Monday, February 3, 2014

4 Days to Go: Anxious Expectations

4 Days to go!

Today and tomorrow will be especially important days for us in preparing for the Opening Ceremony.  Tonight we begin our complete dress rehearsals simulating opening night.  We cannot afford to make any stops in the production, and final cuts to any segments will be made as well.   Some costuming is still not complete as many costumes have technical elements to them.  Tomorrow we have another full audience with which to practice, and hopefully we can make a flawless run for them.

As an historian of the ceremonies, I am having an enormously difficult time trying to keep a level perspective of how these ceremonies will be received.  My great frustration yesterday is somewhat dulled as I peruse some of the online communities of ceremonies historians and aficionadi.  These are very difficult people to please, as they can be greatly opinionated artists.  Leading up to these ceremonies, I've received comments such as:

"Looks a bit tack-o."

"The stadium though, the whole roof, hangers and stickers on the hangers looks very.... amateurish to me. Very sub-Olympic standard design and planning if you ask me."

"I believe someone said it already and maybe the last few Olympics have ruined us but this does feel very amateurish."

Several days ago, their general excitement toward these ceremonies was depressed at best.  Obviously, they had not seen any bit of the ceremony at that point.  After our first dress rehearsal with audience, our ceremony received excited cursing and comments from these same people saying:

"This ceremony is going to be insane"

"It's crazier than I can imagine."

"They're really putting everything into this ceremony"

"This will be astounding."

It is very rare for this community to be so excited.  These ceremonies are extremely risky because of new technologies and intricacies involved;  I believe that by any measure it is the most technically challenging and in many ways the riskiest ceremony production ever attempted, but that should make it all the more exciting for the world...if everything works out that is.

Still, I had a pretty stressful day yesterday, so I ventured out of Adler where the Olympic Park is located and headed toward Sochi.  Sochi is a very modern city, and I needed some modern amenities to bring my spirits up.  In Sochi, I performed my American duty and watched the Super Bowl at 3:30am.  I cannot help but mention how happy I was when the remarkable Renee Fleming beautifully sang the National Anthem.  This was a great change from the normal ridiculous Super Bowl national anthem wail.  For what it's worth, I never have understood the fascination with the screaming, melismatic National Anthem pop arrangement.  "O Canada" became the first anthem in Olympic history to be performed in a pop arrangement in the 2010 Opening Ceremony in Vancouver.  Thankfully for my colleagues in music academia and for all that is good and decent in the world, I have made sure that you will NOT be disappointed in the quality of the music here in Sochi.

And on that note, I must give a final and profound thank you to Dr. Jan Kraybill, celebrated superstar organist, world's nicest motorcycle-riding musician, principal organist at the Community of Christ International Headquarters, and curator of the organ at the world-renowned Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City.  She dedicated her 15th annual Super Bowl Organ Concert yesterday to the Olympic Games and made a special acknowledgement of my involvement in the production and direction of the ceremonies.  I am so very humbled for this, and I am so very sad to have missed her concert.  Thank you Jan, I miss you!!

How Bryan becomes unstressed...

Go to a very cheap Russian bakery with bakery-loving Russians

Find the longest line and buy whatever it is
Eat large amounts of "pancakes"...crepes with bananas, strawberries, and raspberries in the middle
Go to some place that reminds you of home (and use the internet for once!)

Fall in love with every stray dog

Fall asleep on public transit as the sun sets on the Black Sea
And watch the Super Bowl with some Americans (and Germans)

...at a very nice corporate event center at 3:30am

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