Archive | 3:51 pm

Watch your mouth, sister! Divas at Tacoma Opera

21 Mar

March 30 is opening night for the Tacoma Opera (TO) production of La Bohème. In this production, Giacomo Puccini’s drama about a group of struggling young artists (bohemians, get it?) in 19th-century Paris time-travels to post-WWII Paris in 1947. Peter Serko is a Tacoma photographer documenting the dress rehearsals and behind-the-scenes activity of the opera company, established in 1968. We caught him in between projects to talk about opera in Tacoma, why he is obsessed with it…and why others are saying, bravo, too.

TACOMA ARTS: Hi Peter. La Bohème is opening March 30 at Tacoma Opera. What are you going to wear?
PETER SERKO: [The dress code] runs the gamut here in the Northwest. Some folks really like to dress up, yet Northwest casual is perfectly acceptable. I keep threatening to get a tux but I have never really looked good in a cummerbund. If I am going to opening night I like to at least wear a sport coat and tie. I think the dress-up thing is kind of fun and makes the evening different from a trip to the movies.
TA: I think REI has a Gore-Tex tuxedo…It will be news to some people that Tacoma has its own opera. When did you start photographing the opera company? Tell us a little about your project.
SERKO: I started photographing rehearsals during the 2008-09 season….It is an amazing thing to watch [an opera] unfold in a very short time. My efforts are not all together altruistic; I get to see what few opera fans ever see, it is a real treat. I have been at it long enough that the singers and staff don’t notice me and I just move freely around in rehearsals and backstage when we get in the theater. I’m just part of the scenery; that is the way I like it.

Trouble In Tahiti, Tacoma Opera. Photo: Peter Serko

TA: Kind of like a wildlife photographer – a bush that moves from place to place. Many people have never been to the opera. Some consider it fusty or a bit fancy. Is it possible to go from Ding Dongs to tiramisu, musically speaking? Does opera have something for everybody?
SERKO: Opera has been around for over 400 years. It is one of the oldest western musical forms. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was the major form of entertainment: it was the “March Madness”, Dancing With The Stars, and American Idol of  its day. Performances were raucous events with vendors selling food and merchandise during the performance like we see at baseball games today. It was entertainment for the masses. [Present-day] opera is not a cheap night out but the timeless stories it tells are for everyone. Anyone who loves to hear the music of the great musical geniuses of their age sung by talented artists will enjoy opera. Tacoma Opera doesn’t do lavish productions but the singing is always first-rate.
TA: What if the libretto, or text of the work, is in another language?
SERKO: With the advent of [projected] supratitles in English, above the stage, the issue of language is not a problem.
TA: You were a family therapist for a number of years; what blanket statement would you make about the melodramatic plots and the relationships between characters in opera?
SERKO: Lots of pathology for sure. Only in opera can two people meet one minute, propose marriage in the next measure, only to find out in the next act that they are really brother and sister. It is twisted. In opera you need to suspend belief. Everything is over the top, bigger than life, and that is what makes it so enjoyable. Continue reading

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