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.

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