Drama on Stage

Michael Scarola directs a partially-staged version of Verdi’s classic

   Michael Scarola, who is directing NJOT’s performance of Falstaff, went from being a singer himself to understanding the nuts and bolts of staging an opera. He’s directed luminaries such as Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo in his days with the Metropolitan Opera. He met Scott Altman when the two were with the New York City Opera.
   Putting on a semi-staged version of Verdi’s Falstaff should come naturally to Mr. Scarola.
   "I’ve been doing this a lot over the last five or six years," Mr. Scarola says, speaking from Washington, D.C. "(This kind of directing) can go from just getting the singers on and off the stage, or making sure the characters that are singing together are actually standing together.
   "Then it can go to a semi-staged concert version, for example what I did with the Fort Worth symphony last summer, where we had a platform in the middle of the stage specifically for the staging, and we were surrounded by the orchestra," he continues. "You can have all of these various levels."
   He says symphony orchestras are doing this more, programming an operatic work in a dramatically staged way. It’s more interesting, Mr. Scarola says, than just having the vocalists walk out on stage with their music and stand next to the conductor. Opera companies are also experimenting with this kind of presentation.
   "It’s also much more cost effective," Mr. Scarola says. "This eliminates big pieces of scenery and lots of costumes, for example.
   "And it forces you to be so much more creative, because you’re not working with the normal ‘orchestra in a pit’ and the focus on a proscenium stage," he continues. "Now you’re working with orchestra members around you, or in the case of ‘Falstaff,’ behind you. There are all different ways to do it, but they’re all fun and challenging."
— Susan Van Dongen