Transforming my verse novel into a libretto is proving to be, well, transformative...for me, my poetry and, I hope, for all the collaborators involved. The writing is strengthened by the amount of scrutiny the conversion process takes as characters are more finely etched, new ones created, voice parts identified, drama intensified. I am very grateful to all who have been willing to read the libretto at various stages and offer comment. Most thrilling is that, unlike the lonely world of the writer, as soon as scripting, musical composition, singers and staging get involved there are lots of people in the sand box. Composer Rebecca Oswald of Eugene, Oregon (www.rebeccaoswald.com) will apply her melodic magic to the libretto and will take up residence in Bend, Oregon for the summer in order to work with OperaBend and members of the Central Oregon Symphony as she writes the music. OperaBend (www.operabend.org) is not only serving as the nonprofit umbrella for the production to facilitate fundraising, but Executive Director Jason Stein will sing a role in the production and his wife, soprano Nancy Engebretson, will direct. Members of the Central Oregon Symphony, under the direction of the talented Maestro Michael Gesme (www.cosymphony.org), will fill the orchestra pit. Guest performers are being invited from New York, Portland and Eugene operas for the premiere. Fall 2015 workshops are being scheduled for Eugene (www.eugeneopera.org) and Portland (www.portlandopera.org) opera students with the goal of giving them the opportunity to interpret characters that have not been performed before. Set designer and illustrator of the art book version of “Vía Láctea” Ron Schultz is waiting in the wings to transform his illustrations into beautiful stage sets. Broadsides of his illustrations, along with my poems from “Vía Láctea” were recently part of an exhibition in the Rotunda at the State Capitol and the Reed Opera House in Salem, Oregon, organized by poet Eleanor Berry. Angel and “Producer Extraordinaire” Marjorie Carmen of Bend has set the fundraising bar high, issuing a challenge to donors to match her $60,000 gift. Marjorie is pictured (left) with Jason Stein and me in the photo above. A fundraiser designed to help meet that match is being organized for July 2015 in Bend, Oregon. A grant of $3,000 was awarded to composer Rebecca Oswald by the Oregon Arts Commission for work on this project. The artists’ residency at Playa at Summer Lake (www.playasummerlake.org) awarded me a two week residency in March to continue work on the libretto. My writing and I are many times blessed by the retreats I have been fortunate to receive at Playa.
Sincere thanks to Julie Bryant and Bill Roach and, of course, Playa Director Deborah Ford. With the Bend premiere scheduled at the Tower Theatre (www.towertheatre.org) the weekend of June 10, 11, 12, 2016 there is much to accomplish. Please stay tunedon this website for notification of a July fundraiser, at which portions of the music and arias will be debuted. Tax-deductible donations can be made to OperaBend/“Vía Láctea” and mailed to PO Box 640, Bend, Oregon 97709.