*I wanted to follow up on two of the pictures I posted below, so please excuse the repetition of the photos:
For me, one of the most touching moments of the Marilyn Horne gala took place before any ticket holders were let in through the doors. I was called for an 11:15 rehearsal (the first of the day!), and because I had some time to kill, I stayed in the hall as the handful of other singers rehearsed their respective pieces. As much as folks may love the atmosphere of a packed hall, I don’t know that I will ever feel anything quite as intimately touching or moving as hearing Thomas Quasthoff rehearse his simple tribute to “Jackie”, ‘Wie bist du, meine Königin” (“How blissful you are, my Queen”). There wasn’t a SOUND in the hall, other than Martin Katz’s nimble strokes of the piano keyboard, and the most hushed tone you can imagine wafting from the stage as Thomas sculpted his voice around the perfect text. I couldn’t stop my tears, for it was one of the most perfect things I’d ever heard. And after regrouping myself, I immediately thought, “Oh no – what a tragedy that the hall is empty! No one heard it!!”, and then I realized – that’s not the way it works. Music is created in the split of a second, with a fleeting melody sent out on the breath – and then it dissipates like the ether until if, and when the next phrase arrives. But it can never, ever be recreated. If that isn’t the perfect example of how to live in the moment, I don’t know what is. I had not met Thomas before, but my life is now officially richer for having heard him, and laughed with him!
My first opera experience (for real) was watching a live simulcast from the MET (I’m going to guess circa 1989-90?) of Don Giovanni with Maestro James Levine conducting. It was the first time (but not the last!) that his music making overwhelmed me and showed me the raw power of music.
Fast forward a few years (circa 2002-3?) and I’m finally granted a stage audition at the Met. (This is as opposed to the rehearsal hall audition which everyone knows rarely leads to any actual contracts, but was a necessary step to getting an actual stage audition – in fact, I did 2 of those primer auditions.) Rumor had it that Maestro Levine “might” show up. Trying not to cave in to the shaky knees and sweaty palms as I stared out at the empty 4,000 seat house, I bravely jumped off the ledge with no parachute and launched into “Non più mesta”. Halfway through I saw a dark figure meander into the hall, pace back and forth at random and the only thought running through my mind was, “oh my lord, I think that’s Maestro Levine – he’s bored, he hates me, my singing is making him agitated!!!!” But I kept going. They then asked for “Deh per questo” from Mozart’s “Clemenza di Tito”, to which I immediately began to question, now that Levine was IN THE ROOM, whether my modest ornaments were appropriate or not. Despite the wretched inner dialogue, I kept going, kept singing, and don’t think I altered my ornaments so much.
The world was not set on fire – but I did get a debut contract out of it to sing some performances of Cherubino in 2005. Another season later was my first Rosina. But at this point, I was quite sure the “Levine Boat” had sailed, for surely his repertoire interests did not cross paths with my future undertakings, and so while I was more than happy to be at the Met, I was privately a little sad that perhaps I would never have the chance to work with the Maestro.
Thankfully, they allow stow-away’s on that boat apparently, because I was invited to perform a concert with him and his “band”. Not only would we preform Mozart and Rossini, but he was to play the grand scena “Ch’io mi scordi di te”.
I know that at the end of whatever career I end up having, this experience will always be at the top of my “I can die happy” list. The rehearsal process – so easy and relaxed, and yet so heightened with beautiful music making, Mozart’s divine simplicity shining through – was ample enough for me. But to take the stage with this group of musicians at the top of their game is something I will never forget. Not to mention that the Maestro offered to throw in a little encore – that same “Non più mesta” that seemed to unnerve him before – and if that isn’t the perfect example of things coming full circle, I’m not sure what is! It was a good day!