Friday, April 12, 2013


Short post today. I'm on my tablet, typing tedious, etc.

Turandot is a veritable riot of color. Everything in this production from the sets to the costumes are richly detailed and beautifully designed. The music is just as rich, with a large chorus and full orchestra supporting the main cast - all incredibly talented voices I recognized from previous shows.

 I found the characterizations and the second half of the story to be a little thin, but I think most of that can be attributed to Puccini's untimely death before completing the opera. The performances, as always, left little room for complaint.

 I spent most of the show drooling over the costumes and sets, and I am embarrassed to say I did not get much quality sketching done. Here it is, anyway:
open in a new tab to enlarge

 Turandot is definitely a fabulous and fitting finale to this season at the Minnesota Opera. Do go and enjoy it while it's running.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Night at the Opera: Hamlet

I should start by mentioning that Hamlet is my all-time favorite Shakespearean tragedy. When I heard we would be observing an opera version of the famous play, I was very excited.

Hamlet the Opera differs from the source material in some key aspects. First of all, it was adapted by a French composer, so it is all sung in French. The supertitles provided were in more modern English than I'm used to seeing associated with Shakespeare, though it did make it much easier to follow the story. Overall, the structure of the story felt different; it was as though they'd written all of the main characters, scenes, and other elements on note cards, shuffled a few around, discarded some completely, then added in new elements where necessary. I was disappointed in the lack of Horatio, my favorite character. It felt, for better or worse, almost like an entirely different story.

 I did enjoy this production for the most part. It's hard not to, when the MN Opera puts on such a quality show. The cast was excellent, especially Ophelia,who had some truly stunning scenes.The sets were cunningly designed, and supported the tone of the story well.The costumes, while not as spectacular as other productions, felt authentic to the period this version of Hamlet was trying to evoke.

This was my first time bringing a guest to the opera, and my boyfriend, Chris, was very impressed.The cast was all singing at full voice, and there weren't many directorial interruptions, so it felt like a proper performance rather than a dress rehearsal. A real treat!

Here are my sketches from the show. I offer no explanations or excuses.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Night at the Opera: Doubt

Before the opera began, we had an opportunity to meet with the director and writer of the show.

The writer, when asked if he worried that people would see the movie "Doubt" and bring certain preconceived notions and opinions to the opera experience, he said the following (paraphrased as closely as possible):

"Let them bring their preconceptions. I want them to, and I want to see those preconceptions thrown on the ground and shattered into a million pieces. If Doubt doesn't do that, then we haven't done our jobs."

I applauded at that, because hot damn, I could tell we were in for a good show!

I wasn't wrong. Doubt is from all fronts a fantastic production. The sets and scene transitions were well handled, using interesting cinematic "fades" instead of simply darkening the stage so the crew could hustle to make changes. The sets themselves, while deceptively simple, were evocative of the mood and era this story portrayed. It goes without saying that the cast was phenomenal, but I've learned to expect no less from the Minnesota Opera. The orchestra was completely on target, to the point where I forgot there were people with instruments in the pit, and felt as though the music were simply springing from the atmosphere.

The story itself was intriguing, and to be sure, I brought my own prejudices to my seat with me. Having grown up as a Catholic, and even attending Catholic school for a few years, there was much of this setting that resonated with me. The suspicions cast on Father Flynn regarding his relationship with a boy student were uncomfortably similar to a (thankfully indirect) experience I had in my confirmation class. Yet, I couldn't help but give Father Flynn the benefit of the doubt, especially as Sister Aloysius' methods to expose his guilt grew increasingly shady. I felt that the story definitely served its purpose and lived up to its name; by the end, I still hadn't decided who (if anyone) was right, and who (if anyone) was guilty of wrong. I had so many doubts.

I started sketching on my digital tablet, but unfortunately the battery gave out far sooner than I'd hoped, so I switched to "analogue" drawing just before intermission. Here are the results of my doodling. Pardon the quality on the paper drawings, as my scanner is still a bit fussy, so I had to use a digital camera to capture the images.

Slight spoilers ahead!

My digital sketches:

And my marker-and-paper sketches:

Aloysius and Flynn face off.

Because nuns falling are always funny.

Discussing the Christmas Pageant. Aloysius is not impressed.

Aloysius speaking with Donald's mother.

Sister James thinks Sister Aloysius is being totally unfair.

Sisters James and Aloysius share a moment.

So, hey, if you have a chance to go to the Opera, DO! If you have your "doubts" about Doubt, let me assure you that you won't be disappointed. The music is amazing and very innovative for the medium (more a capella singing than I was expecting!), the performances are masterful, and the story is sure to get your gears turning. And for those of you worried that this is going to be another of those stuffy, old-fashioned stories that you just can't get into, Doubt has its share of shocking moments and (sometimes slightly raunchy and juvenile) humor. This is a thoroughly enjoyable show. 



Friday, November 9, 2012

Night at the Opera: Anna Bolena

The Minnesota Opera has done it again.  Anna Bolena is based on the actual story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, though don't be fooled into thinking it's some boring history lesson.

 I'm writing this post on my drawing tablet, which is tedious, so I'll keep the text portion brief.  In short, if you enjoy opera even a little, go see this show.  It almost made me cry, and I was only half paying attention to the story, because I was busy drawing.   Since I rarely cry even at really sad movies, that's pretty impressive.  The vocal talent in this cast is incredible, and even at only a fraction of their full performance volume, they carried every accusation, every lament, every trembling confession with perfect clarity.

 Anyway, here are some sketches.

I may add more later when I have a keyboard.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Night at the Opera: Nabucco

It's that time again:  Opera season!

This year, the Minnesota Opera came out the gate with the lushly visualized Nabucco. As soon as the curtains went up, I regretted not bringing my markers or a digital drawing pad, because MY GOD THE COLORS. The set designers actually hand painted every one of the amazing backdrops used in this production, using paint and pigment mixing techniques we might have seen back when this opera first appeared on stage. Of course, all those bright colors were supposed to offset the poor gas lighting back then, so with modern lighting those colors really POPPED. Not that anyone was complaining. The effect was stunningly beautiful, like watching a moving oil painting.

I made an attempt at capturing one of the first backdrops, which was full of huge columns and intricately designed tilework, but I'm not sure if it works in black ink. You can see on the left, there were little audience boxes built right onto the stage, for the fictional audience. It was all very meta, sort of like watching a show within a show. The false audience was there to provide some historical context for the references to the Austrian occupation of Italy. It was all very subversive.

The costumes were incredible as well, utilizing stark whites and even more rich colors, especially for the characters of Nabucco and his daughters. I loved the contrast between the "audience" costumes (Austrian soldiers and Italian upper class of the time) and the "cast" costumes. While the "audience" costumes were relatively muted in color, the "cast" had a much brighter palette. Even the whites were more eye-popping. 

My favorite "audience" guy was actually part of the "stage crew", a lamp lighter who had to come out at the start of every scene and re-light the gas lamps. Too adorable.

Here's a sketch of some of the costumes:

The title of this opera may have been Nabucco, but to me it seemed the main characters were really his two daughters, Abigaille and Fenena, who were respectively the antagonist and protagonist of the story. Nabucco did have the best hat, though, and his character arc was well executed.

Abigaille kind of stole the show. She was an excellent antagonist, yet very sympathetic, especially by the end of the show. Her jealousy of her sister, Fenena, and her bitterness toward her father needed no translation. She was easily my favorite of all the singers, too.

Of course, when Abigaille takes the crown from her illness-stricken father, she becomes the best character WITH the best hat. A double threat!

I don't want to spoil the entire story for you-- to be honest, until my friend Lisa explained it to me, I wasn't actually following the plot at all, because I was too busy drooling over the pretty sets and costumes and feverishly trying to sketch them-- so I'll end it here by saying this:

DO go see this show. DO get season tickets for the Minnesota Opera this year. It is going to be one heck of an awesome season.

Helpful Links:  <-- Minnesota Opera official website

Monday, May 21, 2012

SpringCon and Gaming Sketches

Well, now that opera season is over, convention time is here!  We've kicked off convention season with a good start at SpringCon, where I was drawing caricatures and custom sketches pretty much nonstop.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!  I got to hang with some of my favorite artist people, too, including my good friend Mark Stegbauer who inked this piece I did for the charity auction.  (Pardon the low quality of the images in this post, I was using my iPod Touch camera, which is not terrible but not the best, either.  My scanner is still not on speaking terms with my laptop.) 

Aside from that, I did a few chibi sketch cards, some of which I even managed to photograph before they were whisked away!

I was, unfortunately, unable to photograph all of the art I did that day, especially the caricatures, as people were crowding around the table and waiting for their turns.  Not that I'm complaining!  I was quite happy to be so busy, though I was grateful to my lovely friend Theo for bringing me a sandwich at lunch.

Saturday was my only day at the convention, because Sunday was reserved for spending time with my friends from out of town.  I hadn't seen them for nearly two years, as they'd moved out of state while I was in Korea, so it was wonderful to see them both again.  Another friend of ours ran an epic Marvel game for us, using heroes we'd created in a game we'd played years ago.  It was such satisfying fun to get the old group back together, both in and out of character!  I had to commemorate the occasion with more art, of course-- just because I wasn't drawing at SpringCon didn't mean I got to slack off!

Our fantastic cast:  Mystique-- she was a sort of special guest appearance, played by another friend who had not been part of the previous game.  She did a wonderful job portraying the character and really tying in with the plot our GM was running as a one-shot game. 

Yuki-- My albino "bioelectric ninja", codenamed "Negavolt" for his abilities to nullify mutant powers and create electrical blasts.  This is probably my favorite drawing I've done of this character to date, and I've had some version of Yuki for around 13 years!

Kyle-- codenamed "God Mode", my boyfriend's character, a computer/gaming nerd with powers of light, illusion, and hypnosis.  His signature move is to distract people with naked lady illusions, then blind them with searing light.  "Shut up, Kyle!" is a common catch phrase in our games.

Carrie-- codenamed "Snap Dragon", a teleporting, psychic-blasting, fairy-dragon girl, and our group's de facto leader.  She sort of accidentally killed a hippie with crazy memory bubble powers, and now she can't teleport without looking like something out of Yellow Submarine.

Sally and Mark--  Sally, aka "Miss Monster" is a 10-foot-tall bright pink wolverine, who used to be a little girl.  She may have accidentally eaten her parents (something she, thankfully, does not remember).  That poor green muppet she's cuddling is Mark, aka "Gremlin", who can possess and animate inanimate objects.  He has a bandage on his chest from a wound that, weirdly, has never healed...  Mark is actually Carrie's boyfriend, but Sally likes hugs.

So, that's what I did all weekend. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Unexpected Night at the Opera: The Giver

This was an entirely different setup from the usual NotO events.  First of all, instead of meeting up for a reception beforehand, we were to go straight to the opera house itself.  Only it wasn't the Ordway this time, it was some place near the warehouse district in Minneapolis.  Actually, it was right next to the Guthrie Lab, in a surprisingly quiet corner just outside of downtown.  I was lucky to catch a bus and arrive just barely on time, despite the public transit system's determination to foil my plans for the evening. 

I'm glad I made it, though.  More than glad.  I am thanking the transit gods for allowing me the privilege of attending this show.  I'm not even exaggerating.  You should see the little model bus I made for this shrine in my living room.

No, I'm not going to post a picture of it.

But I will post a picture of me holding my program, which both the author of the book (Lois Lowry) and the writer of the stage adaptation signed for me.  LOOK HOW AMAZED I AM. 
This is my amazed face.

I must make a confession here:  I hadn't read the story, The Giver, until about three days before I saw this opera adaptation.  I know, I'm super late to the party here.  But I DID read it, and I loved it, and all I could think was, "How are they going to do this on stage?"

And then, they did it.

And I was impressed, because they did it perfectly.

Our protagonist, Jonas, starts to see flashes of color in a world that is only seen in shades of gray and beige.  The stage version of this was to dress everyone in drab neutral scrubs and use monochromatic props.  UNTIL THIS RED APPLE SHOWS UP AND WOW THAT HAD EXACTLY THE IMPACT IT SHOULD HAVE.


The colors don't just stop at apples, though.  Red hair, red sleds, and... okay, so I guess he had to start somewhere, but Jonas mostly sees a lot of red for awhile.  Which is cool, because they did it cleverly on stage, and it worked just as it was supposed to work, and I was so pleased.

 He's seeing red.  Lots of it.

Another clever thing they did was using screens and video projection to indicate the memories that the Giver was showing to Jonas.  The choir kids would rush into formation and hold up these translucent white squares, upon which the various memories would be projected, and Jonas could interact with the screens in different ways. 
"Woo hoo!"

The kids were all amazing in this production.  The music was definitely suited to the story, almost monotonous at first without being boring, but with more melody and smoother flow as Jonas gained more memories of the time before, back and back and back... 

  Of course, me being me, I had to do a couple of silly doodles.  That girl who played Jonas' little sister, Lily, was hilarious.  She had everyone cracking up during the curtain call.

My favorite part about this entire production was how the relationship between the Giver and Jonas was portrayed.  There was a distinct sense of a growing bond between the two, something painful and complicated due to the very nature of being the Receiver of Memory, and yet the Giver maintained an air of gentle patience and even protective affection toward Jonas.  The way Jonas trusted the Giver so implicitly, even when the memories were horrible, even when he was frightened and brittle.  Their friendship was a beautiful and very moving thing to see.  

My.  Heart.  *clutches*

If this show hadn't already been sold out, I would tell everyone I know to go see it.  And then I'd go see it again myself.  Three more times. 

To sum up:  A beautiful, thought-provoking story translated to a phenomenally gorgeous and effective stage production, performed by a cast of wonderfully talented kids.  My tiny webcam shots of my marker scribbles cannot begin to capture all of the feelings this show gave me.  SO MANY FEELINGS.

And with that, I sadly close the sketchbook on this opera season.  Until next year!


Night at the Opera: Madame Butterfly Part #2

I finally got my sketchbook scans from the Madame Butterfly opera, and finally found the time to edit them so I could post them here.  Better late than never, right?

As I mentioned before, I only drew three things.  I was frequently distracted by how absolutely gorgeous this opera was.  The costumes, the deceptively simple sets, and the breathtaking music all made it very difficult to focus on drawing anything.  Not to mention, I'm still not much for doing gesture drawings in the dark.  So, like I do, I created three interpretations of the story using a Japanese anime/manga style.

First, I'm basically summing up the first act here with these "chibi" drawings.

My interpretation of Cio-Cio-San (Madame Butterfly) as she appeared at her wedding.  Fresh, young, bright, and innocent.  Large eyes are symbolic of innocence and youth in Japanese animation, and poor Cio-Cio-San had both in spades.  She was only 15, for crying out loud!

And last but not least, the climactic suicide scene.  Madame Butterfly, wings torn and destroyed, impaling herself on the needle point of her dagger.

Honestly, I couldn't have done this opera justice if I'd had months and all the paper and markers in the world.  This production was lush and phenomenally beautiful, the performances stirring, and the atmosphere perfectly crafted.  When it finished, I felt like I was waking up from a deep, dreaming sleep.  It was an illusion as delicate as a butterfly's wing.

I will do my best to get my next set of sketches and review up by tomorrow.  Stay tuned for my post on The Giver!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Night at the Opera: Madame Butterfly

As I write this, I'm still waiting on scans of my sketches from the actual opera itself (of which I have... three drawings), but then I remembered that I ALSO have a bunch of photos from the Cio Cio Sassy fashion event through the Tempo young professionals group. So, I'll share those for now.

Basically, about a week or so before the opera opened, Tempo (the group that lets you get discounted opera tickets and such) threw this great little social mixer event. There were artists, music (including bits from the opera, sung by the cast), a fashion show, sake tasting, and so on. I didn't get to see much beyond my own little corner, though I did get to meet the beautiful and talented Yunah Lee, who was one of the performers in the role of Madame Butterfly.

I was there to draw caricatures. Not just any caricatures, however, anime/manga-style portraits. I had to work fast in the two hours I was allotted, but even so I didn't manage to squeeze everyone in who wanted a drawing. I was very popular! Toward the end of the night, I remembered I had my iPod Touch, so I snapped a few photos of happy people and their manga-style caricature portraits. It was so much fun, I was sorry when my two hours were up!

Check 'em out:


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Night at the Opera: Lucia di Lammermoor

Yet another unforgivably late post. This time, I handed my sketch book over to a friend with a scanner, with the intent of getting this posted much more quickly than the last blog. Well, road to hell, good intentions, etc...

Anyway, here are the things I drew for the last Night at the Opera showing of Lucia di Lammermoor. I enjoyed this one considerably more than Werther for several reasons, mainly the sympathetic treatment of the titular female character. The stage direction and design was also very impressive, making use of very stark and minimalist sets with different colors of light to create different moods. None of which I reproduced in my sketches, of course, because I was using a black marker on white paper.

Here's a quick sketch of Lucia:

As per my usual level of dignity and respect for the fine art of opera, I have summed up the story (more or less) in chibi form. Pardon my handwriting: this was, as before, done mostly in the dark.

Oh, and then Lucia killed that husband she didn't want, then killed herself, and Edgardo was really upset about it. The priest guy was all like, "Oh, she's in Heaven now." Which was pretty cool of him, considering she was a suicide and generally the church frowns on that sort of thing. Overall, I got the sense that we were supposed to sympathize with Lucia, who was stuck in a really shitty situation, and in an effort to have agency over her life again, she sort of went stab-crazy. I mean, I get where she's coming from. I would probably do the same in her place. Because, damn. Not cool, bro.

So that's my super elite and sophisticated review of Lucia di Lammermoor.



Monday, February 13, 2012

A Night at the Opera: Werther

This post is unforgivably tardy. Better late than never, I suppose, and while my excuses are legitimate they are still excuses. For one thing, my scanner is an incredibly old, fussy thing that doesn't always work with my new laptop. Perhaps it's acting out of spite because I abandoned it for a year while I lived in Korea. Perhaps it isn't super compatible with my Macbook. Perhaps it's just old. Whatever the reason, even after attempting to restart the laptop and the scanner several times (which was my usual fix), I haven't been able to get the scanner to talk to my laptop for a couple of weeks now.

How I Imagine My Electronic Devices Behave:

Laptop: I hate that scanner. It's old and it smells funny and I don't want to listen to it anymore.

Scanner: Eh? Did you say something, sonny? Where are my pants?

The other reason, a bit less legitimate, is that my sketches are terrible. In short: It was dark, I'm severely night-blind, and I should have brought opera glasses or binoculars or something. Noted for next time.

Though failing to capture the awesome visuals that this opera presented (the sets and costumes were wonderful, as far as I could tell, and the photos on some of my fellow blogger friends' sites confirmed it), I am finally posting the sketchpad drawings, but please be patient and understanding of the fact that I had to take them with my webcam, so they're not the best quality. Also, pardon the fingers. You can click on the images to make them bigger.

First of all, I loved all the kids. The way they lined up, the way they played in the park, the singing. Super adorable. Those costumes! Here is my attempted gestural sketch of the adorableness.

Now on to Werther and Charlotte. Their romance, at first, was very sweet. A sort of “love at first sight” kind of story. I'm a sucker for romance, even the tragic kind, so this appealed to me quite a bit. We had some hope that maybe, just maybe, things would work out for these two. I tried to capture some of the chemistry there, the lovely gesture of the way they walked down the staircase together, and Charlotte's pretty party dress (I don't think I got the design right at all, but as I mentioned, I had to guess a lot at what the blurs on stage were supposed to be).

I also sketched a bit of my favorite character in all of this, the younger sister (I think the oldest under Charlotte), Sophie. She totally had a thing for Werther, too, and she had a really cute hat with a ribbon on it. More like a bonnet, I guess? I couldn't be sure, but the huge round shape of it caught my attention. She spends most of the show either mooning after Werther (I guess she likes the emo boys), or trying to cheer people up (both Charlotte and Werther are on the receiving end of her adorable chipperness). She also has a nice chat with Albert, Charlotte's fiance.

And then things got weird and uncomfortable, and I gave up trying to strain my eyes. Werther grabbed Charlotte's skirt and made her edge away nervously. Werther rolled around on the floor. HE MADE SOPHIE CRY. Everything got reduced to chibis, all the better to express the complicated feelings. So many FEELINGS!

And then I switched to marker because I couldn't even see my pencil sketches while I was drawing them (dark room + book light = bright glare on paper = blind artist), and things got really silly. Charlotte was equated to cake (the dresses looked like you could eat them, and everyone wanted a piece of her). Albert's consoling speech to Werther came off more as gloating and rubbing it in Werther's face that he couldn't have the cake Charlotte, and man, what a nice cake it was.

Captions: “Charlotte = Cake” “Man, it is so great to be married to Charlotte. I can only IMAGINE how much it sucks to be you...” “Yeah ok bro shut up.” “THIS CAKE IS SO DELICIOUS AND MOIST!”

I kind of stopped trying at all after that.

Captions: “Saddest Panda. 2nd Saddest Panda.” “Be happy!” “All the unshed tears fall back onto the soul, and the drops hammer away at a sad and weary heart.”

Most adorable suicide ever?

...What is wrong with me?

In conclusion, DO go see Werther, or any of the other fine productions at the MN Opera House. Better yet, go see all of them. Get some culture in your life. Listen to some amazingly talented performers sing about love and loss and regrets. It's way cooler than going to see that new Twilight movie. You'll thank me later.


P.S. My friend Lisa over at this blog did a much better job than I ever could at describing the opera and the problems that we (Lisa, I, and several other attendees) had with the titular character. She also posted on time and provided the relevant information for getting tickets to the opera, because she's not a slacker like I am. Do read her blog, all of it, because she's awesome and clever.