22 April 2013

The Haushofmeister’s Diary, Part 10

On the radio, no one can see you smile. Too bad.
WVM with WRR’s Nancy Brunson.
Photo by Holland Sanders, FWO’s media, marketing and communications maven,
who somehow figured out how to focus my iPhone camera.

I forgot “Frontiers.”

Not only did I forget to mention “Frontiers,” Fort Worth Opera’s innovative new showcase for unpublished operatic scores — I forgot even to write down the word “Frontiers” on one of the 3 x 5 cards I kept before me during my guest co-hosting stint on WRR 101.1 FM radio Saturday evening.

This is embarrassing because I was a member of the jury for the 2013 Frontiers showcase, which will take up a big chunk of the week between our performances of Ariadne auf Naxos — and also because Kurt Howard, Fort Worth Opera’s director of productions and the curator of the Frontiers program, is the guy who suggested that I take the radio gig.

Fortunately, Kurt was too busy getting ready for opening night of the Festival, and the premiere of Puccini’s La Bohème, to sit around listening to the radio. So there’s a chance he’ll never find out about my egregious lapse.

WVM on WRR. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Of course I did keep a stack of 3 x 5 cards in front of me, because if I didn’t, then my late mentor Liz Dribben would come back just to announce that she’d never forgive me. But there are always things one means to say, and forgets to say, or says by accident, when one is speaking in public. Having spent most of my career helping other people, I’ve been sheltered — the microphone is in their hands, not mine — but I recognize the reality.

I had a terrific time with Nancy Brunson, the host of WRR’s popular “Midday Music” program. She’s a singer herself, who pursued a professional career in opera for several years, and she’s studied and lived in Europe — my kind of people. She generously let me ask lots of questions of “our” guests, the native-Texan stars of The Daughter of the Regiment, soprano Ava Pine and tenor David Portillo; the stage director of La Bohème, David Lefkowich; and Fort Worth Opera general director Darren Woods, already in full-throttle opening-night mode in a tuxedo.

They’re all fascinating people, and Ava and Darren and I have known each other for years. But we had limited time to shmooze, because our conversations were interspersed with musical segments much longer than I’d expected — and to my further surprise, absolutely none of those musical selections had anything whatever to do with the four operas in our Festival, or with the composers of our operas, or with any opera, or with any kind of singing at all. Only two selections were particularly festive. We didn’t even hear the Della Reese version of Musetta’s Waltz. I guess the WRR programmers know their audience better than I do, although of course I grew up listening to WRR and I’m a part of the audience when I’m in the area — and I was disappointed not to hear any opera. (But then, I never was very representative.)

So my particular challenge was to steer the conversations in order to cover everything I think is important. I can’t quite be objective, but I think we did okay. We managed to talk about three of the four leads in La Bohème but left out the tenor, Sean Panikkar (oops!). Ava, David Portillo, and Darren all talked about working with Joyce Castle in Daughter, and David Lefkowich and I talked about Marjorie Owens, our Ariadne. But we didn’t mention any of the other wonderful singers on the roster this season — not even Audrey Luna, our Zerbinetta, who’s the toast of Opera World since she sang Ariel in Adès’ The Tempest at the Met this season. Hey, we’ve got star power! — And I should have talked about it more.

Mercifully, Darren and I found time to talk about Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, the contemporary work having its regional premiere here this season (I’d seen the final dress rehearsal on Friday night), and to discuss why new music is important to Darren’s vision for the company. But I forgot Frontiers.

Darren Woods and Kurt Howard.
Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Opera.

At all times, I was conscious of the tremendous trust that Darren — and Kurt, and Holland Sanders, and everybody else — had placed in me. Here I was, in front of a live microphone, representing the company and yet completely unsupervised except by the WRR folks. I could have said anything!

But I do believe strongly in what this company is trying to do. I came here as a critic, but I recognized the fundamental value of the work — and the remarkable success the company has enjoyed as it brings all kinds of music to all kinds of people. The company has created a strong, engaged community: onstage, backstage, in the audience, and beyond. It’s a kind of community I didn’t think was possible, when I was growing up, just down the road from here.

“You sure did drink the Kool-Aid,” Darren said to me the other night, and I wanted to answer, “You’re the one who stuck the funnel in my mouth ten years ago and started pouring.” But what the hell. If appreciating good work — and wanting to talk about it and to write about it — is a fault, then so be it.

All kinds of community: For “Opera Shots,” the company sends singers to local bars, letting everybody see how much fun we have
with this supposedly dusty, dull art form. “Opera Shots” events reliably draw big, enthusiastic crowds.
Here, my wonderful Ariadne colleagues Amanda Robie, Ian McEuen, Steven Eddy, and Corrie Donovan sing the quartet from Rigoletto at the Flying Saucer in downtown Fort Worth.
Clearly, I have not learned to focus the camera on my iPhone.

NOTE: It’s possible that I was distracted by the hubbub in Bass Hall, which was decorated to evoke a kind of Sexy Paris. This turns out to be quite far from the city where Bohème takes place, no matter how attractive our cast is. Curiously costumed performers roamed among the red-carpet audience, along with an accordion player and a hula-hoop artiste. Slutty Marie-Antoinette was a favorite of the costumes — though of course I don’t mean to suggest anything about the character of the attractive young woman who wore it. The 19th-century pimp and his meal ticket were favorites, too, and yet again, I don’t mean to suggest anything, etc. etc. Among the lampposts was a street sign pointing to “Rue 69,” which does not exist anywhere except in somebody’s naughty imagination. Yeah, this wasn’t Puccini’s Paris, and it wasn’t mine. But people seemed to have fun.


Unknown said...

I was glad I listened!

GirlFromTexas said...

I listened to you for the broadcast, and thought you did an excellent job. You were knowledgable, engaging, charming, and have a resonant radio voice.