Monday, April 05, 2010

Xerxes in Houston

This has nothing at all to do with Border Crossings: it's completely a freelance job. I'm in Houston, Texas, directing Xerxes for the opera company here. It's the old Hytner production, which I've revived several times in London - but here it doesn't have the status of something from the company's stable, so we are able to be much more free and inventive. I also have the most amazing cast of opera singers I've ever been lucky enough to work with. Susan Graham is Xerxes, and David Daniels is Arsamenes. Probably the greatest mezzo and certainly the greatest counter-tenor in the world. Then there's Laura Claycomb, Heidi Stober and Sonia Prina - every single one of them world-class voices. And nice people with it. Mind-blowing.

I'm enjoying the working relationship with Will Lacey, the conductor. He's very open to a proper creative dialogue, so we can make the music work dramatically, and make the drama work musically. It's a rare privilege to be allowed in to discussions about ornamentations, and to work so closely on the musical, as well as textual, considerations in the Recits. And, in Handel, Recit is the key to everything.

Houston itself is also mind-blowing, but in a very different way. There's little that's picturesque or culturally elegant about the city - it exists because there's oil in Texas, and money all around it. Every day I walk past the old Enron building. Halliburton is here (although the official headquarters moved to Kuwait just as Obama came into office...). The airport is called George Bush International. You get the picture? I do feel quite foreign here!