It was a swarm of locusts that took me to North Africa. More specifically, Anne Guzzo’s Locust: The Opera. The orchestra and I enjoyed premiering the opera in Jackson, Wyoming in the fall of 2018; the audience was delighted at discovering such a digestible and unique blend of art and science. It was then that the creative team knew this short little opera had great potential. When the opportunity to take the show across the Atlantic, dare I say we…jumped…at the chance?
The world of locust study is a small one, and our journey began with the warm relationships amongst scientists. Due to the generosity of the Board of the Orthopterologist’s Society and orthopterologist Dr. Koutaro, we were able to fund this opera at the International Congress of Orthopterology in Agadir, Morocco in March 2019. It was intended that this performance be mounted in honor of the late Dr. Ted Cohn, the former president of the Society and an avid opera fan.
Thus began our journey. We were only able to bring with us our creative team and cast: Anne Guzzo, composer; Jeff Lockwood, librettist; Ashley Carlisle, set and costume designer; Cristin Colvin, stage director and Locust; Todd Teske, Scientist; Erik Angerhofer, Rancher; Scott “Gusty” Christenson, sound technician and all-around Renaissance Man; and myself as music director. The orchestra would come from the Conservatoire National de Musique Rabat with their director, Dr. Samir Tamim as concertmaster. Through more friendly connections via a student of the Douglas County Youth Orchestra, I was able to contact the Royal Conservatory and get in touch with Tamim. He recruited his top faculty members to join our ensemble. We wouldn’t meet each other until a few days before the show!
The crew made it to Morocco and we began our rehearsals– first with the orchestra, and then adding the singers. It was immediately clear that these players were top-notch, sensitive musicians who brought a rich tone to Anne’s score. Hearing them with our singers in a stone and marble room in the Palais des Roses, with the palm trees swaying outside was a surreal experience.
The performance on Monday, March 25 was enthusiastically received by everyone in the conference, as well as our new friends on the technical and events staff at the Palais des Roses. Morocco is a beautiful country with an emphasis on pride, honor, and respect for your fellow human, and I’m glad to have met and worked with our new colleagues. Music, at its core, enlivens our souls and imaginations to transform our immediate realities. It is my hope, and my mission, that through this transformation we can build bridges across countries, continents, beliefs, and languages.