I had the extreme pleasure of singing on board the US AMSTERDAM recently on a 7-day cruise of Alaska for the Metropolitan Opera Guild. The brilliant Jake Heggie was my collaborative pianist, the dashing Michael Snider the organizer, and a number of enthusiastic opera lovers our audience and travel companions! The week could not have been more memorable, more relaxing, more breathtaking, or more restorative. I was ready for a great week, but wasn’t quite ready for the astonishment that was Alaska. The sights, the sounds (mostly of silence!), the fish, the friendship, the music making. It did this soul such good!
Perhaps my greatest memory was standing next to Jake as we were whale watching (which turned into whale astonishment over and over!), as he scoured the quiet, still waters waiting for that puff of mist to signal they were coming to the surface. You see, Jake is in the middle of writing his next opera, Moby Dick, which is set to open this spring in Dallas. As we set sail, he has just finished the piano vocal score of the piece and had workshopped it in San Francisco, giving him the opportunity to identify the parts of the opera that needed tweaking, and to know what was already working quite well. Upon our return, he would have to start the actual orchestration. So to stand on board next to him as he took in the SILENCE, the expanse, and the MAJESTY of these creatures as they would come to the surface was an experience I’ll never forget. I could see the sounds beginning to formulate in his ear, and I just knew then and there that he would write a masterpiece.
We spoke one day of how nimble and agile these creatures were for their enormous size. “They’re just HUGE”, I said. And then Jake would take a look around us, 360*, at the entire world encapsulating us, and he said, “Actually, they’re not THAT big, all things considered.” That was Alaska – giving us the chance to remember where we fit into the scheme of things, and what real life is actually about.
And then of course, we got to play together!!
As with all things “Cruise ship”, one never knows exactly what to expect. For example, for our first concert, they didn’t have an actual piano available. So they brought down and actual “SLAM GRAND” which was an approximation of an electric keyboard housed in the casing that was made to look, almost, like a grand piano. We couldn’t stop laughing about it – thinking it probably was the only time in our careers we had faced something QUITE like that before. Yeah, the piano was completely hollow:
Truly, it was the trip of a lifetime, wish such great sights, smells, tastes, and just that perfect silence that came with the majesty that was Alaska. It made me realize how important silence is in my life. It makes the sound that follows all that more meaningful.
(More pictures are posted on my FLICKR page, if you’re curious!)