Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fig, we hardly knew ye

10 1/2 months
5 productions
32 performances (12 of Barber, 20 of Marriage)
104 blog posts
2 colds
1 broken cell phone

This is my final day in my year of Figaro. It has been one crazy ride, and I'm a better person and most certainly a better singer for it. I have had some exceptional colleagues along the way- each production was its own unique experience thanks to these awesome people. I made some great new friends and became reconnected with some old ones. I got to eat crawfish in Louisiana, hike in the green mountains of Vermont, walk around Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia, and see all my old friends in Milwaukee. Milwaukee- the 2 shows that almost didn't happen- and here I am on the other side of that whole Skylight fiasco, about to close my second Figaro, an experience very few baritones have had. I am one lucky dude. And I am full of gratitude. Thanks friends. Thanks colleagues. Thanks people who were silly enough to hire me. Thanks Mozart. Thanks Beaumarchais. Thanks Erika.

I may have more to say to wrap this business up in the next few days/weeks. Afterwards, who knows? My year of Figaro is over, so I guess the blog is probably over too. I've really come to like ranting though, so I may just have to start a new one.

Now I'm going to seek out some greasy breakfast, finish packing up my car, sing my face off for the last time, and speed home to see my amazing wife and daughter. I'm back to my favorite role- Husband/Daddy. The part I was born to play.

Friends in the arts- peace.


Friday, February 12, 2010

How did I get here from there?

It's our tenth performance of Marriage tonight. Just three left to go, and then I'm out of here. Out of Milwaukee, out of Figaros, out of blog ideas. I went to dinner with a friend recently who queried, "yeah, but are we really ever out of here?" I'm still trying to figure out exactly what he was talking about, but he may have a point. I'm back home on Sunday night. Who knows what the future will bring- more Figaros, maybe? Maybe not. New friends, new shows with old friends. New and different junk. In any case, this 'year of figaro' has flown by.

We had a pretty great student matinee on Tuesday morning. It was way better than it had any business being at 11 in the morning. What really blew me away though was the Q & A at the end. One kid asked about the key relationships in Figaro, and if they were significant to the characterizations. ???? From a high schooler??? And another one noticed that the protagonists were wearing lighter shades of clothing and the antagonists were wearing darker shades and was that intentional? It was one of the most rewarding Q & As I've ever done. These kids were smart, respectful, and curious. It was very heartening.

I also had a brilliant bit of disaster during Non piu andrai. I realized I was about to go up on a line, and instead of shutting my mouth or repeating a previous line, I sang (with some gusto I might add) a line of complete gibberish. It sounded vaguely like "w-with a hrrm-haww!" (the real line should have been "keep your chin up" - not even close. I then spent the rest of the aria trying to hold it together while my colleagues onstage and in the pit were totally losing it. Delightful.

Wednesday's show felt like we had done a student matinee the day before. The energy was a bit down, but I doubt it was noticeable (at least I hope it wasn't) to the audience. Since Thursday was our last day off, a bunch of us went to the Knick (and a smaller, more dedicated group went to Wolski's)- sort of a pre-closing night party.

Am I sad this is all ending? It's hard to feel sad about saying goodbye to a show for which you've had 12 performances. What I mean is- it's time to let it go. Am I sad that my year of Fig is ending? Yes. No. I'll get back to you on that one. It's probably for the best that Fig and I have some time apart (it's not you, Fig, it's me)- I sort of feel like I'm resting on my laurels too much in this role, and might need a little space to see it afresh. But I will never be tired of singing this opera.

Three left. And I'm going to enjoy them.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday: Skylight plays Mozart....

.....and Mozart loses.

I kid I kid I kid. Actually, we had a great show Sunday night, and our house sold pretty well- about 2/3 full- way better than any of us would have thought. I managed to remember all my lines this time (I didn't 'approve any messages'), and I think it may have been my strongest show vocally since we started the run. I had a friend in the audience (I could see him sitting right in the front row- jerk :-)) and I found myself playing a lot of the laughs for him. Translation: All of my schtick was amplified by ten to see if I could get a chortle out of him. Shameless? Yes. Tacky? You bet. Fun? Absolutely. My favorite moment in the show was when our Basilio/Don Cruzio yelled "Saints win" to the audience.

We have 5 more performances (longer than the entire run of most houses), starting with a student matinee at 11 this morning. I'm thinking back to the student matinee of Barber and how I was praying for a hurricane on Lake Michigan to cancel our show. Yikes. Mozart's Figaro is wayyyyy more comfy- especially at 11am (as Chaliapin used to say- "I can't even spit at that hour!").

We are definitely in the home stretch here. It's a little sad for me to think about saying goodbye to my old pal Fig. We've had some fun this year. 5 more.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

I approve this message

It could be because it was our sixth show tonight. Or it could be because of the non-sleep I've been getting at the Plazma Hotel. Or I could have just been on Mars. There were definitely more hijinx tonight. Oof.

It started in the first scene (why wouldn't it?) I unroll our mattress onto the floor and say, "Tell me the reason why you refuse the most convenient room in all the palace?" Susanna: "Because I am Susanna, and you're a blockhead!" Where I, just to illustrate her accusation, leap to my feet like a gazelle and nearly kill myself tripping on the mattress. Blockhead indeed.

The real gem happened in the recit before the Act III sextet. Marcellina says, "at last I'll be married to the man I adore." I run to the Count and I am supposed to say, "Your lordship, I appeal this judgment." What comes out is what feels like 5 minutes of stammering. I started to say "Your lordship I approve this message" but I knew that wasn't right. Then it was "Your lordship I disprove...." No, still not there. "Your lordship....." Meanwhile the Count (plus the entire audience) was looking at me like I had ten heads. Finally the line came out, much to my (and everyone's) relief. Not my best moment, but it is hilarious. It seemed like an eternity.

It looks like I may have to run my recits some more before tomorrow night's show.

Tomorrow night, you ask? The night of the Super Bowl? Yes. We, a Wisconsin opera company are going to be performing an opera on Super Bowl Sunday. I have a feeling we might be playing to crickets. Chances are it will be my best performance yet.

PS- it's fun again.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pity Party Over

Thanks for all the love, friends. It wasn't my intention to go fishing for good will, but I thank you all.

Some business:

My friend who gave me the idea to take my glasses off is not at fault. She is a total piece of work, but I don't blame her for my foibles.

I had the best show ever tonight. I think it has something to do with the fact that my subtext the whole evening was "F.U." Let's ust say I forgot my 'manners.' ZING!

I kid, I kid. Seriously, you should try the tater tots at the Knick- they're deadly.

Peace+bacon grease

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Warning: contains rant

I had an audition the other day. I had one goal. To experience joy. I've noticed a distinct lack of joy in my singing lately. I think it's because I had a cold right in the midst of this rehearsal process and sort of had to scramble to get everything back to normal. So I thought to my self, 'self, let's have some fun.'

I also tried a new trick a friend of mine told me about. I wore my glasses into the room, and when it was time to sing, I took them off. I'm severely nearsighted, so all I could see were shapes......I'm not sure this was a good thing. It was kind of scary. One on hand, it reigned me in a little bit, so I there was less extraneous movement (mostly because I was afraid if I moved too much I would trip and fall down!), but on the other hand, I may have just looked like someone with unfocused eyes who couldn't see very well because he had taken off his glasses (Bocelli's American cousin, Andy Bocelli?)

Well, dammit, I did have fun. I sang Se vuol ballare and was very pleasantly surprised to have my auditioner ask me for Tarquinius' aria from The Rape of Lucretia. There were a few funny moments, but I totally accomplished my goal. Joy? felt. Fun? had.


I get a call from my agent. No, no he likes your voice. Seriously. It's just that he thinks you have mannerisms that better suit you for buffo rep. Oh, so he doesn't like my voice. No, he does. Clearly he doesn't! Sure he does. Mannerisms!

My ego took a little hit, sure. Hey, we all want to think that we are the best, and that we have no flaws. I spent 4 years in grad school trying to learn how to sing better so I wouldn't limit myself to a career of only singing buffo rep (not that I think it's below me- I LOVE character rep) I know my singing has flaws. I am trying to turn my flaws into my assets. Whatever. At the end of the day, this has nothing to do with me. It's one dude's opinion, and yes, this one dude may not think my voice is appropriate for certain roles I would like to sing. That's his prerogative. I just have to keep doing my thing, trying to improve- not to meet his ideal, but to meet mine. And if people only want to hire me to sing "La cena รจ pronta!"- well, that's out of my hands.

I'm off to prepare for performance #5 of our little Figaro skit. And I'm gonna own my mannerisms, by god.


ADDENDUM: I just re-read this and realized what a whiny D-bag I sound like. I just needed to blow of some steam. The truth is I really like feedback- good or bad. Knowing how you are perceived, vocally, personally, and in all other ways, is extremely valuable information.

And more importantly, I feel nothing but intense gratitude for the chance to make a living doing what I love to do. Whether it is a year of Figaro, a day of Antonio, a minute of Scientist #5. I'm extremely lucky. And I know it.

Hijinx ensue

We had a successful opening weekend by all accounts, and tonight we embark on performance week #2, and performance #4. We've garnered some pretty decent reviews from Tom Strini at Third Coast Digest as well as the Journal Sentinel. There's another decent review from the Shepherd Express. This guy is hilarious. It seems like he likes our show right? But he has to follow every complimentary statement with a somewhat deflating one. Does he think that people will only take him seriously if he throws in a barb here and there? Is he trying to flaunt his intellect, or maybe even manufacture his intellect? His is the sort of self-aggrandizing writing that reminds me of Good old Dominic Papatola from my own St. Paul. I don't even think these guys like theatre or music per se, but they looooove their writing. Hey, look who's talking? Who am I, Mr. Bloggerson, to point fingers.

There are still some scary moments vocally during this show, which is surprising considering how many performances I've done of it this year. It seems to settle a bit each time we do it, and I think we are definitely finding a groove. Sunday's matinee was the strongest performance for me, with a few hilarious exceptions. After singing what was my best 'se vuol ballare' yet in this run, I'm supposed to give a sarcastic bow in the Count's direction, pick up his boots, and storm out of the room. Bow. Boots. Storm. I bowed, knocked over his boots, bent over to pick them up (showing the audience my best side I'm sure), and slinked out of the room. Bow. Knock. Bend. Slink. Ugh.

During the Act IV finale when the Count is supposed to throw me to the ground, I accidentally stepped on the poor guy's foot. I turned to him as I went down and whispered 'sorry,' and as I did so, slipped on the heel of my shoe, did the closest thing to the splits I ever want to achieve, and knocked the crap out of my knee. Graceful, no?

Hey man, live theatre.

Let's have some fun tonight kids. What do you say?