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?



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