A special preview of the new serial broadcast opera, Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, was presented by Grand Central Art Center at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana on March 30 before its debut on KCET.
Members of the cast and crew shared their experiences of working on the project in a Q&A session.
The night began with Director and Chief Curator of the Grand Central Art Center, John D. Spiak, who briefly spoke about working on Vireo for the past three years and then introducing some of the cast and crew that were in the audience.
Some of the guests included the creator and composer of Vireo, Lisa Bielawa, Senior vice president of Content Development and Production at KCET, Juan Devis, and Vireo actress, Rowen Sabala.
Crew members from Vireo that were in attendance included second assistant director and stage manager, Elizabeth Miller, line producer, D. Scott Easton and costume designer, Christina Wright.
Following the Vireo episode preview was the Q&A session. Bielawa and director, Charles Otte, were asked if there was anything surprising between what was shot and what the final product looked like.
“It looked like what we shot, so I was actually very pleasantly pleased and surprised,” Otte said. “Everything we planned to do looks the way we wanted it to look.”
Bielawa was asked to explain the idea and the history of hysteria, which was the inspiration of Vireo.
“Hysteria officially was a disease—a neurological disease—from the late 19th century … in which young girls would have fits that were sort of like epileptic fits but they went through certain stages that they would behave very strangely and they would do certain sort of fit like movements and lots of doctors around that time studied them,” Bielawa said.
Vireo presents a female perspective of what it was like to be diagnosed with hysteria at that time.
Wright was asked about the costumes and explained how she first looked up the word vireo, which is a type of small bird. Images of the birds served as inspiration for her costume design.
When asked which parts of the production were most difficult, and most fun, Sabala replied that learning the opera’s demanding music.
“I think the hardest part would definitely have to be the music and the timing because it’s very different from standard everyday classical music,” Sabala said. “I actually said that I could never do this. I thought it was way beyond me, but it’s helped me as a musician for sure. It kinda makes everything else seem a little bit easy.”
Vireo was broadcasted on KCET March 31 and the first two episodes are available on KCET’s website.