31 July 2007
Roskilde, Denmark
The Opera Snail

Those of you who have worked with me on a production or two have probably heard my reference to the Opera Snail at some point (courtesy of my dear friends Beth & Stan during my early days at the Kennedy Center). It’s a subtle reference to a rehearsal where you aren’t making much progress and has a variety of optional characteristics: alseep, moving backwards, roll over dead, etc etc.

But here at Teater Hedeland in the outdoor arena, I have MET the Opera Snail!! We’re here in a reclaimed rock quarry 25 km from Copenhagen and about to present Carmen to 3500 fans – basically the production Lars Rudolfsson directed for Santa Fe last summer transposed to this environment with a few more gypsies and a few less soldiers.

Our 80’ diameter central disc is tile coverd in 3 cm of sand to allow for jeeps, campfires, bare feet ... and the Opera Snail..... (cue the fate motif). Who knew?

Stomping out to the tech table for our first onstage last week, I noticed small dark round blobs dotting the stage. Some renegade dog-walker neglecting his duty perhaps? But then the supposed turds were MOVING! The slugs have invaded !! And, in the immortal words of the that technical director in Augusta, "what makes you think there’s just one!" NO, we have an entire village of snails camped out in our 3 cm of sand! And even after scooping them up and out of the arena, THEY’RE BAAACKKK like some relentless scourge. Not sure about reproductive cycle of a slug, but it appears to be working like gangbusters – on closer inspection, they’re everywhere!

Once Carmen and her cigarette girls learned of the added escarots, shoes were added in short order.

And then we noticed another curiousity... the Maestro-vision. Since the pit is at the back of the arena, 6 monitors are placed around the performing area. I took a look during Act II when we stopped for a staging correction, and the Maestro had grown a handlebar moustache....no, no, the SLUGS are obscuring the beat and grossing us out in the process. Monitor 4 had the “boa constrictor” look , Montior 2 had the “turban effect”, and well,... Monitor 1 provided the Maestro with an extensive anatomy enhancement. Plastic "gutters" have been added to the Maestrovision to halt The Snails’ Progress tonight. I’ll keep you posted.

So, bring butter and garlic (I’m sure we can simmer them up in the propane heaters we’re now using to keep the orchestra cozy at night), pray for fair weather, and Vive la Carmencita in Denmark!