Is this all really happening? Sometimes I blink, and I feel as if I’ve been time warped forward to a future time and place with no warning at all. It seems like just yesterday I was cracking open the score of this Mozartian masterpiece discovering for the first time for myself that, well, yes, actually, THIS IS A MASTERPIECE!!! For me, I can greatly admire a work from the outside, nod to its genius and applaud it loudly, but to climb into it, to wander the psychological corridors of its notes and syllables, and then to actually bring it to life? That’s a different beast entirely.
I’ve been gently tiptoeing in Elvira’s shoes for a while now, feeling not QUITE integrated into her thought process, struggling with the odd pitch here and there, and feeling a bit outside of the action, mainly because the rest of the cast members seem so adept at their roles and know these characters inside and out. It also dawned on that I had her up on a bit of a pedestal, as in “She belongs to Schwarzkopf. She belongs to Te Kanawa. She is a woman, and I do those ‘happy girls’ and ‘angst ridden boys’!” Also, she’s a bit like Carmen, in that everyone has a strong opinion about who she is – and I had yet to claim her for my own.
Well, as I was sitting in the sitzprobe rehearsal on Tuesday – (which is my favorite rehearsal of all, because it’s the first time we meet the orchestra, and we aren’t doing any movement at all – we simply stand and sing, and every ounce of focus rests on the MUSIC!!! After a long time working on the ACTING during previous rehearsals, it’s pure heaven to simply SING again!) – I was swept away by the genius of Mozart, by my wonderful colleagues, and by the great Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the band, who play this music SO beautifully. And while this may sound a bit naive, it was simply by listening to the unbelievable rich and inventive orchestration going on live, underneath me that I started to “get” Elvira. I mean to really get her – not just approximate her antics, but to really start to feel the emotion that drives this lady. As is ALWAYS the case, Mozart paints the emotional content of his character’s hearts in the palpitating or soaring or hollow orchestration. He revealed a beautiful woman to me, and one whose shoes should fit, actually, quite well!
Now, here is poetic justice: when I was training in Houston, during my first season, I covered the role of “Siebel” in Faust. I observed the professional cast day in and day out and marvelled at how great they were. The Faust was Ramon Vargas and the Mefistofole was Eric Halverson. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be opening the season of the Royal Opera House as a colleague to those two, I would have passed out on the spot! The morning of the sitzprobe, however, I was able to listen to Ramon carry the endless phrases of Don Ottavio with seemingly no effort, to hear Eric BOOM out the famous strains of “Don Giovaaaaaani” and send real shivers down my spine, to watch Simon Keenleyside craft a truly complex and suavely brutal Don, and simply be mesmerized by my latest discovery of how fabulous this opera is. I decided to shed my preconceptions of this role, make the most of this astonishing opportunity to sing this music, and to simply make it my own. What a difference a change of thinking can make.
I can still remember as if was yesterday – thanks to that time warp thing – watching the film, “Amadeus” for the very first time. It shocked and awed to say the least! Regardless of whether it was historically accurate or not, it accomplished in brilliant fashion the bringing to life of Mozart’s music – and along with the use of the Requiem music, the depiction of the final scene of Don Giovanni haunted me for a long time afterwards. To finally take part in this opera, well, it is a true gift.
And a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write, to offer well-wishes, etc. I truly appreciate it, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
(Also there has been no time to take and/or process photographs for the time being – I’ll catch up when I can!)
Photo c/o The Royal Opera House