Q&A with Robert Blumenfeld

Robert Blumenfeld, author of Teach Yourself Accents: Europe, chats with The Playbill Collector about his new book on April 4th. Click here for the full interview!

What is your background in dialect coaching?

 I studied French as an undergraduate at Rutgers where I also studied German and Italian and got into accents and dialects there.  I continued my French studies in grad school at Columbia, and took courses in phonetics and teaching French, including the accent. When I got into professional acting, I also started coaching accents. And I have taught accents at professional studios, and done private and production coaching.  I use lots of accents in my various audiobook recordings.  Audio recording is the majority of where I spend my time now.

When was your first book released?

In 1998 I released “Accents: A Manual for Actors”.

What was the main reason for writing your newest book “Teach Yourself Accents: Europe“?

The book is for a new generation of actors.  I wanted to provide something that has an easy method to follow.

Who is your target audience?

Younger actors but the series is equally useful to seasoned professional actors and amateurs.

00109570Teach Yourself Accents: Europe, A Handbook for Young Actors and Speakersthe third volume in dialect coach Robert Blumenfeld’s new series on accents, covers the European accents most useful for the stage and screen: French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Yiddish. The most important features of each accent are detailed, enabling the actor to begin immediately to sound authentic, and Mr. Blumenfeld’s unique approach makes the accents easily comprehensible.

 

DRAMATIC CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE SCIENCE OF ACTING

Dramatic CircumstancesWilliam Wesbrooks studied psychology, theatre, and music in preparation for his theatrical career, which, in its 40 years, has encompassed performing, directing, playwriting, and teaching.  In his new book, Dramatic Circumstances, Wesbrooks shows how actors can “live inside” the stories they tell in a way that brings them to life for them and their audience.

 In a recent article in The Atlantic, titled “How Actors Create Emotions: A Problematic Psychology,” Judith Ohikuare writes that “fully inhabiting the mind, mannerisms, and reality of a fictional character can be as alienating as it is rewarding.”Here, Wesbrooks looks at where acting intersects with brain science and psychology.

 The acting process presented in Dramatic Circumstances can have a significant impact on the way singers and actors tell their stories, and I think that brain science offers intriguing insights into why that process works.

* * * * * * *

            Brain science is an ever-growing field of study that endeavors to address any number of mental, emotional, and physical issues that trouble many people, and I realize that applying that science to the study of acting may appear somewhat frivolous. However, in the best of worlds actors tell stories about what it is to be human, and I believe that we are all better off because these stories get told. It only follows that these stories have greater impact when they are told truthfully, in a manner that really looks inside human behavior and the human condition.

            Years ago I was told that the subconscious mind has no sense of humor. This struck me then as an extremely useful idea when applied to the art and craft of acting, and it has proved invaluable in the development of the dramatic circumstance process. The ideas we plant in our subconscious mind are, as far as that particular part of our mind is concerned, true.

            In a New Yorker article (“Head Case: Can Psychiatry Be a Science?” March 10, 2010) Dr. Louis Menand wrote, “The brains of people who are suffering from mild depression look the same on a scan as the brains of people whose football team has just lost the Super Bowl. They even look the same as the brains of people who have been asked to think sad thoughts [italics mine].”

            I believe that an actor’s subconscious mind evokes responses and inspires action in circumstances that are entirely imaginary because key components of the actor’s brain do not realize that those circumstances are, in fact, imaginary.While it is certainly not necessary for actors to understand brain function in order to live truthfully “inside the stories we tell”, I find it a compelling way to think about acting. 

            It is certainly something worth exploring.

Stella Adler’s Birthday

Today is Stella Adler’s birthday! A new  biography by author Sheana Ochoa, Stella! Mother of Modern Acting, is coming out in April. You can check out Sheana Ochoa’s website here.

Arthur Miller decided to become a playwright after seeing her perform with the Group Theater. Marlon Brando attributed his acting to her genius as a teacher. Theater critic Robert Brustein calls her the greatest acting teacher in America.

At the turn of the 20th century – by which time acting had hardly evolved since classical Greece – Stella Adler became a child star of the Yiddish stage in New York, where she was being groomed to refine acting craft and eventually help pioneer its modern gold standard: method acting. Stella’s emphasis on experiencing a role through the actions in the given circumstances of the work directs actors toward a deep sociological understanding of the imagined characters: their social class, geographic upbringing, biography, which enlarges the actor’s creative choices.

Always “onstage,” Stella’s flamboyant personality disguised a deep sense of not belonging. Her unrealized dream of becoming a movie star chafed against an unflagging commitment to the transformative power of art. From her Depression-era plays with the Group Theatre to freedom fighting during WWII, Stella used her notoriety as a tool for change.

For this book, Sheana Ochoa worked alongside Irene Gilbert, Stella’s friend of 30 years, who provided Ochoa with a trove of Stella’s personal and pedagogical materials, and Ochoa interviewed Stella’s entire living family, including her daughter Ellen; her colleagues and friends, from Arthur Miller to Karl Malden; and her students from Robert De Niro to Mark Ruffalo. Unearthing countless unpublished letters and interviews, private audio recordings, Stella’s extensive FBI file, class videos and private audio recordings, Ochoa’s biography introduces one of the most under recognized, yet most influential luminaries of the 20th century.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR Stella!

 “What Stella brought to the American style of acting was a depth of naturalism that had not been seen up until then. It was naturalism mixed with a deep reverence for the actor as an artist and the writer as a teacher of mankind. For me she is still a bright light in a particularly dark time for the culture of Actors. In Stella! A Life in Art, Sheana Ochoa has captured a life lived well and large, always striving for more.”

Mark Ruffalo, actor

 “Over the four decades I have been producing films in Hollywood I have continuously heard the name of Stella Adler spoken with enormous reverence by actors. Now, after reading Sheana Ochoa’s biography, I understand why her legacy as an actor and teacher burns so brightly. An excellent, rich, and informative book.”

Michael Phillips, film producer (The Sting, Taxi Driver)

“Stella Adler’s passion for acting and teaching actors merges with tales of her personal struggles and triumphs in Ochoa’s detailed, compelling narrative of Adler’s life. As Adler’s life unfolds, Hollywood’s past and present come alive – with names, places, and dramas as informative as they are entertaining.”

Deborah Martinson, author of Lillian Hellman: A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels

JV Mercanti Interview

Guest Author: JV Mercanti, author of In Performance: Contemporary Monologues for Men and Women Late Teens-20sinterviews with The Playbill Collector.

The Playbill Collector (TPC): What did you go to school for?

JV Mercanti (JVM): I went to undergrad at NYU and I double concentrated in english lit and educational theater.  My senior year I worked in a casting office at Roundabout Theatre company and that opened doors for me.

TPC: Did you ever act?

JVM: I acted until my senior year at NYU.  At that point I came to somewhat of a crossroad and chose to start directing.  Currently I am freelance directing and am heading to the University of Miami in January to direct FLOYD COLLINS.

TPC: What gave you the idea for the book “In Performance”?

JVM: It fell into my lap.  My colleague at the University of Miami, Bruce Miller asked if I wanted to do it.  The book is monologues for teens to people in their 20’s.  They are all contemporary pieces.   After talking to the editors, I told them I wanted character description, questions and play synopsis  along side the monologues.  That way the actor can know about the show and build their character.

To finish the interview, go to The Playbill Collector.com!

In Performance is intended for young people who are auditioning for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional productions and industry meetings. Featured are dynamic monologues from contemporary stage plays of the past 15 years, chosen from the point of view of a professional acting teacher, director, and casting director.

Along with covering the basics of how to match the best monologue to the actor and how to approach the rehearsal and performance of the piece, the book provides a synopsis of each play, a character description, and a list of questions specific to each monologue that will direct the actor toward shaping a complex, honest, and thoughtful performance that has a strong emotional connection, a clear arc, and playable actions.

Spirituality and the Collection

For today’s blog post, enjoy an excerpt from the Introduction of  Scenes and Monologues of Spiritual Experience from the Best Contemporary Playsby Roger Ellis.

As the title of the book indicates, this anthology is governed by the theme of “spiritual experience.” I use this term broadly to include not only spiritual issues that directly affect established religions, but also those issues that have been traditionally viewed through the lens of organized religion but that now, in our secular age, force individuals to grapple with problems without the support of religious teaching. For example, churchmen of every sect have long busied themselves with problems of clerical celibacy, conflicting belief systems, or killing others in a “just war.” On the other hand, many today prefer to regard issues such as substance abuse, suicide, capital punishment, or abortion simply as matters of social justice and human rights. Thus, our modern age is no longer bound by sectarian interpretations of God and the supernatural; instead, we confront a spiritual landscape populated by voices proclaiming the values of Judaism, Christianity, reincarnation, Buddhism, zombies, jihad, astrology, ghostbusting, tribal beliefs, and many other “spiritual perspectives” that are widely reflected in the playhouse.

I’ve tried to represent as many of these perspectives as possible in this limited collection while still remaining faithful to the major artistic criteria mentioned above; I believe readers will be pleasantly surprised by the wide range of philosophical and theatrical excitement they encounter in a body of plays dealing with “spiritual experience.” Angels in America, for example, certainly expresses a rather novel interpretation of how “angels” busy themselves in contemporary American society; the same might be said of José Rivera’s Marisol, where the angel character seems more like a military recruiting officer preparing for Armageddon than a traditional ambassador of heaven. Yet, both plays pose disturbing philosophical questions as well as exciting theatrical challenges to audiences and theater practitioners alike.

This is not to say that contemporary playwrights are pushing organized religion to the back burner by focusing attention on humanitarian solutions to social problems, or by debunking Christianity, Mormonism, and other faiths. On the contrary, there are numerous examples of contemporary inspirational or devotional religious plays attracting large audiences to our playhouses. Think, for example, of the many productions and Broadway successes that plays such as Godspell, Doubt, Agnes of God, or Mass Appeal have achieved over the years. In fact, there are several monologues and scenes in this collection dealing with Joan of Arc, whose life has inspired modern audiences for generations.

It is noteworthy that before now, no anthology has gathered this kind of dramatic material into a single collection. It may surprise some readers to consider that so many contemporary plays deal with aspects of religious faith. The fact remains, however, that a concern for religion and the supernatural – and a focus on moral and spiritual problems – has permeated Western dramatic writing for at least the past century. Plays inspired in whole or in part by the life of the spirit continue to fascinate playwrights and challenge our most talented theater artists even today.

Scenes and Monologues of Spiritual Experience from the Best Contemporary Plays

In this anthology, theater expert Roger Ellis culls together dramatic scenes and monologues that all deal with spiritual experience. From various religious and non-religious perspectives, the book explores various aspects of spirituality – religious faith, martyrdom, death and afterlife, fate and destiny, mercy, and romantic love. The material comes from contemporary plays by some of the most gifted playwrights – Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, John Patrick Shanley, John Pielmeier, Tammy Ryan, Elie, Wiesel, Karen Sunde, and others. Perfect for high-school through college-age students, as well as for actors and general readers, this volume contains nearly 100 scenes, ranging from comic to serious, grouped in five categories: “Scenes for a Man and a Woman,” “Scenes for Two Women,” “Scenes for Two Men,” “Monologues for Women,” and “Monologues for Men.” In addition to the monologues, Ellis includes notes on staging to help actors and directors bring these scenes to life. Some of the plays sourced for this anthology include The CrucibleDoubtIn the Shape of a Woman,Agnes of GodEpic ProportionsOur Lady of 121st StreetAngels in America, and Affection in Time.

The Sound of Music

At 8:00 pm tonight, NBC is airing a live edition of The Sound of Musicstarring Carrie Underwood as Maria. Feeling nostalgic for the original movie musical? Below is a podcast from Onstage and Backstage podcast with three of the film’s stars, talking about what it was like to work on the film as well as the book they put together, The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook. The podcast is courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

>>>>>>LISTEN HERE<<<<<<<

It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Sound of Music is the most beloved film musical of all time. It has touched more than one generation, as over the years, many parents have shared the magic of this wonderful movie with their children. Seven very special children experiencedThe Sound of Music firsthand: the seven young actors cast as the von Trapp children. Now, for the first time, they tell their stories about making this celebrated film, from their auditions to rehearsals in Los Angeles to an incredible spring and summer in Salzburg, Austria. What was it like to work with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer? How did they learn the songs and dances for the musical numbers? Who almost drowned when the boat tipped over? What was it like to attend the gala Hollywood premiere? What were their lives like after starring in this legendary movie? And how did they become a family in real life, remaining as close as any brothers and sisters for the last 45 years? The answers are revealed at last and as a bonus, they have collected their never-before-seen own home movie footage on a brand-new DVD. It is included here, along with personal cherished memorabilia, such as letters sent home to their families from Europe, a page from the script with edits written in the margin, and a ticket to the premiere. For anyone who is thrilled by the sight of Julie Andrews spinning around on top of a mountain, or who spontaneously bursts out singing “Do-Re-Mi,” this captivating behind-the-scenes inside story is a must read.

In Performance

Because it’s Friday, here is the preface to In Performance: Contemporary Monologues for Men and Women Late Teens to Twenties, written by J.V. Mercanti. Enjoy!

One of the best auditions I’ve ever seen was for Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2001 revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical Follies. Jim Carnahan, the casting director, and I had called in Judith Ivey for the role of Sally Durant Plummer. If you don’t know who Judith Ivey is, please Google her immediately. You have most likely seen her in something on stage, in film, or on television. You might also have seen a play that she’s directed. She is a prolific artist. The role of Sally Durant Plummer is fragile and complex. Sally has been married to Buddy for years and years, but all that time she has been pining for the love of Ben Stone, who is (unhappily) married to Sally’s former best friend, Phyllis. Sally is going crazy with love and desire that has been burning for over twenty years.

Ms. Ivey was asked to prepare a cut from Sally’s famous first-act song “In Buddy’s Eyes,” an aria through which she tries to convince Ben that she’s deliriously happy in her life with Buddy. She was also asked to prepare a short scene. Present in the room for the audition were Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist; Matthew Warchus, the director; Todd Haimes, artistic director; Jim Carnahan, casting director; Paul Ford, the accompanist; a reader; and myself.

Walking into the room as herself, Ms. Ivey conversed with Mr. Warchus and Mr. Sondheim about her career and, very briefly, about the character. She then took a moment with Paul Ford to discuss the music. Following that, she came to the center of the playing space, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and prepared herself to begin. In that moment of preparation, which truly lasted no longer than a breath, her body changed, her physicality changed, the very air around her seemed to change. She took the character into her body. Ms. Ivey then opened her eyes, nodded at Mr. Ford, and began to sing.

Ms. Ivey executed the song with specificity, a rich but contained emotional connection to the material, a strong objective, carefully thought-out actions, and a deep understanding of this woman and her love. She went directly from the song to the scene, completely off-book (lines memorized), and when she finished – the room was silent. Mr. Sondheim had tears in his eyes. Mr. Warchus didn’t have a word of direction to give her. It was not that Ms. Ivey had provided us with a complete performance. No, not at all. She had shown us the potential of her Sally Durant Plummer. Her point of view was clear, consistent, and deeply, deeply affecting.

“Thank you, Judith. That was wonderful,” Matthew Warchus finally said.

“I really love Sally,” she responded, “But I was wondering if you might also consider me for the role of Phyllis. I’ve prepared that material as well.”

“Of course I would. Would you like a few moments to go outside and prepare?” he asked.

“No. No, that’s all right. I can do it right now,” she responded.

And after saying this, Ms. Ivey closed her eyes. She very slowly turned away from us, put her hair up in a tight bun, and turned around to face the room. It took no longer than thirty seconds, but once again her body, her posture, the way she related to the air around her, had changed. The aura of the room shifted with her. Once again, she nodded at Paul Ford at the piano, and she fearlessly launched into the Phyllis Stone material.

It was astonishing. Not a false note was sung or uttered. Ivey had such a deep understanding of the cold façade Phyllis wears in order to cover up her breaking heart. Phyllis is the polar opposite of Sally: cool, controlled, calculating, and hard.

Ms. Ivey thanked us for the opportunity. We thanked her for her work. The room remained still and silent for a while after she left.

Without a doubt, Mr. Warchus knew he must cast her in the show. She landed the role of Sally Durant Plummer.

It was clear that Ms. Ivey did a very thorough study of the text in preparation for this audition. She understood who these characters were; how they thought; why they spoke the way they did, using language in their own specific ways. She understood how they moved, where they held their weight, how they related to the space around them. Most importantly, she understood the characters’ objectives (what they wanted) and how to use the other person in the scene to get what she wanted.

You can achieve the same level of performance as Ms. Ivey if you put the requisite amount of work into your monologue, ask yourself the right questions (or the questions I ask you to examine following each of the pieces in this book), and activate your imagination.

In Performance

In Performance is intended for young people who are auditioning for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional productions and industry meetings. Featured are dynamic monologues from contemporary stage plays of the past 15 years, chosen from the point of view of a professional acting teacher, director, and casting director.

Along with covering the basics of how to match the best monologue to the actor and how to approach the rehearsal and performance of the piece, the book provides a synopsis of each play, a character description, and a list of questions specific to each monologue that will direct the actor toward shaping a complex, honest, and thoughtful performance that has a strong emotional connection, a clear arc, and playable actions.

Tosca

Today is the premiere of the HD broadcast of Tosca by the Metropolitan Opera! The complete libretto of Puccini’s Tosca, published by Amadeus Press, is also being released in conjunction with the event. Below is Peter Gelb’s introduction to the libretto.

INTRODUCTION

With nearly a thousand performances since its 1901 company premiere, Puccini’s Tosca is one of the most-performed works in Metropolitan Opera history, currently ranking fifth on the all-time list (behind just Aida, Carmen, La Traviata, and, in the top spot, the composer’s own La Bohème). The opera’s enduring appeal is not hard to understand. Tosca offers a captivating heroine, gripping melodrama, and some of the most powerful and instantly recognizable arias in opera, from the painter Cavaradossi’s “E lucevan le stelle” to the villain Scarpia’s “Te Deum” to the heroine’s indestructible “Vissi d’arte.” A prime example of verismo opera, Tosca functions as a kind of operatic thriller, a juggernaut that doesn’t let up from the very first chords until the curtain comes down. (In the article “Thrill Ride,” featured in this guide, Met Music Director James Levine compares Tosca to a Hitchcock film.)

This first volume of the Metropolitan Opera Presents series aims to give readers a 360-degree view of Puccini’s timeless drama. In addition to the complete libretto, we’ve included a synopsis, a detailed program note with musicological background, and the “In Focus” feature we offer each night in the Met’s house program—a quick, easy primer intended to provide the essentials for a given opera in a format that audiences can absorb easily in the minutes before the curtain goes up. We’ve also featured a number of archival photographs of Tosca throughout its century-plus history at the Met. Whether you experience Tosca at the Met, through our Live in HD movie theater transmissions, on the radio, or online, we hope this guide gives you all the background you need to appreciate this Puccini masterpiece to the fullest.

Peter Gelb

General Manager

Metropolitan Opera

An idealistic artist, a celebrated opera singer, and a corrupt police chief engage in a fierce battle of wills in this tempestuous tale of passion, intrigue, cruelty, and deception. Puccini’s great melodrama may be set in 1800, amid the Napoleonic wars, but the conflicts between love and loyalty, the state and the individual, and hypocrisy and principle are anything but dated. Floria Tosca, the beautiful, glamorous singer who has all Rome at her feet, is one of the iconic soprano roles in the Italian repertoire. She’s caught between two men-her lover, the handsome painter Cavaradossi, who defies the law to hide a rebel friend; and the villainous Baron Scarpia, Rome’s all-powerful chief of police, who will stop at nothing to crush the rebels and conquer Tosca for himself. This gripping story of torture, attempted rape, murder, suicide, and general mayhem is as thrilling and dramatic as anything seen on the operatic stage.

Happy Birthday, Gerald Schoenfeld

Gerald Schoenfeld, credited as one of the major influences in Broadway’s history, would have been 89 today. To honor his memory, enjoy this excerpt from his memoir, Mr. Broadway

As I became immersed in the Shubert business, I became more infatuated with the theater. My life with the Shuberts was a wild ride, full of platonic flings with thousands of people and all the highs and lows of dealing with huge theatrical successes and massive failures. There were ceaseless negotiations with money men, and all the many joys and frustrations of combining the creative side with the practical. There was no shortage of putting on the kid gloves to deal with prima donnas—actors, writers, directors, choreographers, producers.

There were also times of rejection and disappointment, times of birth and renewal, times of cruelty and of serious personal depression. And mostly there were never-ending battles, a procession of confrontations and conflicts that could not be ignored. Some were brush fires; others were frontal attacks. Some irrational and absurd. Others inevitable. All were costly, time consuming, and terribly debilitating. In some cases, defeat would have meant the end of the Shubert Organization, my professional career, and the Broadway that I’d come to love and cherish.

I can’t actually remember when I started to go to the theater. My first memory of seeing a significant theatrical attraction was A Streetcar Named Desire, probably sometime in 1949, when I was twenty-five. Written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, it starred Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden.

I also recall seeing another Tennessee Williams–Elia Kazan classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But that was some years later, in 1955, around the time I saw Inherit the Wind. The following year, I saw My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. Up to that point, I was only an occasional theatergoer. It wasn’t until I became more entrenched in the Shubert business that I started attending the theater regularly, sometimes four or five nights a week.

As my role in the business grew and my love for the theater became a passion, I recall countless occasions of pure exhilaration. Gypsy with Ethel Merman absolutely electrified me. One of the greatest American musicals ever, it opened in May 1959 in the Shuberts’ Broadway Theatre. It was brilliantly directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. I was so captivated that I would stand in the back of the theater night after night just to hear Ethel close the first act as she belted out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

Hundreds of other dramas, comedies, and musicals have made my heart beat faster.

Sitting with my wife, Pat, in our aisle seats, in a beautiful rococo room buzzing with excitement as the lights dim and the curtain comes up. . . there is nothing like it.

We have sat through, literally, thousands of overtures and curtain calls. Some have been very good, some very bad, some just all right, but many have been so exceptional that they have enriched our lives.

And then there are a few that stand out as extra special.

I’m thinking of A Chorus Line, Cats, Les Misérables, Sunday in the Park with George, Phantom of the Opera, Passion, and Miss Saigon.

These are some of the shows that created a fabulous new chapter in Broadway theater, shows that have withstood the test of time and are still performed so many years later.

Mr. Broadway was completed just one month before Gerald Schoenfeld’s death in 2008 at the age of 84. Bringing the reader backstage, the long-term chairman of the Shubert Organization shares his triumphs and failures, sings praise, and settles scores. He recounts nightmarish tales of the Shuberts, themselves – the meanness of Lee, the madness of JJ, the turmoil surrounding John’s personal life, and the drunken ineptitude of Lawrence Shubert Lawrence, Jr., the man who succeeded them and nearly brought the Shubert legacy to an ignominious end.

 

Paris Ballet Now

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her post at Interlude, detailing her experience at the Palais Garnier in Paris.

The atmosphere was electric! We were at Paris’s Palais Garnier to attend a ballet performance just five days before the one-hundredth anniversary of the riot surrounding the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in May of 1913. To top that off, we would be seeing another world-famous work of Stravinsky — The Firebird —music that I had played countless times but had never seen danced. The excitement was palpable. To be where the ghosts of performances and premieres past was quite a privilege.

The Palais, considered one of the most famous opera houses in the world, is breathtaking. It is one of the historic emblems of Paris. The architect, Charles Garnier, was chosen to design the astonishing opera house by Emperor Napoleon III in 1861. The interior of the hall is entirely gold and marble with deep burgundy seating. The balconies and pillars are exquisitely crafted and decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, some of which portray deities of Greek mythology, as well as gilded bronze busts of many of the great composers. The dome ceiling took my breath away— a huge colorful fresco painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall depicting scenes from the operas of 14 composers. A gold border and small lights outline the painting. From the center hangs an immense 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier designed by Garnier. It was difficult to stop craning our necks to look at the ceiling. Just being in this historic theater was a feast for the senses and the performance had yet to begin!

The number of performances that take place in the Palais Garnier is astonishing. It is the home of the Opéra National de Paris, which performs no less than 16 operas a season, as well as the ballet, which this season presented 14 ballets. Other series include The L’Orchestre de L’Opéra National de Paris, recital and chamber music evenings, special events and “new productions.” One could go every night of the week if one could only get (and afford) tickets. (Most events are sold out months in advance!)

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.