Last night I found myself armed with an unknown address, a bottle of water, and 3 pages of music I had never sung before, written by a composer whose music I had never performed, ready to rehearse for an hour before returning tomorrow to record this particular selection. (Sorry, not at liberty to divulge any details just yet – but when I can, you know I will…) I had heard for years from numerous colleagues that I should work with this conductor, but of course, there are only so many hours in a day, days in a week, etc. But finally, courtesy of brilliant minds and a great project, I found myself on the way to work with this Maestro for the first time, contributing one little piece of the larger puzzle.
As the taxi abandoned me at the given address, I looked up and a sense of dread hit me: “Great. That’s just GREAT. I got the address wrong. I’m stranded. And me, with no cell phone – good one, Joyce!” I was smack dab in the middle of the courtyard of a local hospital, WAY on the left bank, which is definitely a part of Paris I do not know at all. Luckily, just as I was about to turn around and – well, honestly, I had no idea what to do next except perhaps panic – I heard my name, and a lovely French lady came to pick me up. Sure enough, we were set to rehearse in the hospital’s tiny chapel, which ended up being the perfect backdrop to what would follow.
Thinking this was just a “first meeting”, and knowing that this genre of music was quite new to me (completely new, actually!), I was ready *just* to rehearse. The conductor arrives and declares that “If we CAN, we’d love to *record* this tonight.” And my gut reaction was, “Are you insane? I don’t have a clue what I’m doing on this! I don’t know how we’ll work together! No WAY I can record it tonight!”
“Let’s just see how it goes.”
“OK. We’ll just see….no pressure, right?”
Well, “the rehearsal” consisted of nearly 30 minutes of discussion of the text. Just the text. Well, the text in the context of the entire piece in conjunction with all the other roles and the character’s particular blood line and personal history and the historical impact of the piece, etc, etc, etc. It was riveting. After such in-depth, psychological probing, we said, “well, let’s just run it and see what happens.” We hadn’t made one note of music together at that point – we had only spoken of emotional tapestries and things like honor, loss, acceptance, love – in fact, of life.
What followed was the coming together of 7 total and complete strangers, meeting somewhere in the musical sphere, leaving all ego outside the door of this damp little chapel, allowing all to be free to create something living out of those tiny black dots on the page scribbled centuries ago by another stranger to us, finding a common language together, a common vision of this character’s loss.
Before I knew it, the producer was pronouncing, “That’s it, we’ve got it!”
This was the kind of work that inspires me beyond words – it is CREATIVE and INTENSE with the highest standards of musical values – not simply to dazzle or impress – but instead calling on all these qualities to work together to build up something honest and living that may just have the chance to touch people. It’s the kind of work that fills me with joy and inspiration.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that I didn’t eat beforehand, thinking I would be home by a decent hour and could then join my wonderful husband for an intimate dinner for two overlooking the rooftops of the Marais from our apartment, right? Well, when you enter “the zone”, time flies, and when the work is as good as this, you are completely unaware of the minutes (hours) whizzing by. My stomach, however, began to protest in earnest, and when my keys unlocked my apartment door at just after midnight, I was ravenous. A simple pasta of cherry tomatoes, green olives, capers, olive oil and a touch of parmesan was heaven on earth, and the perfect finish to such an uplifting night!
And to finish with more good news, I think I can go out on a limb and say that for most of you reading this, you can most likely count on this little project to be a great idea for a beautiful, touching Christmas gift later in the year for fellow opera lovers. (I know, that’s terribly cheeky of me, but you’ll understand in due time!)
And now? A day off and back to my beloved Romeo tomorrow night! Seriously, someone pinch me…