The Opera Magazine, Opera Now, February 1st 2017.
Show the world how much Since I have synesthesia, I instinctively focus on creating a staging that harmonies music and movement"
Anna Etsuko Tsuri, founder of New York's Opera Pomme Rouge
As a college student in Japan, I came to realise that I had an usual attribute: I am a musical/visual synesthete. Not everyone conjures pictures and imagies when they hear sounds, but it comes absolutely naturally to me - in fact I find it difficult to avoid.
Since my youth, I’ve been a musical actress, pianist, flutist and conductor, so the stage is a familiar place for me. Over time, my attention has been focused more and more on opera, and especially opera directing. After I graduated from a music college in Tokyo with majors in flute and conducting, I moved to Germany to study opera directing at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule fur Music, Berlin. And so my ling Journey into opera began.
I was the first Japanese candidate to pass the entrance exam for opera directing at the Hochschule and I worked as an assistant director at the Bayreuth Young Artists Festival during the summers of 2003 and 2004, and experience that gave me a deep understanding of Wagner. At the end of that second summer in Bayreuth, I jumped at the opportunity to assist Christine Mielitz at Dortmund Opera. This was a chance to work with an huge influential figure: Mielitz was a disciple of the great Götz Friedrich and a trailblazer for women opera directors.
After my apprenticeship in Germany, I relocated to Vienna for a stand in the assistant stage director department at the Vienna State Opera. In the summer of 205, I was accepted on the opera directing course at Die Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien - again. I was the first Japanese student to succeed in this. During my time in Vienna, I gained a lot of experience at the State Opera as an active member of the company, working as a design assistant, as part of lighting and costume crew and as an assistant stage director and a technical administration intern.
I also directed many productions in various Viennese theatres: La Cenerentola, Hansel and Gretel, Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera, and Bergknappen, a charming Singspiel by Mozart’s near-forgotten contemporary Ignaz Umlaut. In April 2008, members of the Schoenberg family came from the US to Austria to seem my production of Erwartung at the New Studio Theatre in Vienna. I was very touched and encourage when they praised the show so highly.
In 2009, I was awarded a two-year Rohm Foundation nFellowship and I finally manager to pull myself away rom Vienna, classical music’s mecca, to become an intern at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Experiencing these two completely different performing arts organizations was a big eye-opener for me. After my long journey in pursuit of an opera career, which too me from Tokyo, via Berlin, Dortmund, Bayreuth, Vienna and Paris to New York, I surprised my self by choosing America as the place I would settle down.
I felt it was time to have my own opera company. So, I started to learn about business from absolute zero.
Through a stroke of luck, I found a space for rehearsals and stage on a ground floor of a building near Grand Central Station in Manhattan. I named the company Opera Pomme Rouge - Red Apple Opera, a concept that appealed to my synethetic grasp of my environment, and also summed up my global journey and my desire to create a new, hot, passionate wave of opera starting in the Big Apple and rippling around the world!
I believe that opera is a treasure store four human beings and I’ eager to introduce this wonderful art form to as diverse an audience as possible. Opera Pomme Rouge’s mission is to allow audience to enter into an absorbing experience of opera, regardless of age or cultural background - even if they’ve never experienced an opera before. To achieve this goal, I started to create an interactive opera series in which anyone can participate.
During its first season in 2015/16, Opera Pomme Rouge produced an interactive production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and then at the Queens Museum in NYC. Everyone in the audience was handed a few props during a 15-minute workshop, where they learned how to use he props while dancing and singing song. The audience sat in the middle of the performing space and singers performed in the midst of the audience. There was no time to be bored! Our audiences ranged from two-years-olds to opera veterans - all of them seemed to enjoy the show thoroughly.
Since I have synesthesia, I instinctively focus on creating a staging that harmonies music and movement. My starting point when I direct a show is to really follow the composer’s instructions in the score, scene by scene. There are thousands of hints in every score for understanding a character’s emotions and actions: phrasing, rest-arks, dynamics, melodic lines, instrumentation - all these hold dramatic clues. Analyzing the music and entering into a ‘silent dialogue” with the composer through the notes on the page is my favorite moment as O prepare to stage an opera.
Opera Pomme Rouge’s next production will be the second in our interactive opera series: a on-hour interactive production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürunberg. Since 2015, I have continued to run Opera Pomme Rouge’s Resident Artists program (Formerly Young Artists Program) that offers a your-long full-stipend career development course for young professional singers, coaches/pianists and stage directors/stage managers, with weekly musical/acting lessons. It is my hope that Opera Pomme Rouge will build an enduring and robust ensemble and I take special pleasure in helping to develop the talent of a future generation.