Fresh from the soul-wrenching chaos of World War II, Gian Carlo Menotti quietly opened a play in 1947 that became a Broadway hit. The opera is a haunting tale of Baba, a charlatan medium who preys upon the longing desire of people to connect with their dead relatives. Baba fails to cope with the real world and turns to alcoholism, while refusing to believe in the spiritual world that she professes. The result, along with somber haunting music by Menotti, is a contemporary ghost story framed by the melancholy despair of the postwar years.
The play awakened the interest of Vince Tycer, a third-year Master of Fine Arts candidate. ‘The Medium’ will be Tycer’s first time directing an opera, an experience that is ‘vastly different’ from his previous involvement in Shakespeare plays. Though separated by 60 years, Tycer believes the play still retains its postwar relevance.
‘There are still people dying in wars every year in Africa and the feeling of endless war in the tensions of Eastern Europe,’ Tycer said.
Tycer met with Robin Buck, the associate professor of music and the director of the UC Irvine Opera Program, about a year and a half ago to start talks about making ‘The Medium.’ Buck was instrumental in producing the opera and getting the gears of production moving, as well as ensuring the cooperation of the drama, music and dance departments. A short time later, Kevin Kreckzo joined the team as production stage manager and fight choreographer.
As the drama, music and dance departments began to come together in the fall of 2007, the first design and concept meeting occurred, featuring the introduction of costume designer Martha Gretsch, a third-year Master of Fine Arts candidate. Gretsch and assistant Rachel Stivers are working with both the UCI and Fullerton College costume shops, which are collaborating on not one, but two complete wardrobes for the opera. Due to its large scale, ‘The Medium’ has two full casts, and each member has a costume individually fitted, but otherwise identical to his or her counterpart.
This challenge did not daunt Gretsch, whose period costumes range from the rich outfits of the s