06 July 2013

The Haushofmeister’s Postscript: Das Feuerwerk!

Meine gnädige Damen und Herren!
Das für punkt neun Uhr anbefohlene Feuerwerk
beim Madison Square Garten.

Two months after opening night of the Fort Worth Opera production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, I’m still feeling the thrill. The latest came completely by surprise: an astonishing number of people now associate me with fireworks.

Fireworks are at the heart of Ariadne. It’s because a display has been planned “for nine o’clock on the dot” that the opera seria and the commedia dell’arte must be performed simultaneously, as the Haushofmeister, the character I played, announces during the Prologue. And indeed, as the opera concludes, the ecstatic duet between Ariadne and Bacchus is punctuated by the long-awaited fireworks. It’s a visual apotheosis, to match Ariadne’s elevation in the embrace of a god, but also to reflect Zerbinetta’s sense of fun. (She’s got her own pyrotechnics, too.)

“The only thing that really excites you is the fireworks,” our stage director, David Gately, told me during rehearsal. He suggested that I raise my voice an octave or three whenever I said the word “Feuerwerk,” which is more vocal gymnastics than this non-singer can manage. But that was my character. That was my motivation. To heck with all these crazy theater people: what I wanted was to hurry up and get to the real entertainment.

Baby, du bist ein Feuerwerk:
The Ariadne finale, with Marjorie Owens and Corey Bix.
Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Opera.

Since the Festival ended, our merry band of music-makers has gone on to other adventures, from Italy to Indianola, and heaven knows where else. Even with Facebook, I can’t keep track of everybody — though I do try, and it’s great fun to think that so many other audiences are finding the pleasure I felt whenever I listened to these terrific artists.

But it turns out that those artists are thinking of me, too. As fireworks displays marked July Fourth, popping off all over the place, I started to get messages. People saw fireworks, and thought of me.

This is something I never anticipated — short of some accident with a firecracker that would make generations of mothers say, “Be careful! You don’t want to wind up like Bill Madison, do you?” But it’s one more measure of the singularity of this experience — and the debt I owe to David, to Darren Woods, to Joe Illick, and to all the gracious Ladies and Gentlemen of Ariadne.

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