On Site Opera, New York’s pioneering opera company rooted in site-specific storytelling and the immersive experience, has partnered with the South Street Seaport Museum, to bring opera to Pier 16 on and around the historic lightship Ambrose with Puccini and Adami’s Il tabarro (The Cloak) from May 14th to the 17th. This production follows last April’s successful Gianni Schicchi as part of the company’s multi-year cycle of Puccini’s Il trittico. On Site Opera’s Music Director Geoffrey McDonald conducts, and visual artist and opera director Laine Rettmer guest directs this one-act opera about love, jealousy, and murder set on the banks of the Seine River in 1910.
Laine Rettmer (Photo: courtesy of Laine Rettmer)
When asked about the concept behind this production and what it means to stage it in such a famous and popular location, director Laine Rettmer said:
“My first desire when approaching most operatic works is to make the storyline and characters as human and three-dimensional as possible. I think we are living through a moment in history where recognizing that people exist outside such labels as ‘villain’ and ‘hero’ is of vital importance. In this vein, we’ve approached Il tabarro by trying to draw out the incredibly complex and nuanced decisions that could lead someone to deceive a partner or commit a crime. I was thinking a lot about the characters’ chaos, pain, and alienation from one another as reflections of the coming tragedy of WWI, which looms on just the other side of the opera’s setting. From there, I’ve tried to let the violence and sensuality so embedded in the score slip into the physical, the props, and set, and the costumes in order to create a world where even objects become suspect, dangerous, and volatile.
“I like to use the three primary times that connect a dramatic work—the time it was written in, the year it depicts, and our current moment—and find connections between these potentially disparate eras in my staging. For On Site’s Il tabarro, it is exciting that the Lightship Ambrose was built in 1908, the opera is set in 1910 and was written in 1916. The South Street Seaport, as well as New York in 1910, was a swelling, riotous, evolving space. I hope that as the audience enters the world of our show, they can experience the merge of our present-day into that of the turn of the 20th century.”
Eric Einhorn (Photo: courtesy of On Site Opera)
For On Site Opera’s founder Eric Einhorn, Il tabarro will be the last production of the company under his tenure, as he will be resigning from his position of general and artistic director at the end of the year. He offered some thoughts on the production and on ending his impressive tenure at On Site Opera with this searing melodrama:
“People can expect a riveting production (On Site Opera’s largest yet!) that will bring the seaport to life in an exciting new way! Laine Rettmer, our stage director, and Geoff McDonald, our music director, are creating an incredibly powerful world in which the singers and orchestra will tell Puccini’s dark tale of love and jealousy. As with other On Site Opera shows, this production will truly immerse the audience, with action unfolding all over the pier and the adjacent ship. It is, of course, bittersweet to be transitioning away from On Site Opera, but I am proud to be presenting Il tabarro on this scale as I do so. This will be the second installment of our multi-year cycle of Puccini’s Il trittico one acts, and there is something poetic about guiding the trilogy two-thirds of the way through before then passing the torch to the next artistic director to complete the cycle and continue the fantastic work of OSO into the future.”
Don’t miss On Site Opera’s thrilling production of Puccini’s Il tabarro at the South Street Seaport on and around the historic lightship Ambrose!
Sunday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Monday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30 p.m.
Top photo: Eric McKeever as Michele in Puccini’s Il tabarro on the lightship Ambrose – Photo Credit: Bowie Dunwoody