Friday, May 8, 2009

Figaro post-mortem, Acadiana

Hello, all.  A Year Of Figaro is now posting on Facebook as well as blogspot, so it's just a little easier to keep up with my madman rantings.  I'll have to start referring to my readership of one as my readership of three.  

Well, performance #2 of Figaro went pretty well, although it definitely felt like a second show.  None of us quite had the focus we had on opening night, and I started singing heavy again, particularly in "Non piu andrai" (rank amateur).  It was not a bad show by any means, and I think we all felt good about it in the end.  The professional cast all went to support the student cast on Sunday afternoon.  They all performed admirably- Bravi tutti!

WARNING - this is a long entry.  Read at your own risk!

Ok, so the 1st installment of Figaro is done.  How was it?  Um....good?  This was a challenging production for me for many reasons, the first of which was getting this part back into my voice.  I sang Figaro most recently in 2007, but the last time I sang it auf English was in 2000!  I think I underestimated how long it was going to take to get this role back in a comfy zone for me.  Either that or there is so much baggage attached to the English version of this role because of how I sang it back then, and trying to reconcile muscle memory with new technique can be difficult.  As I mentioned in previous entries, I felt (especially at the dress) that I was singing way too heavily.  I should be able to sing Figaro without feeling so vocally tired.  It shouldn't cost me that much (it was a lot better during the performances, but still).  I sort of got insight into why more baritones don't sing both Figaros.  The tessitura sits very much in the middle voice, probably about C to C.  It's on the middle to low end for most lyric baritones.  Even for me (bar-basitone? who knows?), it can creep to the lower edge of where I typically like to sing.  It sounds like this should make Figaro an easy role to sing- you can go for pages without having to even worry about a not in the passaggio, let alone a truly high note.  However, since it's possible to get away with murder in the middle voice, I oversang a lot of the middle/low stuff in this role.  Why?  God knows? Probably in a severely misguided attempt to make a big sound (repugnant, no?).  I know, I know, amateur mistake.  In an effort to feel like I was present, I honked and snarled through a lot of the low stuff.  However, the upper middle/high stuff all seemed pretty good, and "Se vuol ballare" was probably the best I have ever sung it.  I think that's because I have to pay attention and sing those passages with care, and I can't get away with murder like I can with the low stuff.  

Another challenge was the sheer velocity at which we staged.  It was definitely instant opera, just add water.  I don't mind working fast, and this was my 5th Figaro, so I was able to fill in a lot of the moments, but we basically had just enough time to stage each scene and revisit it once before we started running the show.  This isn't a criticism of the company- just a fact.  It's tough to stage a big opera in that amount of time! The plus side of this was that I was only away from Rikki and Nikki for 2 1/2 weeks!

I don't mean to be ranting...Ok, yes I do.  I don't mean to be a negative nellie though.  There were also a lot of rewarding things about this first Figaro.  First of all, the music.  Damn. I never get tired of this opera.  The characters are so complex- we spent many hours (and many beers!) talking about who these people are and what they mean to us.  And I know that next month, that conversation will be different.  It will be different each time, because these are real, living people.  I love it. 

Doing this production in collaboration with a University was rewarding as well.  It was actually like Deja Vu.  The first time I sang Figaro it was in the Ruth & Thomas translation when I was a junior at UMD, a school not unlike ULL in size and skill level.  When these kids weren't rehearsing, they were building sets, doing makeup, or cleaning up the theatre.  It was cool and it really brought me back to the salad days, as they they say that?  Also, my first voice teacher, Paul Sahuc, grew up in Lafayette and it was a total trip to see his old stomping ground.  I feel like I have new insight into his whole persona!  

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the food.  Boiled crawfish, etoufee, po' boys, beignets....OK, maybe it would have been better if we had been doing Falstaff.  These people know how to eat.  

I'm not trying to be overly critical of this experience at all. I'm just trying to be honest about what I did well and what could be better.  I think I sing and act this role well, but I've got some things to work on for next time;  Take the steel out of the voice, and sing smart.  Get the Italian back in the voice.  Get my butt on a treadmill and work off some of those beignets!  I look forward to it.  Next stop, Green Mountain Opera, Vermont.  

Oh this is cheesy, but what the hell.  I have been listening to The Hold Steady a lot lately.  They are my current favorite band.  Partly because some of them grew up in Minneapolis, but partly because they are just plain awesome.  Anyway, the lead singer, Craig Finn, always ends the show by saying, "There is SO MUCH JOY in what we do up here.  Thank you for sharing that joy with us." 

 I think of that speech every time I sing this music.  


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