Sunday, June 28, 2009

Figaro post-mortem, Green Mountain Opera Festival

Hello, faithful readership.  Performance #2 of Nozze at the Barre Opera House went quite well.  I don't know how it happened, but the audience was just as exuberant (if not more so) at the Sunday Matinee then it was at the opening.  The artistic director, Taras, said that the audience in the area is very opera savvy, and it was obvious.  They followed every silly plot point, laughed at every joke, bravo'd each aria, and generally loved our show.  I want this crowd at every show I do.  This did not have the feel of a second show.  The tempi, the intensity, the hotdish (as my voice teacher, The Cajun, might say) all remained intact. It was a great way to go out.  

So, how was this 2nd go-round with the Big Fig?  In a word....Awesome.  In two words.....Intensely Gratifying.  I don't want to take anything away from any of my past Figaro colleagues, because each production has been unique and wonderful in its own way.  But the experience in Vermont was, well, special.  In a way that you can't predict nor plan for, but just smacks you in the face with its singularity.  More about that in a minute.  Let's get back to me (enough about me, what did you think of my performance?).

Let's start with the vocal issues.  On the last go-round, I talked at length about the vocal challenges I faced during our performances.  I felt most of those melt away this time.  As I have said, I made a few adjustments in my singing that helped me get more bang for my buck, vocally speaking.  It cost me less, I got less vocally tired, I was able to use more vocal colors, and I was able to 'play' more.  All I basically did was stop darkening my middle voice.  Something I guess I really didn't realize I was doing until I was faced with vocal fatigue during the last run of Figaro.  It became apparent to me that that is what was causing the fatigue- darkening.  It sounds big and dark and is immediately gratifying, but it definitely comes at a cost.  A cost that is totally do-able if you are singing a comprimario role, but as a lead character, I saw my resources dwindling rapidly each night.  Anyhow, on out second performance, I tried to ease up a little, especially in the ensembles (something I should do anyway- no one's going to hear me squawk down there, even under the best of circumstances), and I noticed two things.  First, I was less tired, and second, the 'steeliness' of my middle voice went away.  I tried to incorporate that into the whole of my singing as I prepared for the Vermont gig, and I think I was successful.

I know I was successful.  From day one at Green Mountain, I felt a lot more ease in my singing- even through the mucus I was dealing with.  That was my first clue that I was on the right path. The top felt easier, the middle felt great, and I was able to get through the whole performance without feeling like I had depleted all my resources.  There were still some lingering issues.  I believe I mentioned being worried about "Aprite" at the end of the show.  Funnily enough, during our second performance, I had an epiphany about that too.  I was vocalizing during the intermission and realized I still had a lot of voice left (this was a good feeling.  However, I did the same thing on opening, and still felt a little off-kilter during Aprite.).  I was bound and determined to get it right this time around.  As I was vocalizing, I realized that the reason I was getting into trouble during the aria was because I was just plain-old singing too loud. doy, Wilkowske.  I brought the overdrive down from 11, and instantly felt the buoyancy and breath energy return.  I walked out for Act IV and sang an easy "Aprite" and finale, and felt like I had completely turned a corner.  

As for the character of Figaro, I think I made some strides and discoveries, but mostly I felt like I was allowed and encouraged to do my best- by Taras, by our director and conductor, and especially by the cast.  On day one, at our first sing-through, I realized the caliber of the cast and immediately had to step up my game.  I think everybody had that reaction.  My father-in-law likes to make this analogy: a log can only burn so well on its own.  To burn to its fullest, it has to be leaning up against another.  This was a group of highly flammable people who, when leaning on each other, made an extraordinary inferno.  It was an honor to be a part of this cast.  It was one of those experiences I will take with me forever, one that will help me through the shows that maybe aren't so artistically fulfilling (we all have them; you know which ones I mean).  Thanks go to Ellen, Jacques, and especially Taras who brought us all together and I think brought out the best in us.  At the risk of being maudlin, I'd like to share something our director told us after we closed (Ellen, I hope that this is ok!!)

I'll say it again - during the last "Corriam tutti" you 10 onstage looked at each other as friends - friends who had discovered something easy and wonderfully human here in Vermont.  It was a wonderful thing to watch.
I concur.

Thank you all for an amazing experience on stage and off stage.  I love you all!

But for now, it's back to Figaro.  Back to English.  Back to Ruth and Thomas Martin.  Back to technique.  Back to new cuts.  Back to the Future (is there enough road to hit 88?  Where we're going, we don't need roads!). Rehearsal #1 is tomorrow.


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