Seance on a Wet afternoon

A new opera with music & libretto by Stephen Schwartz
Based on the novel by Mark McShane and the film by Bryan Forbes
Commissioned by Opera Santa Barbara

A psychological thriller in two acts. World Premiere: September 26, 2009
at the 1,550-seat Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara.

VOX Showcase video by Matt Black
Interview with Stephen Schwartz prior to VOX presentation May '09
 
Séance on a Wet Afternoon Trailer
video by Bob Weinman
Stephen Schwartz interview
Scott Schwartz interview
One Little Lie

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Myra's visitation from the ghost of her 11-year-old son

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This Moment in Opera #9 - VOX 2009:
Stephen Schwartz, Gordon Beeferman and
Charlotte Jackson

Listen

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Chelsea Symphony Featurette

recorded during an orchestra reading prior to Santa Barbara premiere

SÉance on a Wet Afternoon is a psychological thriller about a medium, Myra Foster, her doting husband Bill, and the spirit of their deceased eleven-year-old son, Arthur, who speaks to Myra and is her contact for her séances.

Because Myra has never received the recognition she feels her gifts merit, they hatch a Plan: They will kidnap the daughter of a local wealthy industrialist, and keep her safe while the media frenzy over her abduction builds. When Myra has a "vision" that leads to the successful recovery of the girl and the ransom, her fame will be assured. As The Plan is put into action, the girl's presence in the house leads to complex psychological responses from Myra, Bill, and Arthur. The delicate balance of Myra and Bill's relationship and Myra's sanity itself begins to fray, as long-buried secrets are revealed. The Plan goes badly awry, and in Myra's final séance, the drama comes to a devastating conclusion.

Genesis 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.

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Michael