06 April 2013

The Haushofmeister’s Diary, Part 2

In the basement, and yet among the stars.

For our first sing-through of Ariadne auf Naxos the other morning, Fort Worth Opera’s general director, Darren Woods, was seated across from me, but my view of him was blocked. This is a good thing. Nobody loves listening to good singing more than Darren does. The human voice transports him to a very, very special place for which there is no name but bliss. So if I’d seen the waves of emotion crossing his face, I might have burst out laughing — or sobbing.

For Darren and I have similar tastes in singing, and here I was surrounded by voices he loves — after all, he cast this show. And to be in the music is in itself a powerfully emotional circumstance. The addition of Darren’s listening responses to my own surely would have pushed me right over the edge.

You know, one minute you’re sitting next to a perfectly pleasant young woman, and the next minute, she’s singing that “Music is a holy art,” and she’s got a voice like Cecelia Hall’s — a voice that is in fact Cecelia Hall’s — and let me repeat, just in case I didn’t make this clear: she is sitting right next to you and singing like that.

I have a new mezzo to love! The radiant Cecelia Hall.

We are now diving into that portion of the production process with which, prior to Thursday, I had no direct experience. I’ve seen a couple of coachings, and I’ve seen dress rehearsals and opening nights, but everything in between has been occult to me and consequently rather mystical. Rehearsing an opera turns out to be quite like rehearsing a play — at least, so far as I remember play rehearsals from 30 years ago. The principal difference is that there’s a pianist (the lovely Emily Urbanek) and a conductor (Joe Illick, also lovely), and everybody is singing — except for me.

I am merely speaking: my character is the guy for whom Strauss had such utter contempt that he did not deign to write a single note of music. Perhaps to compensate, the librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, wrote quite a lot of words. Lots and lots and lots of words, which I have to memorize.

So at rehearsal, I’m struggling valiantly to liberate from my head a thorny tangle of German text. One sentence — not even the entire speech — is 56 words long. And not short words, either. The fact that I took time to count them should tell you something. Niceties such as characterization and correct accent must wait: for now, it’s all I can do to spit the lines out.

Rehearsal: Stephen Lusmann (Musiklehrer, foreground), Joe Illick (conductor, on stool), with David Gately (director) and Joe Gladstone (stage manager) at table.

I have no idea what I’m doing, and so to be among so many bright young singers, who absolutely know what they are doing, is humbling. Which is good for my personal character, if not for the character I’m playing onstage.

Of course it’s always humbling to be around people who do well a thing which you can’t do at all — but these folks do extremely well a thing which is of vital importance to me. They sing. They practice that “holy art.”

For now, music is (as Cecelia Hall explains in her little aria) uniting us all around a radiant throne. And for now, I’m included.

So long as Darren doesn’t fire me.

Sure, he sings like an angel,
but what can he do with a pair of stilts?
Steven Eddy, as Harlekin, in rehearsal.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Thank you for this fine reporting from on the ground in Blissful.

You are letting the cat out of the bag of course.

Far from "sacrificing" for art, the artist and those who love the arts are often having a hell of a time!

Enjoy! I know you will!