"Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer" host rings up big role
19-year-old Cassidy Brettler hosts "Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer," a series of web casts produced in conjunction with Seattle Opera's rare staging of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle.
Special to The Seattle Times
"The Ring"Presented by Seattle Opera, Aug. 9-30, McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, Seattle; $127-$397. Best availability for tickets is for the second cycle, Aug. 17, 18, 20 and 22, but limited tickets are still available for all three cycles (206-389-7676 or seattleopera.org).
Watch Cassidy Brettler's audition tape and first episodes at www.seattleopera.org.
Boxes lining the walls read: "Socks and knee highs." "Leotards and unitards." "Pantyhose." Busy crew members scurry up and down stairs as costumers sew and fit fabric and ribbons onto waiting busts.
This is where Cassidy Brettler is spending her summer — in a cavernous basement warehouse in the South Lake Union neighborhood where booming echoes of song waft toward tall ceilings.
"You always hear somebody singing, hear someone playing piano, see someone flying; there's always somebody doing something," Brettler says.
Last month, the 19-year-old Seattleite was chosen to host Seattle Opera's reality-style video, to be titled "Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer." A junior majoring in broadcasting and acting at Boston's Emerson College and who is home for the summer, she's behind-the-scenes with the latest show at the opera house, Richard Wagner's "The Ring."
"She will learn about what it takes to put 'The Ring' cycle on stage," says Seattle Opera spokeswoman Hilda Cullen.
One cycle of "The Ring" consists of four epic operas, intended to be watched on four separate evenings but together creating a 15-hour production. Presentations of the complete cycle are very rare; Seattle Opera undertakes the task only every four years. This year, three cycles will be presented at McCaw Hall starting Aug. 9, with Stephen Wadsworth directing and Robert Spano conducting.
As "Confessions" host, Brettler will talk to the production's cast and crew, take behind-the scenes tours, go to rehearsals, meet fans and attend a complete "Ring" cycle. She'll document her activities and insights on the Seattle Opera blog and Facebook page.
Aubrey Bergauer, audience development manager at the Seattle Opera, says the "Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer" project is an attempt to get younger audiences to appreciate opera.
"I am passionate about opera, and I like getting others passionate about it too," Bergauer says. "It's a nice change of pace from what we normally do."
Bergauer helped choose five finalists from among 49 applicants based on their comfort on-camera, love of social networking, and eagerness to experience the opera and share it with others.
The applicants, all between the ages of 18 and 30, sent in DVDs or posted audition films on the opera house's Facebook page.
Previous opera familiarity was not required. With her only opera experience being an encounter with Humperdinck's "Hänsel und Gretel," Brettler fit that description, and her brightly colored coats, steady voice and confident presence made her stand out among the final five.
"I have a good background of doing things on camera," Brettler says. "I think they just wanted someone who wasn't awkward and just acts natural."
In a public vote drawing more than 6,500 people, each finalist rallied families and friends in ardent attempts to succeed. Brettler emerged the winner.
"I think all my friends were excited when voting was over because I stopped spamming them telling them to vote," she says.
The Seattle Opera marketing team conceived the project along with Reel Grrls, a Seattle-based media and technology training program geared toward empowering young women.
The project is one of the first that Seattle Opera will complete with a Wallace Foundation grant to promote visual and performing arts. Depending on public response, opera officials hope to offer it again in the future.
"[Brettler] has come in pretty bright-eyed, and the hope is that she really falls in love with opera, but at the very least has a better understanding [of it]," Bergauer says.
Already, Brettler has been hoisted high above the stage in a harness used by one of the opera's Rhine daughter characters. She's also been filmed while out for dinner with her friends — her first realization of what "reality video" was going to mean.
"I told my friends it was like 'Laguna Beach,'and one of them could have their own spinoff afterwards," she laughs.
She has just one concern about the whole thing.
"I'm a little bit scared to sit through a 15-hour opera," she says. "But I'm really excited, too."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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