Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell) based the opera on the novel by Mark McShane and the subsequent screenplay by Bryan Forbes. Schwartz penned both the libretto and score for the opera, which was commissioned by Opera Santa Barbara and debuted there in September 2009.
The composer's son, director Scott Schwartz (Golda's Balcony, Jane Eyre, Rooms), again directs the production that will run through May 1. The composer has revisited the piece since its 2009 debut, which arrives with a new second act aria for the role of Myra Foster.
The NYCO production features Lauren Flanigan, who created the role of Myra Foster in the world premiere of Séance at Opera Santa Barbara. She again stars alongside original cast member Kim Josephson as Bill Foster.
Schwartz spoke with Playbill.com about his foray into opera: "Musical theatre, I feel, is much higher energy, and also the characters are quite needy. They have very, very strong needs and emotions, which is great for musicals, but, given who these characters were, I thought they would be a little over the top for musical theatre, whereas not for opera. And the last thing about it, for me, was that so much of the story is so textual. The characters are saying things but actually, underneath, a lot else is going on, and they have secrets from one another and they have secrets from themselves and so, music is very helpful, obviously, in telling that story and conveying the subtext. But I think you are much more able to do that in opera—musical subtext—than you are in musical theatre."
Click here to read Playbill.com's Brief Encounter Q&A with Schwartz. Séance on a Wet Afternoon also features Todd Wilander as Charles Clayton, Melody Moore as Rita Clayton, Jane Shaulis as Miss Wintry, Pamela Jones as Miss Rose, Doug Purcell as Mr. Bennett, Boyd Schlaefer as Mr. Cole, Juan José Ibarra as the Policeman, Phillip Boykin as Inspector Watts, Michael Marcotte as the Irish Tenor, Michael Kepler Meo as Arthur and Bailey Grey as Adriana Clayton.
The New York run reunites the original creative team including Tony winner Heidi Ettinger (scenic design), Tony nominee David Lander (lighting design) and Alejo Vietti (costume designer).
According to NYCO, "Based on the novel by Mark McShane and its 1964 film noir adaptation, the opera focuses on Myra Foster, a trance medium who involves her passive husband in a plot to kidnap the daughter of a neighboring family. Myra intends to find the girl through psychic communication with her own dead son, and so gain the fame she craves—but the plot goes awry, as her fragile sanity begins to break down."
Schwartz, a five-time Tony nominee for the scores of Pippin, Godspell, Working, Wicked and his lyrics for Rags, has earned Academy Awards for "Pocahontas" and "The Prince of Egypt." He earned three Academy Award nominations for his work on "Enchanted." Schwartz also received Grammy Awards for the recordings of Wicked, Godspell and "Pocahontas."
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New York City Opera stage productions take place at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.