The Crucible Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary in Style
with a Fire Opera

The roar of the furnace, the hush of the crowd: hundreds of faces turn towards the flickering candle held by Katherine Rohrer as she prepares to fill The Crucible’s cavernous interior with her powerful, heart-wrenching voice. So began Dido and Aeneas, The Crucible’s Fire Opera.

Katherine Rohrer is one of the four opera soloists who left the luxury of the San Francisco Opera House to brave the bridge cranes, scissor lifts, molten metal, fire dancers, fork lifts and other sharp objects featured in the production’s revolutionary staging. The Crucible employed its unique resources to turn this baroque masterpiece, originally written by Henry Purcell in 1689 for a convent girl’s school, into a passionate, fiery spectacle that riveted even the youngest, hippest audience members to their seats.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The story follows Dido, Queen of Carthage, who forsakes her royal obligations out of love for the Trojan hero Aeneas. When he abandons her after one night of ardor she cannot bear the heartbreak and impales herself on his spear. Purcell rendered the drama in delicate arias and choral laments, exquisitely performed by the four soloists and the well-known early music ensemble American Bach Soloists, conducted Jeffrey Thomas.

The Crucible added texture to the tragedy, weaving elements of the school’s daily activities into the fabric of the tale. Glassworkers and welders depicted the industry of Carthage, while fireplay and the flying sparks of a grinder represented the mad descent into passion. The stage too was a work of art—no velvet curtains here. The area usually occupied by The Crucible’s metal shop became a custom-built seventy-five foot panoramic stage with an orchestra pit in the middle, flanked by installations from Bay Area sculptors Michael Christian and Kiki Pettit. Set before a row of red welding screens and the boxy metallic arches of the ventilation system, the impression was one of an industrial fairytale.

 

 


Produced and designed by The Crucible’s own Michael Sturtz, and directed by San Francisco Opera Associate Director Roy Rallo, the entire production was a collaboration between artistic genres that would scarcely nod as they passed each other in the street, much less work side by side. Yet the result was an original performance where contrasts became compliments and the performers were just as invigorated as the audience.

“It was a terrific experience,” said Ms. Rohrer, “the arts truly combined to enlighten and project the human condition and spirit. As a singer and actress I was in awe of the other artists and felt blessed to be there and a part of this project.”

 

Audiences on both nights of the sold-out celebration were also treated to post-show entertainment. On the Opera Premier on Friday, the main bay of The Crucible was filled with metal, glass, ceramic, and neon art. Bathed in soft red light, delicate glass bowls and cast metal jewelry vied for attention in a silent auction that included over fifteen works of art, goods, and services. Then guests gathered, giddy with opera and champagne, for a live auction of artwork contributed by members of The Crucible faculty and community. Proceeds went to The Crucible’s ever-expanding arts instruction program and the contributing artists.

The Premier also marked the unveiling of the new Crucible Collection of Contemporary Sculpture, an assembly of glass, metal, and stone works from notable artists Albert Paley, Bruce Beasley, Susan Kingsley and others. It includes a bronze sculpture from internationally renown artist Beverly Pepper that was cast during her visit to The Crucible last year. The pieces are available for bidding in an ongoing silent auction, which will be on extended exhibition at A New Leaf Gallery / Sculpturesite until its closing reception at the Oakland Museum on April 8th.

Audiences on Saturday night found the main bay equipped with a stage and dj booth, where the 1,500 guests indulged in post-operatic revelry featuring performances from opera participants Mark Growden, Xeno, and Ultra Gypsy, as well as Djun Djun. In between sets the cast, crew, and audience mingled on the dance floor to the funky ministrations of DJ Vordo. It was a festive culmination to an unequivocally successful event.

Said Michael Sturtz, “The Fire Opera cast and crew was by far the most hard-working, professional, and collaborative group that I have ever had the honor to work with.”

Many are already whispering about future events, wondering what is next for The Crucible. After five years that have seen the number of courses grow from seven to over a hundred per session, and the square footage from six thousand to almost fifty thousand, the Fire Opera is certainly another sign of great things to come. One thing is for sure, after visiting The Crucible, opera will never be the same.

 

The Crucible extends it’s warmest thanks all who contributed

The Russell-Shapiro Family
The Tagami Family
Pasha Dritt & Laney Thornton
Clear Channel
A New Leaf Gallery/Sculpturesite
The International Sculpture Center
The Oakland Museum of California

 

San Francisco Opera
Kiki Pettit
Michael Christian
Xeno
Ultra Gypsy
Mark Growden
Kristina Cañizares
Event Magic
Citizen Cake
Fig & Truffle Catering
Four Vines Winery
Frjtz
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Natasha Page Floral Design

And all of our wonderful, generous, talented volunteers, too numerous to name – Thank You!

All photos above by Edgar Lee