Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Audition mayhem, fingernails, and why Will Shortz made my audition better

I'm sitting at MacArthur airport in Islip, Long Island, blissfully using the free wifi and typing with my fingers, not my thumbs. Why Islip, you ask? Well, my faithful readers, the fare was cheaper by nearly half. Trust me it's not because I like taking a crowded shuttle bus (complete with a 900 pound gorilla of a driver)to a 90 minute train ride to Penn Station, to a Subway ride uptown. But, hey, I had the time, so it wasn't so bad. This audition trip is over my friends, and I'm heading home.

Over the past two weeks, I had 8 auditions. 2 were wholly mediocre. I got 1 offer. And the other 5 actually felt....good. I don't know that blogspot can convey the surprise in my typing. I'm not sure why I'm surprised, but I guess I'm not sure why they all felt so good either. Usually auditions are prime nail-biting time for me. But since my chronic nail-biting was cured by the Barber of Seville (see footnote below....or don't), that was no longer an option. But even if it was, I didn't feel as terrified this time around. Now don't get me wrong. I got nervous. I always do. But I wasn't looking for the nearest exit or anything like that.
I started with "Se vuol ballare" at nearly every single audition, so that had to have something to do with my comfort level. Also, there was nothing on my audition list that I really dread. That sounds dumb I know, but it seems like we are always putting things on our list that we think auditioners want to hear instead of doing arias we like to sing. It makes no sense, but hey, neither does Pelleas and Melisande.

I also had the good fortune of running into an old friend, a coach/conductor who, over many glasses of whiskey gave me a life coaching (mostly in the form of yelling) about what makes me special as an artist. You know, what is different about me, what do I have to say? It sort of threw me. What do I have to say? I didn't have an answer for him, and kept stammering. He kept pushing me so finally I yelled back "I'm a lover not a fighter Joe!"

Um. Ok.

It is true, but I don't know if it was the marketing angle/raison d'etre he was looking for. Anyway, fast-forward to my next audition. I'm singing Yeletsky's aria from The Queen of Spades, a gorgeous Russian aria. I love singing it, but because of the tessitura, sometimes it can get a little driven and forced when it should be lush, effortless and beautiful. As I sang it this time I thought, "You're a lover not a fighter. Why are you singing this like a fighter? Sing it like a lover?" This sounds like the thoughts of a crazy man I realize. BUT IT WORKED. It was the best I've sung that aria. Ever. In the world.

And then there's Will Shortz's contribution. One of this week's Sunday Crossword clues was a six-letter-word for intensify. DEEPEN. Whoa. You just blew my mind Will Shortz. You mean intensify doesn't mean 'get louder?' Deepen. Indeed. Deepen the support, deepen the resonance, deepen the breath, deepen the meaning.

I had some specific goals for this audition trip. Now I'm here to tell you that I will never be fully comfortable in an audition. I still feel like the whole process is a bit artificial and I wish there was some other way to do it (like a drunken singalong at Chad Johnson's apartment maybe...just an idea), but I feel like I closed the gap a little between where I am as a performer and where I am as an auditioner. And that's all you can ask for at the end of the day. I'm going to keep thinking about my life coaching and what makes me special. Actually, I know what makes me special already, and when I get back to Saint Paul I'm going to pick her up from day care.

Lover, not a fighter.


FOOTNOTE: Why opera cured my chronic nail-biting.

I had to clip my fingernails the other day. This sounds mundane, but it's kind of a new thing for me. I've never had the need to clip until recently. You see, I'm a nail-biter. 34 years of nail-biting. I tried to quit. It never took. My fingers looked like terrible, jagged, craggy anti-talons. It was kind of embarrassing.

But along came a little opera I like to call "The Barber of Seville." You may have heard of it. I may have blogged at length about it and how I had to play not one, but two guitars, one onstage and one in the pit. Part of my preparation for my guitar playing was to let the fingernails on my right hand grow out so I could have more dexterity and dynamic control. Fine. Well, that was a good 5 weeks or so of guitar playing, and by the time we closed the show, I no longer had the desire to bite. It kind of grosses me out now. So now I have to clip. So I guess what I'm saying is, if I quit singing tomorrow, opera would have enriched me and made me a better person if for no other reason than it cured my nail-biting. Thanks Opera!

Aren't you glad you read the footnote?

Friday, December 11, 2009

and after all that...

...I didn't end up crashing after all. I was in the middle of an appointment with my manager and by the time we were through, I had missed my window. I felt bad because I was going to meet a friend and sing the opening duet from Nozze with her, but she had already gone. It would have been fun- who gets to sing a duet in an audition right? But alas, it didn't happen. It's ok. I told you before, crashing is not my style and I always feel a little sheepish (I'm so ba-a-a-ad!) doing it.

I ended meeting some friends for coffee and had one of those only-in-Nueva-York moments where I met two old friends whom I hadn't seen in years crossing the street. I guess if you're hanging around Nola you can't throw a dead cat without hitting three or four singers...Still, it was great. Coffee turned into beers. Beers turned into a college basketball game at Madison Square Garden which turned into more beers and a late night sing-a-long at a friend's ridiculousy huge apartment in Midtown. Oof.

So. No crash. But I have been to Nola twice since then. Toxic my friends. Toxic. Ah well- it's kind of like the Christmas fruitcake-no one really likes it, but the season wouldn't be quite the same without it.

In Figaro news, I had a delightful conversation with my friend and conductor of the upcoming Skylight production, Jamie Johns. It's in English and it's a brand new translation for both of us so we chatted about word changes, cuts, cadenzas, credenzas, credentials, well you get the point. This will be the first Non R and T Martin English production I have done and am slightly terrified that I may just launch into the wrong text at any time. Well, it will add urgency to my character if nothing else. "Hmmm- Figaro seemed anxious, as though he was trying to remember something."

All right friends. My thumbs are tired.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Audwatch: Watching auds


I mentionerd that I sat in on a few of Minnesota's young artist auditions last Saturday. It is quite educational to be on the other side of the table. Whether the singer is feeling confident, terrified, unprepared or cocky it is instantly telegraphed to the panel. You can almost always tell if they are going to be any good LONG before they open their mouth to start singing. Watching the interplay between singer and the provided pianist was also fascinating.

It has given me some food for thought about my upcoming auditions- how I want to present myself.

Speaking of auditioning, there is a certain time in our lives as singers where we find ourselves, by necessity, in the darkest of the dark, the most toxic, the dankest underbelly of the audition world: NOLA studios (cue Hammond organ glissando and spooky diminished chord).

For the unitiated, NOLA is a small little hallway in midtown with 7 or 8 studios in it, all of them bangy and loud, like you're singing in a racqetball court. The real ugliness of NOLA however is the hallway. It's sort of like a micro-mini singer version of the New York Stock Exchange. Dozens of singers crammed into it, all making (faking) nice, trying to quietly vocalize, finding a place for their coat and boots, angling for information about who else is auditioning this week, buttering up agents, and, most importantly, attempting to CRASH. That is, worm into an audition without an appointment. It happens al the time, and most panels are usually cool with it if things are otherwise running smoothly. But it can be dicey.
I'm going to attempt a NOLA crash today. I think I've maybe crashed one audition ever in my career. It's not my style and I don't like it. But today I'm throwing caution to the wind. I'll keep you posted.

My thumbs are tired. I might need to buy a wifi card.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Audwatch '09

Hello faithful readership. I have been putting of writing because as of yet I have no internet here in NYC. It seems since the last time I stayed with my Aunt on the upper west side all her neighboors have put passwords on their wireless routers. Thay must have seen that same Today Show expose I saw about open networks and identity theft. So please excuse these entries- I'm blogging on my phone, typing with my thumbs, I have no spellcheck, and my L key is sticky. So if I use a lot of abbreviations or talk about riding in a "yeow taxi" please cut me some sack. Slack. Damn.

I don't want to jinx anything, but I'm off to a great start on this little audition trip. I had two on Friday. I had all the normal neuroses going in- wondering if I would remember my words, wondering if my voice would hold out, if I had drunk enough water, if I had drunk too much beer, if I had warmed up enough/too much et cetera. Also, every year I seem to forget that other singers audition too. What I mean is every time I come here and walk into my first audition I seem shocked to see a dozen people I know in the hallway, preparing for their auds as well. I see them and think 'O crap, HE'S here? I hope he doesn't hear me. And I hope I don't hear him.' Stuff like that. Of course there are also friendly faces that put you at ease too, but before I sing I kind of don't want to talk to anybody.

I did a few things differenty this time too. Aside from the vocal goals (about which I've talked wayyyyy too much here), I had a few other things I wanted to accomplish- namely to close the gap between my normal performance level (good) and my normal audition level (sucky). I went in there with a plan of how I was going to present myself, what I was going to do if my voice felt weird, and I have to say I stuck with it. Not having to focus so much on my voice (cuz I had a plan) freed me up so I felt like I could play a lot more with it thus giving me the feeling that it was more of a performance than an audition.

Going in with a plan helps. I also spent a lot of time beforehnd focusing- something I know should be a matter of course, but requires discipline all the same.

I have no idea what my auditioners thought of me, but it's nice to feel like you've nailed an audition.

I visited my Minnesota Opera friends yesterday afternoon as they were auditioning new Young Artists. What an education that is. I only stayed for a little while, but you see so much from the other side of the table. So much...

But more about that later. My thumbs are tired. Hopefully I can keep this process working!


Friday, November 20, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year...., I'm not talking about Xmas -the season of light-up, inflatable Santas hooked up to an electric air pump, different colored 'luminarios' made of recycled plastic milk jugs, and the ubiquitous 'doorbuster' run-over-your-grandma-with-a-cart-to-get-to-the-tickle-me-Elmo shopping deals. I'm talking about auditions. Yes, friends, I'm hoping to extend the Year of Figaro. Heck, I'd take a week to 10 days of 3rd soap-boiler if it brought in a decent fee.

The very thought of auditioning fills me with dread. I was just looking at the website of an opera company I will be auditioning for this season- checking out the cast of their current show, and immediately I think, "how am I going to compete with [baritone x] for this part?" Granted, that is terrible line of thinking that will get me nowhere, but stay with me for a minute. [baritone x] is in their current show; he is more than capable than singing [role y] for them next season: QED. He will be hired instead of me.

The situation is complicated by the fact that in this economy I'm competing with people a level above me for the jobs I used to get. Everyone is scrambling to get work, and they are willing to work at smaller companies for smaller fees. Said smaller companies are thrilled to get those singers at those fees: QED. Those singers will be hired, not me.

Do you see a pattern forming here? I mean, other than me whining and making excuses, that is (or misusing: QED!)

You see the thing is, faithful readers, I'm not so good at auditioning. That sounds like a total cop-out, and it probably is. But the fact remains. It is not my strongest skill. I am great at what I do. I am fabulous at rehearsing. I will work my tail off with a director and a conductor to find what will work the best for a production. I am a great colleague, a decent singer, and a shameless stage whore. But walking into a crappy studio and cranking out arias, well, I am kind of sucky at that.

Here's what I wish.

A) Audition with the music staff of an opera company. Set it up like a coaching. Rehearse a section of music for 15 minutes, and then 'perform it.' Let the company see how you work and see if you're a good fit. This would allow a singer to break the ice a little bit. For pete's sake, at least it would give us a second chance at nailing the high note.

B) Set up remote auditioning. In this day and age, don't you think we could do an audition or two by Skype? Granted, I live in Minnesota so I have a vested interest in this. But even if I didn't, there are lots of audition seasons where I've been too busy working to audition (I'm not complaining about it, it's just the way it is). And isn't the sound on the built-in microphone/speakers on my Mac as good as friggin' NOLA studios? Cheesh.

C) Get hired based on your performances. OK, this happens. But it should happen more. People see what you can do on stage, in the moment, in context. Then they ask you to come sing for them in a little box of a studio, in a completely inauthentic environment, with a piano. ?!?!?

D) Just do what everyone wants to do, and have auditions at the bar. I mean come on, right? Sure that other guy can sing really clean coloratura, but can he tell you the difference between a K├Âlsch and an AltBier? Can he tell you when the Reinheitsgebot went into effect, or even what it is? Where are you priorities?

I know, I know, I know. Auditions are high-pressure situations by design. It separates the wheat from the chaff. After all, a performance is a high-pressure situation, no? Yes. But, cripes, at least you get to rehearse it for a month.

Before you start chastising me about why auditions need to happen the way they do (you know who you are, readership of one) and that I'm just making excuses, rest assured- you're right. I am. They do. I'm just nervous as H-E-Double-Hockeysticks. I only get to New York a few times a year, and I'm not fancy and high-falutin' so I feel like the cards are stacked agin' me sometimes. I love singing, and I'm singing the best I ever have. And I can rehearse the crap out of anything. I just need to bring that to lifeless box of an audition room. Then I'll have something. Plus, it wouldn't hurt if I lost 50 pounds. And had a microphone mounted on my hyoid bone.

See you at the doorbusters.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A year of Figaro, six weeks of Casanova

It has been a month since I wrote anything at all in this blog.

Every spare second I have had since I got home from the Barber at Skylight has been devoted to preparing the score for Dominick Argento's Casanova's Homecoming, which opens tomorrow night at the Ordway in St. Paul. I have a walk-on role (squeak and fart role, in the parlance of our time), but my main task is covering Casanova. MN Opera needed each role to have a cover because this opera is so rarely performed they can't just call someone up to perform it at the last minute should something happen to one of the cast. There were also several cast members who for one reason or another needed to miss a rehearsal, so to keep things moving along there was a crew of us who prepared the parts.

Let me start by saying this score is brilliant. The libretto is hilarious and incredibly clever. The music is lush and gorgeous in some parts, and very text driven in others. The recits are composed in such a way that they sound like dialogue. I realize how dumb that sounds- of course they sound like dialogue- they're recits, idiot! But seriously, you forget the characters are singing pitches and it just sounds like talking. Then they will launch into music that is at some turns heartbreaking, frantic, exciting, showy- there are nods to everyone from Stravinsky to Britten to Broadway. It will be a great night in the theatre.

Now let me say this. This score is hard. Really hard. I thought it was prohibitively hard when I was just learning it. Those recit sections I was talking about earlier take so much concentration the meaning of the phrases often gets lost as you are trying to swim your way through seemingly random pitch combinations. It takes a lot of repetition and time with the score just to get to a point where you feel comfortable enough with the pitches that you can sing the text with meaning. At least that's what it was like for me. And knowing that I would have to sing some rehearsals, I was petrified. This score kept me up at night. I would lie there thinking "1, 2, 'with dignity' 1, 2, 'with gallantry...'"

Once I got past the initial fear of this score (I was brought on board kind of late in the game and didn't have a ton of prep time), I began to enjoy it more and recognize the genius of the writing. Still, as I learned it, it was a piece of music that assaulted my artistry on every level. That's right- assaulted. Vocal technique, interval training, counting, delivery- every fundamental skill I've been working on for darn near two decades was challenged, chewed up, spit out, and left to rot on the hot pavement. It took sheer will and hours and hours of coaching (thanks to Jeremy and Mary Jo at MN Op!!!) to get past all the challenges inherent in this score.

But after all that, I have to say, it was worth it. And I'm only a cover and (God willing!!!) won't have to go on. It was totally worth it. This score is brilliant and it has rekindled my love of new music (not that new- it's the 25th anniversary of this opera). Casanova's arias are fantastic- definitely audition-worthy. And it's just great to be part of a living composer's work. There are far too few second productions of new operas. There is all kinds of hoopla around an opening, but then these poor pieces are left on the hot pavement along with all my mangled music skills. How are we ever going to have another Nozze di Figaro or Madame Butterfly if these new works don't get revived?

I hope a ton of people come to this show. The cast, orchestra and conductor are awesome and the production looks great. Hopefully this opera will get the life it deserves- it is first rate material, and even though I may have lost some sleep learning it, I think it is a masterpiece and am grateful for the experience.

Oh- why is this on a Figaro blog, you ask? Well, Figaro and Casanova aren't that different. Much like Beaumarchais (ipso facto Figaro), Casanova did many things (besides seduce women, which Beaumarchais did too!) - lawyer, priest, spy, musician. He went in and out of jail, and his finances ran the gamut. The real Casanova was also friends with Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's librettist. I kind of think of the Casanova of this opera as an older Figaro. There is definitely a wistfulness about his character, an acknowledgement of the greatness of his past, and a realization of how much it has waned in his old age.

I also think of him as Obi-Wan Kenobi- and the piazza scene is kind of like the Cantina bar in Mos Eisley. But that's just me.

If you're in the Twin Cities, see this opera!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Metallica Rules

I haven't written in awhile, and I have a lot to talk about the end of the Barber run in Milwaukee. As soon as I got home, however, I landed eyeballs deep into Casanova's Homecoming, an opera by Dominick Argento that the MN Opera is mounting in November. I am covering the lead role, and the music is treacherous. I sort of came on board late in the game, and being on the road until the 4th didn't leave a lot of prep time for it. The music is crazy hard, but it is sort of growing on me. The character is sort of like an older Figaro- at least that's what I'm telling myself to help throw it together. I also did a big benefit concert in my home town last weekend, so that had to be put together as well. Anyhoo, I haven't had a spare second to talk about the Skylight run. And now that I have a spare second, I'm not going to talk about Figaro. I'm going to talk about Metallica.

I was lucky enough to see them play at the Target Center in Minneapolis last night. Not only that, but my cousin Dave scored floor tickets. They play in the round, so we were actually pretty close to the band, and they ran around the whole stage, so we got a lot of 'face time' with James, Kirk, Rudy, and Lars (they rotated the drum kit several times over the course of the night as well). They played a lot of their older catalog as well as some new tunes off their new album Death Magnetic. My ears are still ringing.

These guys rock. Their playing is so tight, so in the pocket, and seemingly effortless. The force and intensity of Lars' drumming was staggering, as was his impeccable timing. Kirk Hammett's lead guitar chops are crazy, and the solos that he and James played in harmony were sweet and melodic. Dave and I totally rocked out the air guitar for their whole set. Afterwards, we had a beer and nerded out talking about the concert. Dave said that these concerts are like staged events- almost like doing an opera or a play- everything is planned out, where the guys stand, which microphone they use, the order of the songs, the pyro, everything. I was thinking the same thing as I watched them rip up the Target Center (which looked like it was completely sold out BTW). And it occurred to me that watching them play is like an opera. Or watching an Ironman Triathalon. Or both. James is like the entire cast, Kirk would be like the string section, Rudy I guess would be the brass, Lars is the conductor.

I've ranted and raved about how I think opera and metal music are related, and this was just another example of that. First of all, the harmonies and structures Metallica use are very classically based (in my opinion). Second of all, it's loud. LOUD. Lastly, it's long. They played for 2 1/2 hours. And it also occurred to me- in the midst of preparing a fiendishly difficult score by a modern composer- that these 4 dudes had 50,000 people singing, rocking out, and shaking their fists to music that had mixed meters, complex harmonies, and songs that probably average about 7-8 minutes long.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there is an audience for good music, whether it is at Target Center or Lincoln Center. I'm not saying that I think Metallica is the 21st century Shostakovich (although there are parts of Master of Puppets that sort of remind me of him), but for the people in the Target Center last night these anthems were the symphonies of yesterday. Good music is good music. I would love to hear a new symphony that featured electric guitar, or to hear an orchestral piece by a modern composer whose influences include Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen as well as Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. Or hear (or perform) a recital of Bon Iver, Joni Mitchell, and Radiohead. These are our Mozarts- why do we not embrace them as such, but cast them off as trite pop stars like Britney Spears?

Wow, I'm on a soapbox now. Pay no attention to my ranting- I still have a sore neck from headbanging, ringing ears, and a sophomoric ideal of how I want my loves of rock music and classical music to merge.

I'll be back on topic next time. Until then, I'll be sleeping with my Argento score under my pillow, hoping that somehow the notes will migrate off the page and into my head.

off to never never land.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Here's how tacky I am....

Or one example, anyway.

I have a line in the recit before the Act II Quintet and shaving scene where I say "Am I some village barber who must beg for my trade? My time is precious. Go find yourself another." Only when I say "Go find yourself" it comes out "Go FFFFFFFFFind yourself" so the audience thinks I'm about to tell Bartolo to do something nasty and logistically impossible.

That's how tacky I am.

That's what doing 12 shows in a run will do to you. Two more, kids.


Barber final weekend

Another fun show last night, with an amazing audience. So gratifying. I have no idea how these last shows will end up, but we have packed houses. Hope the cords hold up. More later.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

more about Billy

I don't know what compelled me to write about Caddyshack, Billy Barnard, Edna and the Plaza Cafe in yesternight's blog entry (I suspect the good people at Schlitz might have something to do with it- hey, it's the beer that made Milwaukee famous!), but I realized that my good man Billy might have gotten short shrift to make way for Dame Edna. Well, he's been on my mind now, so no I feel like I have to give him his due.

Because of his mannerisms, looks, and the way he talks, I often referred to him as 'the poor man's Burt Reynolds.' I also heard faculty members describe him as 'the only professor to openly use the F-word while making photocopies in the Music Dept Office.' I took his Jazz Studies class- a big survey class, it was very popular on campus. One of his requirements was for us to see at least two concerts over the course of the quarter and write about them- even if it was a jazz band at a bar and we were writing on a cocktail napkin. But, he said, "make sure you start writin' before you start drinkin' or it won't make no sense at all." I took guitar lessons with him for a year and at every lesson he would say "yeah, man, you get a couple more tunes in order and pretty soon you have a bunch of songs you can play with folks." Songs with folks. I like that concept. I'm going to start thinking of my opera roles that way. Just songs with folks.

Figaro #10 is tomorrow night. The end is near friends.


Milwaukee stories

Ok, so tonight's show went GREAT. It's amazing how your frame of mind/intent/what you put into it has to do with how you perform. My intent tonight was to enjoy myself. I did. In spades. I also probably had the best show of the run. The audience loved me, as did people in the cast. It's weird. It's all well and good to say that all you want to do is have fun, but when that first G comes out funny it's no longer any fun at all. Tonight, I decided all I wanted to do is have fun and all the Gs came out great and easy. Stupid. Well, I only have three of these left, and I want to enjoy them. So, hell, high water, vocal fatigue, whatever, I'm going to have some fun.

I was so happy tonight I went out for drinks with some of the cast. And afterwards, I realized my internet actually WORKED. It must be because it's so late and no one at the plaza is online. I celebrated by logging onto Netflix and watching the classic flick Caddyshack. Not only did it make me giggle, but it brought back memories of my undergrad guitar professor Billy Barnard. I remember taking his Jazz Studies class and he told the story of how he used to be a studio musician and how he played on the soundtrack for Caddyshack. That was enough to win over every undergrad in my demographic, but he went on to specifically talk about the Baby Ruth scene in the pool and how he was playing the Jaws theme on guitar and looked up at the screen and saw a big candy bar floating in the pool and how he burst out laughing. That's why he is one of the most beloved teachers at UMD folks. Those were golden years. Golden.

I also have to talk about the best waitress in Milwaukee. Her name is Edna. She works at the Cafe at the Plaza Hotel where I am living. She is about six feet tall, 98 pounds, and has curly grey/black hair. She looks like Olive Oyl from old Popeye cartoons. She is AWESOME. I have worked here at the Skylight 7 times in the last 10 years and she has been here THE WHOLE TIME . At least twice I have seen her leg in a cast. No idea what caused the injury. If there are more than 6 people in the cafe she gets really nervous. "Could I have a cup of decaf?" I ask. "Um , yeah, honey, just give me a minute," she says with a strained smile. "It'll be just a minute." 20 minutes later I get my decaf with another strained smile. "Thanks for waiting honey." "No problem," I say. I mean, what else can I say? I don't have an urgent agenda. I don't want to stress out Edna and make her slip and fracture her leg again. Not on my watch. I want to set her at ease. You take your time Edna. I'll take my greasy eggs and toast whenever you can bring them over. Coffee? If you have a second, bring some over. If not, don't sweat it. I can't bear to see your blood pressure rise. Relax, take a breather. I brought the paper with me. If I get a hot cup of joe, I'll count this as a success. If not, I'll chalk it up to the Plaza craziness. In any case, I won't blame you Edna. You have been a constant since I've been coming here. You can't be the blame. You just keep on keeping on. One day, I'll catch you on a good day, order a Plaza Pleaser, and you'll smile, catch your grace and slide it down the bakelite counter with a fresh cup of joe and give me a nervous smile and say, "is that all, honey?" and I'll say, "No, Edna, I'm good. Here's a little something extra for the effort. Watch your step now." and that will be a golden day Edna. Golden. Until then, let's not sweat the small stuff, okay? Let's just say that you'll get all your orders in, and I'll hit all the high notes and everyone will go about their merry way, OK?



Bloggy goodness.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

barber # 9 tonight

We have our ninth performance of Barber tonight. It has been awhile since I've blogged, partially because of the exhaustive nature of this schedule and partially because the #*%$ internet at my hotel has been completey unreliable.
My goal tonight: to enjoy myself. I only have four of these left, and who knows if I'll get the chance to sing this again. So let's have some fun and let the chips fall, shall we?


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hump Day

Tonight is our seventh, yes SEVENTH performance of Barber, and we will officially be over halfway finished with our run. If this was any other opera company, we would long be finished with our run. But this isn't just any opera company. It's Skylight.

When you do this many performances in a row, your body just sort of gets used to doing it, and you realize that one night you may feel terrific, one night you may feel completely mediocre, and the actual difference in the house is probably imperceptible. That's good info to have (especially when you feel like crap), but also can be humbling (when you think you really crushed it, and get a lukewarm response).

Right now I'm thinking about this as I warm up for our third performance in as many days, completely fried vocally, and really looking forward to a day off tomorrow (and maybe a post show beer).


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Being a barber is noble and grand

Performance # 4 is tonight at the Cabot Theatre. We've all had 2 days' rest and are hopefully shipshape. I'm looking forward to jumping back in it tonight. Especially since I've been spending the last 2 days studying Casanova's Homecoming, a score by Dominick Argento that Opera News recently called one of the most melodically lush scores in the past few decades or something to that effect. Huh. Let's just say it will be nice to hear a little tonality tonight.

Speaking of modern opera, I have some exciting non-Figaro news. I will be reprising the role of Noah in Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath at Carnegie Hall early next year! The cast list was just released in Playbill News and it's pretty impressive. Should be loads of fun. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Just kidding.

I'm sure I'll have more tales to tell soon. For now, I've got to run recits and warm up, tune two guitars, put on the war paint, etc. Peace.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

What doesn't kill you...

...makes you thirsty for a beer?

Sit back, relax, and I'll tell you the harrowing tale of a foolhardy young baritone who attempted to sing The Barber of Seville three times in one weekend. Now wait, I know what you're thinking. Young? Hardly. Well, in any case here's the story.

As I mentioned before, the opening night performance went very well. I think we were all a bit nervous, but we had a good show and our voices held together nicely. Last night also went well. I was starting to feel a bit tired in the middle of last night's performance, but by the 2nd act I felt better and thought nothing of it. When I got home I took a hot shower, had some tea, took some Simply Sleep and went to bed.

I woke up early this morning to try to get a jump on the day, and feel nice and awake by the time I had to go to the theatre. Everything was going fine until I went in early to warm up. Yikes. I should have tried vocalizing earlier in the morning. It was 12 noon by the time I started warming up at the theatre. It felt a little husky. I kept singing scales, and it got huskier and huskier. I didn't feel sick at all, just swollen cords. The low and high were ok, but the middle was all crackly. I sat there warming up, minute by minute getting closer to curtain and feeling less and less certain that I could get through one phrase of the Largo, let alone the whole damn role.

Panic sets in. I call our director and stage manager. I know it's too late to cancel, I say, but I think you should know that I am a little concerned about today's performance. The conductory is called. An announcement can be made, I'm told, but basically just try to get through it and take it easy if you can. Our conductor reassured me that an any point I can leave out notes, drop down the octave or whatever I needed. The director, stage manager, conductor, and cast all bent over backwards to try to put me at ease. I can tell you, however, I have never felt more nervous or panicky about singing a performance than I did this afternoon.

I went downstairs, got into costume and chugged down mug after mug of tea and hot water, sucking on slippery elm lozenges like it was going out of style. After I got into makeup and wig, tuned my guitars (I play two of them in this show), I just paced in the hallway, away from everyone else, trying to get my head around how I was going to get through the afternoon. I did a little vocalizing and the tea seemed to help. I felt a little stronger. I finally said forget it (or something like that) and resigned myself to whatever was in store for me.

Much more nervous than opening, I strolled out to sing Largo. It actually went ok. All the G's were fine. I took out the big cadenza in the middle with the high A, and just concentrated on technique. Again, the middle was a little crackly, but the end worked very well. The duet with the count proved to be a little more scary. It took me awhile to get my sea legs in the recits, and the unrelenting nature of the duet was a bit more that I could handle. I couldn't bear the sound of my own voice, so I ended up taking the big D natural section ("numero quindici"... etc) down the octave. Other than that and leaving out the optional high note at the end (none of those happened tonight- I 'opted' out of all of them), it worked fine. Same with the Rosina duet. I got a nice little break after that during Bartolo's aria. I started feeling better by the Act I finale. I think the adrenaline (or the ibuprofen I took before curtain) finally kicked in, and I started feeling a bit more stable.

By Act II, my nerves had calmed down, and all the hard stuff was behind me. I drank more hot water, and just tried to enjoy the rest of the show. I went to Mars at one point during a recit (thank god for our genius pianist who somehow saved my ass by making some unholy modulations). I finished the show, everyone lived, and I got through it. Not only did I get through it, but I don't even think it was terrible. Even the A naturals came out easily in the trio. If I hadn't said a word about it to anyone, I don't know that anyone would have really noticed that I was feeling cruddy, or if they did, they may have chalked it up to me having a bad day.

So now that I have had two Lakefront Eastside Dark Lagers (and thus have perspective), I am thinking- what did I learn from all this? Well, first, I learned what I am capable of when push comes to shove. I was forced to concentrate on technique, sing smartly, economize both vocalism and staging. Those aren't bad things. I learned that I can get away with a lot less singing in recits and ensembles. I learned that even though I sounded flat-out horrible in my head, the sound in the house wasn't that bad- was good in fact.

How did this happen? I think part of it is the cumulative effect of singing three orchestra dresses and three performances in seven days. There is a lot more rest built into the schedule for the rest of the run. Part of it may be oversinging. I believe this wouldn't have been a problem if we had more of a normal opera schedule, but with this crazy three show weekend, I might have to think about pacing myself and singing less when I can. Part of it is the fact that this was the first time we've ever had an afternoon performance. I thought I was doing myself a favor be getting up early. Next time I think I'll sleep longer and let a little more rest get into my cords. I'm also second guessing my use of ibuprofen- I normally don't take drugs unless I have to. I definitely had that not-so-fresh feeling (vocally speaking), but I don't know that the ibu did anything for me.

I may have overreacted when I was warming up this afternoon, but I was scared. In the end there was no announcement made about me. The director and I decided that we would see how act I went. If it was terrible, we would make an announcement before the 2nd Act and by then I was feeling much better. As my castmate said, panic is as good as a shot of cortizone anyday. he also said a big part of this job is adrenaline management, pure and simple. What do I think? I don't know. I think there are no atheists in a foxhole, and I was praying to God, Jesus, St. Christopher, Sherrill Milnes, the ghost of Tito Gobbi, and Clair Richardson's ashes to help me squeak by today.

I made the right decision today. I was scared, but I could still phonate, get through phrases, and the top still felt pretty easy. It may have been slightly less than pristine, but it went much better than I thought it would. Like I said, I was forced to economize. It's good to be put into that situation every now and again.

And thus ends another verbose, prosaic, random collection of thoughts from a ranting baritone. I'm confident that with a little rest (and maybe another one of these Eastside Dark Lagers) I'll be back to normal in no time. I can see an ENT if I need to, but honestly, I think I'm just tired after a long week. And, I'm a totally tacky shameless whore on stage and tend to overdo it occasionally. Shocked, I know.

Thanks for sticking with me. I'll let you know how the next one goes.


PS- I also learned to save my work. I had to rewrite half of this stupid blog entry because the internet at the plaza is so ramshackle. Ha. Ramshackle. Good word.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A warm hand on your opening

Thanks for all the well-wishes last night! Very greatly appreciated. We had a great opening night. I felt a little frantic here and there- mostly opening night nerves, I think- but generally felt pretty good about the singing. Largo felt good, especially at the beginning. The opening G's were easy. I was able to just sit back and enjoy them instead of 'driving' them. I'm focusing on spending the exact amount of energy on the high notes as I would on the middle notes - not goosing them or pushing them just because they are high. The result (so far) is easier, more in-tune top notes. It's basically a question of trust in the moment- trust that I don't have to scream for them to come out. It's an ongoing process, but going well. The end was a little scary, but it always is. My breath gets so stacked at the end I just sort of acquiesce and let what's going to happen happen. The final G came out just fine and everybody lived.

I went to Mars during the Count/Figaro duet. We opened a cut early this week to allow more time for the crew to make the scene shift on time. Neither the Count nor I had ever sung the duet uncut, so it was a challenge to put it back in. Anyhoo, I was completely out to lunch during the cut music last night. Ah well- we got back on track and no one was the wiser (I hope). The audience seemed to really enjoy the show and I heard some definite giggling and guffawing in the house.

The challenge is to now sing another one of these bad boys tonight and a matinee tomorrow (did I mention we do three of these in a row on the weekend?). I feel pretty good today- I haven't vocalized yet, but I don't feel fatigued. I have been warming up slowly throughout the afternoon and plan to do so again today. I'm thinking about matinee strategy- is it better to get up super early tomorrow so that I'm fully awake and warmed up but less rested by curtain, or do I sleep later and get more rest but feel less warmed up? HA! Who can know? I have no idea. I'm leaning toward getting up early. I don't know why.

Oof. I love Skylight, but this schedule...It's like the opposite of my Ashlawn schedule. I'll post something after the matinee. I may just have to have a beer after that one.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Barber opens tonight!

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be performing this role.  It has been so much fun putting this together.  Here's to a great run.  

...for your reading pleasure

The Journal Sentinel used me for a little pre-press.  I obliged.

Tom Strini wrote this nice piece from his new home at 3rd Coast Digest.  Apparently, I'm from Chicago.

...for your viewing pleasure

...and more backstage fun

2 blogs in something fun

We had our final dress of Barber last night.  There was an invited audience of family, friends, and corporate sponsors.  It was a total blast.  It felt like a show.  As I typed that last sentence, I accidentally typed "It felt like a shoe." Well, it did sort of feel like a shoe as well.  It was our show, comfy, but still fresh, and we are still finding fun new moments here and there.  And the singing isn't too bad either.  I know they're not all going to feel that way, but it was a great way to preview our show and get us ready for the opening weekend.  The audience seemed to really like it too- there were guffaws galore.  Granted, since there were a lot of friends and family in the audience, we were sort of 'playing to the band,' as it were, but even so they seemed to be with us the entire time.  It makes such a huge difference to have them out there.  

The singing was a lot easier last night as well.  That was a good feeling.  I don't know if it was just luck or what, but I also warmed up earlier in the day, thinking that way it would be easier to hit the ground running when I go out to do Largo.  I also keep finding places to ease up.   When I was first putting this role up on its feet, I felt I was singing on 11 the whole time.  That's tiring, not much fun, and not very interesting.  As we have done more and more runs, there are lots of opportunities to turn down the overdrive a little and just sing.  I'm excited for opening, and I'm so very grateful that I finally get to perform this role I've been wanting to do for so long.

So now, the 2nd blog....

Post Mortem of Ashlawn Figaro

I have put off writing this forever.  Mostly, because I was bitter at the insane schedule we had there (4 performances with a week off in between each one).  With that schedule it was impossible to get any continuity in our show, and I was needlessly away from my family for a long stretch of time.  We could have easily done four performances in the span of one week and been done with it....but I digress.  This is why I haven't written about the Ashlawn experience- because I didn't want my bitterness to pop to the surface, when what I should really be focusing on is the aspect of my performance, and how this one fits into the whole mess of Figaros I'm doing this year.  

Despite all the inherent problems of working at Ashlawn (and there are many....I'll tell you about them sometime when I'm not writing a blog), this was a very important Figaro for me.  Why?  I felt I had the license to truly say 'forget it' (or some derivation of that) and take risks onstage.  I treated each performance as a playground, and I took vocal risks I never would have tried before.  Singing pianissimo, holding a note longer, messing with the dynamics, placement, breathing, anything you can think of.  And I learned a lot about my voice in the process.  So much so, that I think this current Figaro I'm doing has benefitted greatly because of it.  All the stuff I was talking about before about finding moments of ease in Barber are a direct result of the process I went through at Ashlawn.  I think I really tapped into a more efficient way of singing there, and I'm so glad I did because that's what I need to get through 12 performances of Barber.  I also had a blast in Charlottesville, a truly wonderful city.  

I guess that's not much of a post-mortem, but there you go.  

I hope that Ashlawn is able to continue successfully.  It has the potential to be a fantastic opera company.  Their new home at the Paramount theatre is a step in the right direction.  they are right in the heart of the downtown mall.  There is tons of money in the community.  They need a strong leader to step up and pull all the loose ends together.  I have hope they can find one.  This notice gave me some encouragement.  It's going to be a big job for whoever they find- anyone out there interested?

All right, enough blather.  Here's something fun:

I'm not too proud to steal from Woody Woodpecker.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Honesty Time part deux

Thanks for all the comments after my last neurotic post.  I was definitely a bit panicky after our first dress.  As I was reminded, this is just a step in the process.  You put a show together, and it falls apart as you add new elements.  It is then your job to put it back together.  But it you can't get it back all at once.  It comes in steps.

Monday night's orchestra dress was great.  It was fun, easy, and everything I wanted Sunday's rehearsal to be.  It was incredibly encouraging and was exactly what I needed after feeling so down after the first run.  

Last night's run was hard work.  It was not fun and easy, but it still worked, and at this point in the process that is great information to have.  With 12 performances (13 including tonight's final dress), there will be great nights and not-so-great nights, but if I can get through it with some level of consistency then I have done my job.  Right?

Tonight there will be an audience, and that should be fun.  We have a great cast and it is a funny show, so to have the audience energy will be great.  

Despite all my fears and doubts about this opera, I really do love singing it.  We have our final dress tonight, and a day off tomorrow.  


Monday, September 14, 2009

Honesty Time

We had our first dress rehearsal last night.  It was hard.  Really hard.  And I didn't even sing, I marked.  If I'm this stressed out about a piano dress, how am I going to feel on opening night?  Yikes.  

Now, I'm not fishing for compliments, soliciting encouraging remarks, or anything like that.  I just want to be honest about this moment in the process.  I am terrified.  And our rehearsal process has been so good.  Imagine how I would feel if the rehearsals hadn't been going well.  

We have our first orchestra dress tonight.  My goal is to say screw it (or some derivation of that) and just try to enjoy it and trust that all the work I did in rehearsal will pay off.  Here's hopin'.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

The healing power of Wolski's

So we had a blessed day off on Thursday and now we are deep in the throes of tech.  We had our first onstage spacing rehearsal on Friday night, and today we have a mammoth 12-hour tech with all the bells and whistles.  Tomorrow is more tech and a piano dress.   This is always an interesting juncture in putting together a show.  You spend 2 1/2 weeks creating a story, and then you systematically take it apart and put it back together in a new space with lights, set, and props.  Even during the smoothest of tech rehearsals, it takes some time to get 'your show' back once you move into the hall.  The beautiful thing about the Cabot Theatre is that is very intimate, so the move from rehearsal room to hall isn't quite as dramatic.  

On our day off, I went out with two dear friends, Katy (our kick-ass Rosina) and Jamie (our pianist, recit master, and general bottle washer).  We had lovely dinner and drinks at a place called The Knick, and Jamie and I continued our evening at an old Milwaukee institution (and one of my favorite bars in the world), Wolski's.  For the uninitiated, Wolski's is a true neighborhood bar- homey, friendly, smoky and convivial.  A dive, is what I'm saying.  One of the best parts of going to Wolski's is that when you shut it down you get a bumper sticker proudly stating "I closed Wolski's."  I have several, including a shiny new one.

I have had many a great night with Jamie at Wolski's, and the other night was no exception.  We spoke of many things (fools and kings), but the part that is pertinent ("pertinent" is in air quotes of course) to this blog is his impression of how Figaro is going for me.  Now I've known JJ  for over 10 years, and he has seen me in the whole gamut of roles, from basso buffo to lyric baritone.  He is also a beautifully honest person, and had lots of opinions to share with me over pitchers of Schlitz (the proportion of honesty to Schlitz consumption is direct).  Although he said that I'm sounding the best I ever have, the part that was most useful to me is how he noticed that the best sound I make in the whole show is when I play drunk in the Count/Figaro duet.  It's his theory that it may be because I'm physically so loosey goosey during that moment, and that is allowing me to get more bang for my buck, vocally speaking.  I think he is on to something, and that even though I basically feel good about this role, the fact remains that I have a lot of expectations about how this role should sound and I'm sure that manifests itself physically in how I sing it (mostly Largo).  I think I 'lock and load' some of the high notes instead of just trusting that they will be there and be magnificent.  And Figaro is dude to whom everything comes easy- the high notes need to be easy too....and they are easy.  So why do I physically 'set' myself for them? I think I need to let go of my baggage on my journey through this role, and remember that I can pick it back up whenever I want to.  But to let go of it and find the ease.  The beautiful thing is that I have 12 performances to play around with the vocalism, and I need to give myself permission to play just like I have in the last few Nozze productions I've done.  

Our conversation went late into the night with this cherished artist and good friend.  Ah, Wolski's....thanks for facilitating such rich dialectic.  We were golden with bar light and beer.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes with easing up.  But now, back to tech.  


PS- Jamie and I may or may not have done a broadway song-and-dance version of 'On Eagle's Wings' while waiting for a light cue to be written.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jabber Jabber Jabber

We had our sitzprobe for Barber on stage at the Cabot theatre last night.  It went really well, especially since it was the third day in a row I had sung the role full out.  I wanted to see what it would be like to sing out three times in a row to get ready for our monster 12-performance run (did I mention we have three shows in a row on the weekend?).  And though I felt a little tired and less than pristine, I have to say this role is starting to feel like it's in my voice.  I even feel pretty decent today- it kind of makes me think that I'm not singing wrong.  I know that's a horribly worded sentence.  Back off.  

Today is the blessed day off and I am giving my brain a chance to decompress before we enter the craziness of tech.  Tomorrow is our first rehearsal on stage.  We saw part of the set last night.  It's going to be cool, but I realized last night that we do an awful lot of running up and down a flight of stairs.  That was easy enough in the rehearsal room when they were just tape marks on the floor.  When I saw how high the stairs actually go last night, I got a little concerned.  I go up an down those damn stairs 2 or three times in the course of 'Zitti Zitti Piano Piano.'  Ah well.  It will be good exercise and will keep my mind off the crazy A naturals Rossini wrote for Figaro in that feisty little number.  

I also made my debut performance in the pit orchestra last night.  I was nervous, but in the end it made no difference because I was barely audible in the house.  The AV director is going to work on amplifying me so Greg (our Almaviva) can hear me better on stage.  I'm kind of looking forward to starting each performance in the pit.  It will keep me from pacing around the dressing room, getting nervous for Largo.  I won't have time to get nervous - I'll have to just put my guitar away, run upstairs and go.  I think that's a good thing.  

I'm going to leave the hotel now and enjoy this gorgeous day.  More later.  


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

did I mention....

....that I am playing the guitar in the pit for 'Ecco Ridente?' Well, I am. Don't get me wrong- I love playing the guitar on stage (I once played the recit and opening of 'Se vuol ballare' on guitar in a production of Nozze). I spent a lot of my youth playing guitar and it's great to get a chance to use it in my current gig. Plus, as some of you know, I'm a bit of a, how shall I say, whore on stage and jump at the chance to do anything cool.

That being said, 'Ecco Ridente' is a challenging chart. I'm not a classical guitarist by any stretch. It's pretty common for the Figaro in Barber to play Almaviva's serenade on guitar- totally manageable. A little a minor, a little E7, badda boom badda bing, you got yourself a serenade. 'Ecco' is another ball of wax altogether. Granted, it's in C major (thank God!), but it's also totally exposed in spots, you are playing with an orchestra, and it requires some actual chops. I had a chance to rehearse with the orchestra yesterday at one of their reads. Beforehand, I asked our esteemed conductor Pasquale, 'they know I'm a singer and not a guitarist right?' I felt a little like an impostor, but it went ok. I'm glad it's in C. If nothing else, it will keep me from biting my nails for a few weeks!

Today it's recits, whole recits, and nothing but the recits. We're doing speed-throughs of all the recits to help the flow feel more conversational. It's a good exercise- we should do it more often. We have another run-through (I've been calling it a fun-through cuz I'm a nerd) tonight. More loud singing, but hopefully a little more control as well.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The best thing about a first run-through... that you never have to have a first run-through again.

We are currently at the act break in our first 'designer' run-through. That's where the run crew, education department, scenic/set/light designers watch us do our little skit so they can gear up for tech week (rapidly approaching). I have decided to sing out as much as possible for all of our rehearsal room runs, to get a sense of what it's going to be like when we do three of these in a row on the weekend (did I mention that we do three of these in row on the weekend?).

It's going ok. Which is to say, I managed to get through all of it- got all the high notes, got all the jumping around in the Largo, etc. I wouldn't say that it was very graceful, and I'm hoping that if I'm at this stage now, maybe by the time we hit the stage I can add a little vocal nuance to it. As I've said before, I have a bit of psychological baggage when it comes to this role, and just to know that I can get through it has been huge for me. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. People with glass voices shouldn't eat pop rocks.

I think there might be a Lakefront Oktoberfest in my near future. But first, Act II (Gesundheit!). Thank goodness the hard stuff is over for tonight.


PS- if vacationing in Milwaukee (hold for laugh), check out the Sprecher brewery tour. Highly educational and delicious. Afterwards, go down the street and get a butter burger at Solly's. Highly fatty and delicious. After that, have your cholesterol and/or BMI checked.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm a ramblin' guy

Last night's concert/open house at Skylight was a huge success. The bar was jam packed for the cabaret portion of the evening, and Catalano square was jam packed as well for the outdoor concert. And they stayed!!! The concert was long and went on much later than expected, but the crowd basically stayed for the whole night. We all moved into the Cabot theatre to finish off the night (it was pretty amazing to hear Colin Cabot invite everyone into the Cabot theatre). I think we all expected people to go home at this point, but the Cabot was jam packed too! Then the bar was full again after the evening was through. There were tons of fantastic performances, including our cast members Greg Schmidt, Katy Pracht, and Kathy Pyeatt, as well as the glorious Tanya Kruse (she'll be playing the Countess in Figaro here at Skylab later this season), but I think the pinnacle was when Mike Lorenz played the Habanera from Carmen on a tuned set of bicycle horns. It was nothing short of genius, and I hope it ends up on YouTube soon.

As for my little portion of the evening, I did an abridged version of Largo (the fastest Largo ever- Jamie Johns and I were off to the races). It was the first time I've performed it in the English translation [sidebar: we're using the George Mead translation that is published in the Ricordi score. It's the third English translation I have done, having sung Bartolo in the Donald Pippin translation (my favorite line: "Figaro, you're looking healthy, pink and plump"), and the Ruth & Thomas Martin translation (my favorite line: "I am the king of lather and foam"). Luckily, those were all so long ago they have faded from memory, and since this is my first Figaro, it's all new]. It went pretty well I must say- the crowd liked it (thank God- the aria is designed to be a show-off piece after all), and all the G's came out well (I was a little worried after standing outside for the whole Catalano concert). What really worried me, though was that I had lines in the Groucho Marx skit (played by the brilliant Norman Moses, who stayed in costume afterwards in the bar as well!). I had to inroduce the sawing-Groucho-in-half-trick, and that made me more nervous than anything. I was in very good hands with Norman- it makes me want to come back and see the Marx brothers show he is doing here at Skylab later this season.

I was very proud to be a part of last night's concert. The audience, performers, staff were all there celebrating the rich history of Skylight and ushering it into another 50 + years. There was such a feeling of camaraderie, that we're all lucky to be here at this moment, especially after all the maelstrom that was this summer. I hope it did something to start to heal the divide, and maybe sell a few subsricptions as well. There were reports of big $$$ being made in donations last night, and that is hugely encouraging (the figure I heard was upwards of $10 k!!!).

Last night was such a big event (kudos to the SOT staff and volunteers for pulling it off with such panache), that afterwards in the bar I sort of felt like we had opened. Oops. That feeling rapidly went away this morning as I showed up for a full day of reviewing Act I, staging the Act II Quintet, and stumbling through the whole first act. Oof. Ah well, it's a happy tired at least. More later.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Skylight Open House tonight

I know it's been awhile since I posted, but the internets have been down at the luxurious Plaza Hotel. When I mentioned this before, my Dad said, "Art Deco internet?" You see, it's an old art deco building, and, well, never mind.

Tonight there is a big outdoor concert/fundraiser/open house at Skylight. A bunch of us from the cast are singing some ditties from the show- it will be my first time singing Largo in English in public-yikes. I'm doing an onstage bit with Norman Moses (a brilliant Milwaukee actor who I just saw in 'Around the World in 80 Days' at the Cabot Theatre in Milwaukee) as Groucho Marx, so that will takr some of the pressure off me to be brilliant (shameless-yes, brilliant-not so much today). I'm hoping they bring in tons of dough tonight. If you are in the Milwaukee area and are looking for a fun way to spend the evening, stop on by.

Rehearsals have been a lot of fun so far. I've sort of gotten past the initial freak-out stage and am really enjoying putting the show together. Although it's a character I know well, the Rossini version is definitely a different animal, vocally, physically, and in every other way. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that later.

I still need to do a post-mortem on the Ashlawn experience- I know I know. I'll do it.

For now though, I have to spit out a few pages of recit and review the Act II Quintet.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Barber gets a shave

Before I came to Milwaukee to sing Barber of Seville, I wanted to get the genuine barber experience, so I went to a fantastic place in downtown St. Paul called Heimie's.  Here's what happened.

For those of you (like myself) who had never had a professional shave before, I highly recommend it.  It was indeed smooth as a baby's bottom, and lasted for several days.  

I shot this using my digital camera, and the memory card ran out of space before he put the straight blade on me- Sorry!  I tried to use the magic of video (and Apple editing software) to tell the story anyway.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Here's what I don't recommend...

...staging Largo for 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon (PS- this is in no way a 'park and bark' or 'can belto' production of Barber), insisting on singing out for most of it, and then do a whole sing-through of the opera in the evening.

The good news is, I can sing the whole role in not-the-most-ideal circumstances (with 12 performances of this bad boy, that's a good feeling).  The bad news is, I feel like a truck hit me today.  The cords feel fine, but I could use a good hard slap in the face.  I'm sure there are one or two volunteers out there.  

More later.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I am the king of lather and foam

Well folks, it's been awhile hasn't it?  I have had the last two weeks off and, being in the throes of domesticity, have honestly had no desire to blog whatsoever.  I had a fantastic time at home.  My daughter had her 2nd birthday party, we got to spend time with great friends and family, and we went on a trip to Boulder, CO for a dear friend's wedding .

(sidebar: I'm trying to figure out if I can write this trip off, since I sang an excerpt from 'Cosi fan tutte' during the ceremony.  Is that legit?  Oh, also...we almost didn't make it to Boulder because we were following the timeline set for us by former stage manager and current assistant to the Artistic Director of the Guthrie, Katie Koch.  The timeline was brilliant- the only problem was it was for a flight that left an hour later than ours in fact did.  I told Koch that little tidbit en route to downtown Minneapolis and man, you've never seen three luggage toting people move so fast.  As I was frantically checking us in via my Blackberry, we realized that the Twins game had just let out and our brilliant plan of taking mass transit to the Airport was now going to be a complete, well, train wreck.  We sprinted to the nearest taxi, and luckily got a cabbie who, when seeing that the highway was a parking lot, took us to the airport via the River Road [all the while hocking loogies into a clear plastic cup].  We got through security and to the gate right as they were boarding.  It was brilliant, skin-of-the-teeth episode.  I only include it here because it seemed very Figaro-esque, and, oh yeah, I promised Koch I would mention her in the blog.  Moral of the story: never trust an off-duty stage manager). 

Back to task.  I drove in to Milwaukee yesterday morning.  It was a 5 hour trip and I had about 20 minutes to check in to my hotel, change my clothes, warm up, and run to rehearsal.  I was either so jacked up on caffeine from the drive or so nervous to actually be rehearsing Barber of Seville that I was shaking during the first half of Largo.  The beautiful thing about this place, though, is that you're working with friends.  After I realized that I was just singing with Pasquale and Jamie, I relaxed and started enjoying it, and actually had a pretty great rehearsal.  If I can sing it after driving in the car for 5 hours, I should be able to do this thing.  Right?

I probably sound paranoid, and you're going to hear (read) a lot of this.  Figaro has always been sort of a pinnacle role for me- that unattainable goal, impossible dream, unreachable star, whatever you want to call it.  As a young singer with lots of technical issues but good stage savvy, I ended up singing a lot of basso buffo roles- Don Alfonso, Don Pasquale, and Bartolo in the Barber of Seville.  In fact, I sang Bartolo here at the Skylight.  10 YEARS AGO.  Now I'm a decade older, singing a role 30 years younger.  Call me the Benjamin Button of opera.  Anyway, the point is that I always knew I was a baritone at heart, and that if I worked hard enough I would figure out all the technical crap that was hanging me up.  In my mind, Figaro was the measuring stick role for me.  If I could sing that, well, then I had truly learned something about singing.  

Here I am.  

Have I learned anything about singing?  Well. I'll find out, won't I?

12 performances of a fiendishly difficult role.  A company that has national attention right now.  Controversy.  Contracts pulled and reinstated.  To quote my friend Artsy Schmartsy, I had 'better not suck.'  Indeed.  I couldn't be working on this piece at a more supportive place or with a more supportive team.  Yeah, I'm freaked out, but excited.  Sing through tonight.  

Here's a quote about Beaumarchais (and by proxy Figaro) from his friend Gudin:
Thus it was, that in every circumstance throughout his life he was entirely absorbed in the thing at hand, without worrying about what had gone before or what would follow, so sure he was of his faculties and his presence of mind.  He never needed to rehearse.  his mind was never diminished in any way, and his principles were so sound that they never failed him.
 Here's hoping a little of that rubs off on me.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Year of Figaro resumes tomorrow

I'll be on the road all morning tomorrow to make it to my first Barber of Seville rehearsal at Skylight.  I'm going back and forth between being super excited and completely terrified.  This role is hard.  I sang through the whole thing every day this week in preparation, and I think I'm in OK shape.  We'll find out tomorrow.  Stay tuned.  Lots to talk about.  


Saturday, August 8, 2009

I heart travel days

I'm currently at the Atlanta airport en route home from Charlottesville. We had a good final performance last night. There were a few crazy tempos (I think 'deh vieni' is still going- that's how slow it was), but what are you going to do? Have I mentioned that we had a week off in between performances?

I am planning to do a post-mortem on this one at some point, but for now I'll just say how gratifying it is to work with wonderful people. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it may in fact be the best part of the job. I hope the Camelot cast has a great final weekend, hope the apprentices can hang on for 2 more days (along with Ashley, Shelby and Adam), hope Magda has a great Carmen, hope that Greg and Maddie have an amazing time at the beach, hope that Maurizio and Liz have a safe drive to Miami, and hope Ash-Lo doesn't get arrested for the all the fun she's going to have in the city. It was a pleasure working with all of you.

OK, back to travel days. First of all, I should be writing this in mid-air because AirTran now offers inflight wi-fi. How cool is that? Not anticipating that little perk, my computer's battery is dead, so I have to thumb-type on my phone.

I started my travel day by driving with Ash-Lo to Reagan Nat'l in DC. It was a fitting end to the summer,as she picked me up when I first flew into town. We had a great chat and some greasy b-fast from the BK Lounge. It was beautiful.

On the first leg of my flight, I sat next to the crankiest old lady in the world. First she got angry at me for having such a big backpack. She said, "what are you going to do with all that crap?"
I said, "I'm going to put it under the seat in front of me."
"Well, you're certainly optimistic. Why do you bring all that crap? People are too lazy to just take it to the waiting room."
...Silence from me. I really have no idea what that last comment is supposed to mean.
"I presume you are going to take your hat off. I AM a lady!"
I swear I am not making this up. Of course the proper response is "well you're not acting like one," but did I sink to her level? No. I took the high road. Why? Well, life is too short to get into fights with old ladies.

And, more importantly, there was also inflight XM radio featuring 'Hair Nation.'. Nothing was going to spoil that for me.

Nearly home. I hope I get another crazy person to sit by on this flight.


Friday, August 7, 2009


Well, it's the final performance of Figaro at Ashlawn Opera tonight. I'm writing this on my phone, waiting to go to the 5:00 recit brush-up rehearsal (have I mentioned that there has been a week in between each performance?).

I look forward to tonight, ut not as much as I look forward to going home, seeing my girls, and sleeping in my own bed. This has been a long time on the road, and even though I got to go home for a week (did I mention that there has een a week in between each performance?), I feel like I've been away forever.

With that in mind, it's time to get my game face on and put this one to bed. It's nice to think that this isn't the end of the road for the year of Figaro.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Year of Figaro remains intact

As most of you know by now, the news came in yesterday afternoon about Eric Dillner resigning as General Director at Skylight.  Former managing directors Joan Lounsbury and Colin Cabot will take over leadership of the company, with Bill Theisen returning as stage director and artistic consultant.  My first inclination was to run to my computer and vomit out six weeks' worth of bloggy goodness, but instead I opened up a bottle of wine, enjoyed the company of some of my Ashlawn cast, and caught up with good friends on the phone.  There were to many disparate thoughts and emotions swimming around in my head to write down.  As it is, this blog entry might be a bit nebulous.  

My year of Figaro is back on! 

Skylight is still going to have a lot of challenges ahead, figuring out a business model that will lead them into the future.  But I think that they have a team of people that can absolutely meet that challenge.  Colin, Joan, and Bill have the good will of the community, the context of the history of the company, and the smarts to pull this off.  This is how to do a 50th Anniversary season.

I know this doesn't automatically fix all of SOT's problems, but what a victory for the company, the artists, the community!  I saw a picture on Tuesdays Blog of a bunch of SOT folk raising a glass in Catalano Square (ground zero for a lot of the protest/forum activity) and my heart went out to my friends.  How I wished I could have been there to celebrate.  The love and the care they have shown are extraordinary.  

I sort of can't believe that it actually turned out this way.  When people backed out of their contracts, it was to show support for Bill and to send a message to the board.  Who ever would have expected it to actually work?  Of course we were all hoping it would, but I had resigned myself to the fact that my year of Figaro would be a half-year of Figaro, not knowing if I'd ever sing Figaro again, that the end of the world, art, and music were at hand (I'm paraphrasing my brilliant manager, who has been watching this story like a hawk and was thrilled when the news broke).  And then a true deus ex machina (in the form of Joan and Colin) happens, and the entire debacle is turned around and the season is restored.  I hope someone is writing an opera about this.  It couldn't be more perfect.  I want to play the part of Jamie Johns.  

I have only been on the periphery of this story.  I don't live in Milwaukee, and I wasn't there to see this unfold first hand.  SOT has always welcomed me as one of their own, however, and through the blessing and curse that is social media, I felt like I was there.  From my vantage point, there are some true heroes in this story (they should each get an aria in the opera version of this)-

Jamie Johns, who was the most vocal opponent at the beginning, helped get the word out on Facebook, and rallied SOT supporters to make their voices heard, only to get fired in the process.  

Jonathan West, Tony Clements, along with Tom Strini, who reported each new bizarre chapter of this twisted tale, gave us the facts behind the rumors, and provided sound, level-headed commentary on what was going on.

The Skylight staff, who soldiered on in what must have been one of the most uncomfortable working environments ever.

Colin Cabot, who dropped everything to save this company.

I want to say a sincere thank you to Eric Dillner.  I don't think that he is Darth Vader, and I believe he had good intentions for SOT.  This was a catastrophe, though, and he made the right decision by stepping down so that the company could try to heal and move forward.  I'm sure it was not an easy decision, as it wasn't an easy decision for any of us who stepped down, but it was the right one.  Thanks Eric.  

I hope arts organizations all over the country are following this story and being encouraged by it.  Yes, I think it is encouraging for arts organizations.  Hell, I think it is encouraging for democracy.  You can make your voice heard and you can make a difference.  I think it is a victory for Milwaukee, but also a victory for the arts.  Every arts group is trying to find their way through this mess of an economy.  I think the path through it is BEING AN ARTS ORGANIZATION- sticking to your guns, and not running your opera company like a for-profit corporation.  Yesterday was a victory for artistic vision and leadership.  

I hope that people never forget this chapter in Skylight's history.  When people cared so much for a little company that they couldn't watch it slip away and through songs, tears, heartbreak, anger, laughter, and hard work, they saved it.  

I can't wait to walk into 158 N Broadway for the first day of Barber rehearsal.  

The End (?)


Sunday, August 2, 2009

your FORMER blog of the month

As it is August now, AYOF is officially no longer the Opera America Bloggo The Month.  So, instead of the award-winning material you have become accustomed to, I'm going back to the mindless drivel I doled out heretofore.  

Last night we had our third performance of Figaro.  This schedule is INSANE.  Our last performance was a week ago.  There is absolutely no momentum to this run of performances.  I don't know if I could even call it a run of performances.  It's more like a stagger of performances. It is intensely difficult to come back after a week and try to get your show back.  Ok, not intensely difficult like neuroscience is intensely difficult, but still....

Anyway, it feels like there are big sections of show that are passing us by- it's feeling a bit like instant opera at this point.  However, I do have to say that some of the moment-to-moment interaction does feel really spontaneous and honest.  And last night was actually,, dammit.  I think we all have embraced this kooky situation for what it is and have just decided to go out there with our guns blazin'.  

For me personally, I had a ball.  I have sort of decided to let this show be a bit of a playground for me, vocally speaking.  I have decided not to be afraid to sound totally terrible for the sake of being more vocally honest (i.e. singing with integrity vis-a-vis the technique I continue to work on).  The result has been more vocal freedom, more interesting singing...and I haven't sounded totally terrible yet (arguable).  I'm speaking in singer-y voodoo again.  Sorry.  It is just very freeing to give yourself permission to fail every now and again.  It was probably one of the best-sung Figaros yet, and I felt like I could have sung another one at the end of the night.  That ain't bad, kids.  

I'm thinking of live blogging my last Figaro (and my last in the year of Figaro).  Is that weird?  It might be kind of lame, but hey, I'm no longer Bloggo the Month, so what do I care?

In the meantime, here's another clip from the Vermont Figaro that just went up on Youtube; note my shapely calves and the Ritter-esque (I wish!!!) quality of the opening.  

Fun times.

I know it's been quiet on the blog lately.  Sorry about that.  It took me awhile to get over the whole Skylight thing, and I do appreciate all the support I got from all of my readership.  Thanks!  I'll be back with more tales soon.  


Monday, July 27, 2009

Movin' on

Thank you all so much for the comments and support you have given me this past week.  It means a lot to me to have such great colleagues and friends!  

Well, our second performance went way better than any of us expected.  We hadn't done the show in over a week, and as I said, we had a different conductor than opening night.  First of all, let me say that it is extremely challenging to do a show without the benefit of momentum.  You have to just jump in headfirst and hope you can get back the show you had.  When I heard the overture start up, I started feeling that opening night adrenaline again (it sort of felt like opening all over again in a way, although without a tech week.....weird), but it definitely took the first scene (if not the first act) to feel like I was doing our show again.  I think we were all in the same boat (orchestra included) and we all dealt with it well.  In a way, it was kind of cool.  Some of the scenes felt maybe a little more spontaneous since we barely remembered what the H we were supposed to be doing.  Our new conductor took over the reigns exceedingly well.  What could have been a scary situation was handled beautifully by him.  His stick is very easy to follow and his retention of our tempi was spot-on.  I went home to Minnesota last week for fun times up north.  Needless to say, between the beer, brats, and playing around in the lake, I felt like I hadn't sung in a year.  oof.  It went fine, vocally speaking, but I gotta keep up the singing this week!

Our next show is not until next Saturday...This is the weirdest schedule in the world.  

There is a great timeline of the entire Skylight debacle here.  Thanks again to Tony Clements for all his diligent blogging of the situation.  

Here is a fun clip of excerpts from the production of Figaro I did in Vermont.  Other than my rotundity and shameless overacting, I think it looks and sounds pretty good.  I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing.  



Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Marriage of Who?

We have our second performance of Figaro this afternoon at Ashlawn Opera. We haven't done the show in eight days, and we have a different conductor than we did on opening night.

Film at eleven.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Opera imitating Opera

As I sit writing this, there is a public forum (Tom Strini billed it as a 'showdown' in his blog) in Catalano Square in Milwaukee.  I'm told there are over 100 people there to ask questions and to hear Eric Dillner and the new Board president speak.  I have no idea what is being said, but I'm sure it is passionate and emotional, and presumably, not entirely civil. 

As I said earlier, yesterday I withdrew from The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro at Skylight, cutting my Year of Figaro in half.  This was a really difficult decision to make.  I have talked at great length about how I feel about this Skylight situation.  I certainly didn't support the initial decision to fire Bill Theisen, but I also didn't see the new director as the villain that he was being made out to be in the press and blogosphere.  I thought it was an extremely unfortunate decision, but I was still on board to honor my contract, especially since Bill was slated to return to stage direct both productions.  When Bill backed out after the controversial firing of two cast members over Facebook comments, the foundation on which I'd agreed to do these productions was suddenly shaky.  Compromised, even.  In fact, with each passing day, these productions became more and more compromised.  People have commented on my blog and my Facebook congratulating me on being principled and being brave, but I don't know if I agree with that.  If anything, it was about survival.  I felt like a rat on a sinking ship and had to get out of there.  

The fact of the matter is, this kind of crap happens all the time in opera companies.  We've all seen it, and it can get ugly.  The problem is, Skylight isn't an opera company.  It's a community theatre company, and I mean community theatre in the best sense of the word (not Guffman-style!).  That's why people love working there, and that's why people have been fighting this decision tooth and nail since it was made last June.  This is not supposed to happen at Skylight.  Not that SOT is some sort of sacred Utopia- it definitely has its issues.  But resorting to Neo-McCarthyism to fire cast members?  

Bill definitely made the right decision to back out when he did.  I wish I could say that I am principled enough to have made my decision to back out right away, solely in solidarity with Bill.  I'm not.  I struggled with this decision.  I'm not a protester by nature.  I'm a lover, not a fighter, so this whole decision was a bit weird.  

Fear was a big factor- giving up 3 months of work is daunting (and by daunting, I mean arguably stupid, especially in this economy).  Not only because of the money, but because of the huge gaps in my schedule right now.  I might be wrong, but I think that having momentum is huge for how people perceive you and your career.  By imposing these gaps in my schedule, I am somewhat afraid of losing momentum and further work.  

Selfishness was also a factor.  Doing Barber and Marriage in a cycle is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Tom Strini even said so!  Plus, I've never sung Figaro in Barber of Seville before.  This was going to be my first one, and it couldn't have been at a better company.  Funnily enough, I have sung Bartolo (the old man) before.  10 years ago.  At Skylight.

Plus, I leave dear dear friends in the lurch by pulling out of these shows.  Friends who are honoring their contracts and will turn in compelling, top notch performances, and will do so in a completely professional manner.  If I have one regret about this, it is that I won't be sharing the stage with those amazing people this year.  

After thinking hard about it and having long talks with my own Board of Directors (Me, my amazing sage-like wife, my agent, my parents, my dear Milwaukee artist friends) I decided that if my backing out had some positive impact by way of making a statement to the Board (and I was in extremely good company- I think I was the 24th or 25th person to resign in protest), then great; if the Board chooses to stay the course (and they have- Bill is still out, even after 25+ resignations), then maybe it's not a place I want to spend three months away from my family.  With these kinds of decisions, I usually go with my prodigious gut, and it told me I would be happier as an unemployed Dad than I would be working for a company under extreme duress.  

I've been commenting about all this Skylight stuff since mid-June when it all hit the fan.  Since then, the powers-that-be have had every chance to make things right with the Milwaukee arts community.  They have chosen time and again to stay their course, sever ties with the people that have made up the history of the company, and go it alone.  I wish them the best.  Good game, Skylight.  We had some fun, didn't we?

My Dad, who is a brilliant observer of humanity, had this to say about this whole ugly mess: It's a case of opera imitating opera.  I concur.  

I have a few more weeks of Ashlawn Figaro to go.  I didn't anticipate this being my last one, and now I'm going to have to go and change the name of my blog to A Half-Year of Figaro or I'm So Dumb I Backed Out Of Two Contracts.  Thanks for all the comments.  A man of Principles?  Not really.  Just tired of doing gigs I don't want to do.  

In the meantime, I think I'll call up my friend Jamie Johns and see if he wants to do a recital.  I'm thinking...September or early October?


Thursday, July 23, 2009

6 months of Figaro?

I cut my Year of Figaro short today by withdrawing from the Skylight's productions of Barber and Marriage.  This was an excruciatingly hard decision to make.  Details to follow.  


more info about all things Skylight here

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Last night's stats

Opening: one word slip, otherwise good
Se vuol ballare: better than the dress rehearsal, breath was under me, top F's felt good
Non piu andrai: my shameless cadenza was slightly more shameless than usual, but otherwise was fine
Aprite: not as good as the dress rehearsal
Finale II: funny
Finale IV: funny

0 assists
0 errors

Mozart gets credit for the win (at least I would think so)

It was a pretty tight show, and it was great to finally have an audience. They seemed to be with us for most of the night and they were lots of fun to play to, especially in the act IV aria. I threw in a it where I sing part of the aria to Shelby, our lovely harpsichordist (and by harpsichord I mean electric keyboard-oof). Extra shameless.

Vocally speaking, last night went very smoothly. I think I've either made peace with this English translation or I am just finally learning how to sing this role. I had to do a tv interview before the show (resume) so I didn't quite get to warm up the way I wanted to. There were a few iffy moments, but mostly I felt pretty good about it.

I'm currently sitting in Dulles International Airport waiting to fly home and see my family. More bloggo the month (my new nickname- it's like Jabba the Hutt) to come soon.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Openin'

We open Figaro tonight.  I've been sitting around the house, waiting all day.  I hate that.  I should really get a hobby or something.  The nerves are starting already.  Just part of the process.  

After tonight's performance, we have 9 days until the next one.  Crazy, no? Well, at Ashlawn, they used to do 10 performances, all outdoors.  Now, since they have moved into the historic Paramount Theatre, they have cut the number of performances, but kept the same basic schedule, leaving us with 4 shows spread out over 3 weeks.  Interesting.  

I'm looking forward to tonight.  A Year of Figaro will be pretty quiet this next week.  I'm heading home to see my girls!  

Here's something to tide my faithful readership over.  My Susanna, Ashley Logan, and I were stopped on the street the other day for the local weekly paper's question of the week.  We had some really astute answers.  Enjoy!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's like, how many babies, you know, fit in the tire? You know, that old joke.

Our final dress was last night.  We all took a big step forward, and I think we are poised to take another big step forward on opening night.  There were about 20 kids in the audience who couldn't have cared less about what we were doing.  They started a coughing competition during 'Deh Vieni' and got annoyed when I started singing to them and pointing at them in 'Aprite.'  Note to self: kids don't like being pointed at.  

Having sung this role three times in as many months, I've learned a thing or two.  Last night I was still a little vocally fried after having sung the whole opera twice on Monday.  My approach in these times of crisis has shifted radically as of late.  Whereas before I would just continue to bluster and try to vocally act my way through, getting by on charm, this time I brought it all in.  What does that mean, you ask?  Um....I don't know.  I just brought it in.  I was a little more contained.  My vocal attacks were a little less aggressive, perhaps, but the volume and resonance were not diminished.  In fact, they were probably enhanced.  In a weird way, it feels like I'm singing in instead of singing out (this isn't inward singing a la Tenacious D- I mastered that years ago!).  

I'm rambling and not making sense.  The long and short of it is I'm yelling less and singing more.  And that ain't a bad thing.  At all.  It feels good, in fact.  And I think it bodes well for my upcoming foray into Rossini's Figaro.  


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How did we get here?

How did it get to be the day of the final dress?  It never fails to surprise me how the entire rehearsal period gets gobbled up so quickly and we suddenly find ourselves in a dark theatre with an orchestra (who sound great, btw), costumes (very slimming....thank God!), and a set (no comment).  One of my favorite people in the world always says (usually during tech week), "well, don't worry, we have six weeks 'til we open."  It's sort of a running joke, but it is shocking how the imminent opening night can sneak up on you.  

We had our final tech (sort of a misnomer- most of the actual props and set pieces arrived at our dress) on Sunday evening, which was preceded by a fandango rehearsal.  Monday we had our sitz, and an orchestra dress.  The good news is no one died.  We were all pretty wiped after such a marathon, and I don't know that I would choose to ever have that kind of schedule again but, all things considered, it went down pretty well (just like the beer I had cha!)

The sitz was a blast.  The orchestra sounded great, and we were all having a good time.  It is such fun music to sing, and by now I'm feeling really comfortable vocally (I better be after all this time, right?).  It was fun just making music together- like we were some sort of all-Mozart garage band or something.  Our conductor used to play in a rock band, and even though he is a highly trained classical musician, he still brings a relaxed, jam session feel to the rehearsals.  I love it.  There's a great sense of give and take, and he's totally in the moment and spontaneous.  He also plays Foreigner songs on the piano during breaks, so that's pretty cool too.  

The dress was, well....we were all tired.  All of us.  Orch, conductor, cast, ensemble.  It went fine, but we were all making amateur mistakes, dropping lines,  wandering around the stage like McCain at a debate (sorry- not very topical reference).  It was a little rough.  It's just not an opera you ever want to do twice in one day.  Ever.  Again.  We have a lot of work to do tonight, but, I think we're in fine shape and well-rested.  

I fully meant to mark the dress rehearsal, but damn if it's not hard to sing out when there's an orchestra playing.  It just doesn't feel right to mark- it's not natural.  Plus there's the fact that I am terrible at marking.  I usually feel more tired after marking than when I am singing, and so I ended up singing most of the dress after having sung a full sitz.  It wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but I'm happy to report that it was actually kind of easy.  It was really encouraging, especially since I was feeling fatigued after doing it only once in Lafayette earlier this season. 

This is a sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants interpretation of Figaro this time around, which, in the world Beaumarchais created (and lived in!!) is totally OK I think.  

I'll leave you with a quote from Shakespeare in Love (don't judge me) that couldn't be more appropriate.  

Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business.  The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Fennyman: So what do we do?
Henslowe: Nothing.  Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Fennyman: How?
Henslowe: I don't know.  It's a mystery.