Michael Sakir, Guest Conductor
The very talented conductor Michael Sakir is no stranger to Boston Opera Collaborative. In fact, you might remember him from BOC’s production of Dead Man Walking or one of the three other shows including Little Women (2010), Carmen (2009) or The Magic Flute (2008). He joins us for his fifth show (that’s right, FIVE SHOWS!) to conduct the upcoming production of Rinaldo. Returning to BOC is like “coming home” for Michael and over his seven years as a guest conductor with BOC, it has become like “family” to him. “This is my first Baroque opera. It has been a thrill and a wonderful challenge to dive into an area of repertoire that I thought I would never be a part of,” he said. When the opportunity to work with co-artistic directors Greg Smucker and Patricia Weinmann presented itself, Michael was very excited; “who better to dip my toes into the world of early music than with a company and with individuals with whom I am already dear friends?”
Michael spends most of his time conducting 19th century Italian opera and contemporary American opera, but is very excited to venture into the world of early music with BOC. He already has an impressive list of operas in his repertoire including Dead Man Walking, Little Women, and The Tender Land, to name a few but his hunger for opera isn’t yet satisfied. When I asked, out of curiosity, what he would love to conduct, Michael paused, pulled out a list and listed his top 3; Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano, and even Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
In addition to making this journey with BOC, Michael will be also be making his maiden voyage with the New Vintage Baroque ensemble. According to him, “The Boston early music scene is very small but very active,” which led to the partnership with NVB. Michael befriended the co-founder of NVB, Lindsay McIntosh, when they were both attending Boston Conservatory. The partnership with New Vintage Baroque turned out to be, “a perfect match”, as they are, “an ensemble dedicated to storytelling and to drama and theatricality, which is perfect for [Rinaldo].”
Lindsay McIntosh, Co-Founder of New Vintage Baroque and Oboist
Lindsay McIntosh joins us from New Vintage Baroque as one of the founding members and the oboist in the group. Similar to BOC, Lindsay is as active behind the scenes as she is in performing. She says, “I oversee and guided all projects that are NVB. I guess you could say there is nothing I don’t do for New Vintage Baroque. My co- artistic directors Francis Liu and Clay Zeller-Townson help me tremendously in steering this amazing ship that is NVB.”
For many musicians, finding a niche in the musical world takes some time. For Lindsay, Baroque music “found” her rather late in her undergraduate career. She took a class for Baroque ornamentation while studying at Boston University. She says, “At first the sound of a baroque oboe along side a modern oboe was a bit awkward to my ears but the teacher, Marc Schachmann, immediately picked up the vibe that I really loved playing baroque music.” It was at his urging that she began taking private lessons geared specifically towards Baroque oboe and everything sort of clicked. “It was a little like fate,” she says.
New Vintage Baroque was born of Lindsay’s discovery and subsequent love of early and Baroque music. Lindsay commissioned a, “rap cantata” from composer Doug Balliett (composer and narrator of NVB). She approached co-founder Frances Liu, who, “at the time was in the Juilliard Historical performance program with me, asking him if he’d like to be part of this rap cantata, then quickly after that conversation New Vintage Baroque was born.”
When guest conductor Michael Sakir approached Lindsay about collaborating with BOC on Rinaldo, she was, “over the moon”. She says, “I commend BOC in hiring a historical group to be their opera pit, the sound you will hear is like no other…” Additionally, she lauds Rinaldo as one of Handel’s most beautiful operas and is really excited to work with, “the talented cast of Rinaldo.”
Following Rinaldo, NVB will be very busy, “closing our very successful second season May 8-10th, with a program and a new commission from Oracle Hysterical all about the Passionate Pilgrimage.” In their 3rd season, they begin with, ” a regional tour of our inaugural season featuring Doug Balliett’s rap cantatas, then we will commission a new piece by Simon Frisch, where he will be writing us a song cycle in the lost language of Breton, then we will later tour Brittany France in the summer of 2016.” Their 3rd season closes with an opera by Doug Balliett based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, taking place, “in the historical Morris-Jumel Mansion, where Hamilton resided.”
Tommy Neblett, Choreographer
Coming to us from the Boston Conservatory and Prometheus Dance, Tommy Neblett is an incredible guest to Boston Opera Collaborative. Mr. Neblett and his wife, Diane, are long-time friends to artistic director, Patricia Weinmann, so when he was asked to join the artistic team for Rinaldo, he was thrilled. He says, “I love opera, I’ve always loved opera… and I love working with opera. My wife Diane and I used to be choreographers with Opera Boston.” While engaged with Opera Boston, Mr. Neblett worked on Les pêcheurs de perles, Alceste, Nixon in China, among others. It was through this that he found his unexpected joy in working with opera singers. I am not the most graceful so I had to know how he felt about working with opera singers. He said, “All in good nature, I find it challenging [to work with opera singers] but it’s a good challenge. I love being in a room filled with singing. It is just ethereal to me.”
In his 27 years with Prometheus Dance, Tommy and Diane have had the opportunity to travel around the world and explore in ways he never imagine. One of the highlights of this international career includes a performance, “in Spain in front of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela at midnight.” In addition to Prometheus, Tommy and Diane have a second company called The Elders Ensemble where, “we choreograph specifically for [elderly women], plus we choreograph some inter-generational pieces where the [young professionals] dance with the elderly women.” He highlights this as one of his favorite opportunities as a choreographer, calling it “heart-warming” and “precious”.
Tommy’s area of expertise is modern dance, which he characterizes as, “very technical and very athletic” and often focused on many social issues from rape to genocide. The piece Apocalypsis was based on the Kosovo War and “one of the best things we’ve ever done for the company”. Devil’s Wedding, another piece, was inspired by the book Reading Lolita in Tehran and focused on women’s rights in the Middle East. Prometheus has even been commissioned to choreograph a piece based on Tourette syndrome, an experience that Tommy says was enlightening and beautiful. The process involved videotaping people with exhibiting the involuntary movements associated with the disorder called “tics” and translating those into dance. The project culminated in a benefit performance for the Tourette community. Mr. Neblett says he’s enjoyed working on pieces with social impact; however, the company is striving to bring lighter pieces into their repertoire, saying he and his wife, “don’t want to be pigeonholed into just one category.”
Check out this video of excerpts from a show that Tommy and his wife Diane choreographed!