Why Stage a Concert Instead of a Reading?


Composers and librettists  expend extraordinary time and energy in creating a score or script, and once the document is completed, we need to acknowledge that the process is just beginning.  What is the next step? Do we share our work with other artists? Do we immediately jump into revision? Do we stage a reading or public presentation?

I found myself asking these questions when tasked with setting up the first public performance of Stefania de Kenessey and Michael Bergmann’s Bonfire of the Vanities: The Opera

(If you'd like to learn more about Bonfire of the Vanities: The Operacheck us out!)

Should one decide to do a public or semi-public presentation of one's work, the initial impulse is usually towards a staged reading -- for theatre pieces, this is widely considered the first stage in development.

In the months immediately following Bonfire of the Vanities’ completion I had the sense that Stefania was naturally leaning towards this option. And yet, when I heard her mention it, I immediately protested. Why?

The additional perks of staging a CONCERT

What Bonfire needed wasn't a reading right away.  Rather, Bonfire needed some sort of presentation that would celebrate its completion.  It needed an event that felt like a proper show, even if it was only a segment of the entire work. So I proposed we stage a performance of Act I “in concert.”

I was inspired by the many concert productions of musicals I had seen in the past, as well as New York City Center’s Encores! These productions are great opportunities for audiences to see an often long-past show brought to life.  These shows are most likely not going to receive a full production any time soon, usually due to the relative obscurity of the material.

Yet these concert productions are often rooted in nostalgic hindsight.  I was inspired to reverse this aspect of a concert production and instead use it to look ahead at the future of the piece. By putting up a concert of the piece instead of a reading, we presented Bonfire not as a manuscript awaiting the authors’ own red pen, but as an exciting, long-form preview, a glimpse into the majestic scale of the full work. And that is exactly what we did.

We had planned on one such concert performance, but when it sold out we staged a second. It sold out immediately, too.  With our concert previews we had been sent a strong signal from the audiences. New York is waiting for the real premiere, and we are aiming to provide just that next Spring.


 Which do you prefer - a staged reading or a production "in concert"?


Written by Lucas Syed, assistant to Stefania de Kenessey

Tagged: stage a readingstage a concertbonfire of the vanities: the opera



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Written by Lucas Syed, assistant to Stefania de Kenessey