Monday, June 18, 2012

Learning Curve

Greetings from the mountains of Pennsylvania.  Clouds are spilling over the mountain ridge in front of me, and the weather is perfect for late June!  I am in Harrisburg, the capital, leading in an opera - the world premiere of "Not a Tenor!"  That's right, if the title isn't fortuitous enough, the composer decided to add an exclamation at the end.  I honestly do not know the reason, but you can take this title many ways: "oh, perhaps there's not a tenor in this opera!" or "for goodness sake, there's a tenor!" or "nope, the tenor didn't do it!"  Who knows?...your guess is as good as mine for the meaning behind the title.  Among the cast, I have joked that I will write this title in Czech or some other language on my resume to give it some gravitas.  Preparing this opera was quite the "exercise" - a polite way to describe the complexity of simple tonal music that doesn't follow most composition rules.

The opera takes place in New York and in Paris - I play the world's greatest tenor (of course) who has three wives, only one of which knows of the others, and to keep my disguise I must change my personality and accent from a New York accent to French's quite complicated unfortunately, but it has a beautifully concise Mozartian finale in which all the complications of the plot are summed up in a happy ending of sixteen measures of unison descending G major scales!  I must mention that my role involves a scene with my shirt off, in pumps, and wig in Paris speaking in a New York accent...just think about that...(shivers)...

Beyond the 18 beautiful melodies within merely one of my arias, this experience has made me truly appreciate everything that has led to this moment...the mainstage lead in a regional opera.  Notwithstanding the late additions of two other leads, venue change to one that has a beautiful 5 second reverb (perfect for sostenuto pedal, secco recitative, and patter songs) and I still do not have the score with accompaniment (imagine the complications of that!) the chorus members are energetic, the people are lovely, and I am staying in a nice Bed and Breakfast stocked with food.

I must confess, that I broke my memorization record learning this opera (purely out of necessity and with the very late addition of my music score) I memorized it in one day!! And, it was NOT easy - the fragments of melodies make this a nightmarish mental twister, but I got it done.  Also, there are a lot of speaking lines in different accents, all which complicate things.  And on that subject, one of the local cast members pronounces "women" like (woh-min) and "woman" (wah-min) - which they insist is correct and that I have a dialect. Does anyone out there do that? I've never heard that pronunciation before.

 I also drove 1,030 miles in one day as well, to get out here to PA - it was a beautiful drive, and when I arrived, two prominent members of the production greeted me and we immediately spoke about our many mutual difficulties.  However, the funniest omen of the week was that in our first rehearsal, literally on the first downbeat of the opera, the conductor was stung in the finger by a hornet!!!  I'm not joking!

Beyond the professional difficulties, it has been a trip and experience to remember for many reasons.  Hopefully by next week, I will have some great memories to look back on with a smile.

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