are

influenced by my background.

In 2008, I went to visit my family in Somaliland.

We were getting Henna done and my art

just kind of lent itself to, to that.

My art since then has definitely become a lot more free.

Close to a year and a half ago, Tony Brinkley,

got in touch with me because he had this idea

called Greenwood Imagine Tony, he's a poet --

amazing, phenomenal award-winning poet.

And, um, his grandson, Derek Tinsley is a filmmaker.

And so they were looking for a painter to create a

series of murals that would go along with the poem.

And so I just proposed to him that I create the

murals solely out of wood.

This is where you have to make sure you don't cut your hand

(BUZZ FROM THE SAW)

So the very first scene is like the past.

So it's like, let's show what Greenwood was like

before the destruction.

So it's this beautiful scene of the little girl

with her father walking through town,

with an ice cream cone.

The second scene is, was pretty much created after

reading through a series of interviews.

But this one specifically talked about,

you know, it was a survivor.

I believe she was about five years old when the massacre

And she talked about these reoccurring dreams that she

And to me it sounded like PTSD.

Like she talked about the smoke and she talked about

the smells and she talked about the fire and it was

just so vivid, her description,

like I immediately was able to create a sketch for it.

(SOUNDS OF FIRE AND GUNFIRE)

I guess in some ways I may have went that direction

because my father was murdered by police officers.

And so, um, so that, that idea of this

father-daughter relationship and loss,

like resonated with me.

And then reading these stories about people who

lost parents and Greenwood definitely resonated.

The third scene is let's imagine what it could have

been like, like what would it be like if, you know,

had the massacre never occurred.

There'll be some puzzle pieces missing.

And so then we'll have someone from the audience

come up and place it into the piece.

Let's imagine, a what it.

What if, the massacre never happened?

What if Tulsa residents had free reign to flourish

into the future, and Greenwood never lost that

"yes we can" mindset?

Can you imagine this?

But basically it's like we have the power to

recreate, you know, like a new Greenwood.

We just need to believe in it and, and just go for it.

A MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE.

On a very cold January afternoon,

a group of women is at work at Boston's Hatch Shell.

In the dead of winter, the 80-year-old Art Deco

landmark is, well, a shell of itself.

A far cry from the crowds who flock to the

Charles River Esplanade every summer when the

amphitheater is home to concerts and, of course,

the Boston Pops 4th of July celebration.

But now, for the first time in recent memory, the

Hatch Shell will host a winter performance called

Hatched-a show of music and illumination.

"It is so exciting to be working here, I think.

It is, um a place that's so special in Boston.

It is beautiful."

Multimedia artist Maria Finkelmeier conceived the

show-composing the music and designing the video

projections that play nightly in 15 minute intervals.

We met the team as they literally mapped out the

projections square by Hatch Shell square.

"When creating the work I really tried to

think about the Hatch Shell itself,

and think about its 80 year history.

And thinking about a bird's eye view on all of

these incredible musicians playing in the shell.

What is it look like to see a violin bow,

or a drum, or a marimba?

And I wondered what those shapes

would actually look like in the shell.

So I really want you to feel like the shell is making

music for us, as opposed to us making music under the shell."

A composer and percussionist who has branched

out into visual realms, Finkelmeier wrote the music

which her team of musicians recorded earlier this winter.

(SWELL OF VIOLIN)

She wanted her composition to capture the sense of

breaking through difficult times.

"Really thinking about what does it mean to break through?

What does it mean to like, exude joy?

What is it going to feel like to hug my aunt

I haven't seen in 18 months?"

"Upwards of half a million Americans are losing their lives

through covid-19, we wanted something that was measured.

Somewhat somber at times, but also celebratory."

Michael Nichols is Executive Director of the

Esplanade Association, a non-profit group

celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

It works with the state to care for the park and in

recent years has shored up its mission to establish

art on The Esplanade-like Hatched.

"We started thinking,

"wow, it's this dark expanse in the winter.

There's a real opportunity to bring light, beauty,

something of public interest to the shell in the wintertime."

Outside of Hatched, the Esplanade Association's

public art program features a series of murals

lining the park-moments of joy for many people with

barely anywhere else to go during the pandemic lockdown.

"You actually can have this really tranquil experience

of walking through the park and experiencing art,

you know, as you go along the park.

Hatched can also be enjoyed with social distancing.

Visitors are invited to experience the performance

from anywhere in the park by scanning QR codes and

listening to its music on their phones.

"I hope that people will pick a date, in the next

four weeks and put it on the calendar.

And I hope they will have anticipation.

Like do you remember anticipation?!?

Of going to something?!?

Right?!?

What visitor's won't hear though, is the

all-female-identifying team who led this effort.

Creating it in a matter of months, executing it deep

into cold winter nights and, as Maria Finkelemeier says,

working free of male interference.

In the past, when working with a group of men in-in

similar leadership roles, there's a lot of

assumptions made about what I do.

(Like what?)

Like.

they would assume that I was kind of in the background,

or I, I didn't create the idea or the plan,

or it didn't come from my brain, or I didn't

figure out how to do it all.

And I think for me, this is this really big emergence

- this is a hatching.

This is a, like breaking through something for all of us

on the team and we just want to create a moment of joy."

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"UNTIL NEXT WEEK, THANK YOU FOR WATCHING."

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,

and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

...and Viewers Like You.

(CLOSED CAPTIONING BY KNME-TV)

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