of Séance on a Wet Afternoon
From Executive Producer Michael Jackowitz
From 2000-2003, Stephen Schwartz and I would frequent the NYC Opera together. During this time he was developing Wicked for Broadway and while I was certainly aware of his ability to write Broadway and pop tunes, I was amazed at his level of understanding of classical music as well. I would hear him talk with other classical composers and it really made an impression.
After Wicked opened, Stephen told me he was done writing for the musical theater. Of course I didn’t believe that and said, “I don’t believe that….but if it were true, I have a prediction to make. I believe you are going to write an opera.” He looked at me and said, “funny you should mention that….” A year or so earlier, an agent, Peter Franklin had given Stephen the idea of adapting the film Séance on a Wet Afternoon into a musical, but he felt it was too dark for musical theater (but very interesting material for an opera). We wondered why there weren’t more operas with complex stories, legit scores written for operatic voice AND ‘tunes’ that people long for, but that was the end of the conversation.
Fast forward to 2005. I had relocated to Southern California and was walking down State Street in Santa Barbara. There was a beautiful theater undergoing a huge renovation with a sign that said “Granada Grand Re-opening 2008.” I got in touch with Steven Sharpe, the General Director of Opera Santa Barbara and pitched the idea of launching a new Stephen Schwartz opera at the Granada. He and his board loved the idea and agreed to commission their first new opera. I then called Stephen: “How serious were you about that opera idea…because you have a commission!” He was serious.
Developing this opera has been an incredible experience for everyone involved. We brought in an accomplished theater director I had worked with on tick, tick..BOOM! and My Antonia, Scott Schwartz, Stephen’s son. Scott and Stephen had wanted to work on a project together for a very long time. We then approached Lauren Flanigan to be our leading lady. Heidi Ettinger came on board to do scenic design. The pieces were all coming together.
American Opera Projects (AOP) agreed to host professional readings of the first Act in Jan 2008 and the entire piece when it was completed in Nov. 2008. We have been accepted into the NYCO VOX orchestra reading program and we are all very excited to hear the first 30 minutes with a full orchestra for the first time May 1st, 2009 in NYC.
I have been documenting much of the process with Video Journal Diaries that can be seen on our Facebook Group page. Ultimately, we have developed an opera with an intense story, a legit opera score AND ‘tunes.’
Please check back to this website for exciting development and dates for upcoming productions.