Press Release for Seance on a Wet Afternoon

Seance on a Wet AfternoonPress Release for Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Opera Santa Barbara Announces Opera Commission from Renowned Composer Stephen Schwartz to Adapt Séance on a Wet Afternoon for Debut in the Spring of 2009Opera Santa Barbara (OSB) announces a commission with celebrated composer Stephen Schwartz to adapt the 1961 novel, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, to anew opera for a debut in Santa Barbara at the Granada Theatre in the Spring of 2009. This will be the first opera for Schwartz, who composed the recent musical Wicked, among many other successful musical theatre productions.

Michael Jackowitz will be the Executive Producer, currently producing theLos Angeles premiere of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM!. This marks a new era for Opera Santa Barbara with the first commission of a new opera inthe history of the company.

Stephen Schwartz has a long history of love of opera and opera singers, and has always been interested in composing an opera. Schwartz first saw the film Séance on a Wet Afternoon as a child, and it stuck with him over the years. He comments, “I immediately responded to the idea of this story being adapted to an opera.” He continues, “I like the mood of the story.

The central female character has very strong needs and desires, and is very complex. There is a lot of subtext in her behavior, which makes for interesting music, as music can tell things that words cannot.”

Séance on a Wet Afternoon, written in 1961 by Mark McShane, was made into a film in 1964, directed by Bryan Forbes. It is the story of an unsuccessful psychic and spiritualist who had grown frustrated with her lack of celebrity—and so devises a plan to bring herself the fame she craves. She and her husband will kidnap a child. When the police are baffled and press coverage has reached a fevered pitch, she will have a “vision” that will lead to the child’s recovery and then reap the rewards of publicity. But no sooner is the plan underway than there are complications.

Composer Jake Heggie, best known for composing the opera Dead Man Walking, comments on the collaboration, “Opera is in a fascinating place right now in the USA: more works are being commissioned and performed than ever before. Most exciting is the eagerness to find the next “big idea” — something that will lead us to our own “American Opera Theater.” Heggie continues, “To find that, lyric dramas are being commissioned from the terrific array of composers we have in our country today. The crossroads of opera and musical theater seems to be the most fertile ground for this discovery and Stephen Schwartz is one of the most successful and brilliant musical theater composers of all time. Creating deeply human, large-scale dramas, clearly etched characters, smart lyrics, and beautiful, memorable, tuneful music are all hallmarks of his work. Opera Santa Barbara is extremely smart and fortunate to have secured Stephen Schwartz’s interest in creating his first opera. I can’t wait for opening night!”

New York based composer Stephen Schwartz studied piano and composition at the Julliard School of Music while in high school and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drama. He has written music and lyrics for a number of Broadway shows and has collaborated with Disney and Dreamworks, earning him several awards. These include two Grammy’s for Godspell, two Academy Awards and another Grammy for Disney’s Pocahontas, and an Academy Award for a song in DreamWorks’ first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt. His most recent musical Wicked opened in the fall of 2003 and is currently running on Broadway.

Michael Jackowitz is currently producing the Los Angeles premiere of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM!, directed by Scott Schwartz at the Coronet Theater after its successful run at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, CA. Jackowitz’s New York credits include Nicky Silver’s Food Chain at the Westside Theater directed by Robert Falls and starring Hope Davis and Phyllis Newman; Bill Davis (Mass Appeal)’ AVOW at the Century Theater directed by Jack Hofsiss and starring Jane Powell and Chris Sieber; I, Do, I Do at Queens Theater in the Park with Donna McKechnie. Michael is a graduate of the Commercial Theater Institute’s Producing Seminar, class of 1996.

Opera Santa Barbara was founded in 1994 with the goal of bringing the splendor of opera to Santa Barbara. During the past 12 years the organization has presented 28 operas and has provided thousands of hours of educational programs to the community.

Opera Santa Barbara, 123 W. Padre St., Suite A, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. 805.898.3890.