Monday, February 2, 2009


*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!

There really aren't words for this. Truly. There aren't. But, of course, I'll try.

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!


JAC said...

The Don Giovanni telecast was April 1990 -- so if that really was a wild guess out of the blue, well done!

And... "Ch'io mi scordi di te"! Against awe-inspiring competition, the greatest piece of music Mozart ever wrote -- if the performers get it right! I bet you and the Maestro and the orchestra did. I wish I could have heard it. It must have been sublime.

Dr.B said...

It is this existence in the moment that does make us love it so.

Pablo Ordás said...

The last week of the month I'm going to New York with a friend. We are staying a week and we have tickets for 4 operas -we're crazy-, but we could not miss Placido Domingo, Angela Gheorghiu, Samuel Ramey... All of them in 5 days!!!
Well, it's a pitty we won't see Levine conducting, but you can't have it all, can you?
Best regards!

Caitlin said...

When I was 19 I heard Thomas Quastoff sing "Winterreise" at Ravinia's Bennet Gordon Hall... the cycle itself last for over an hour, but I was certain at the time that it had only been 20 minutes, during which I felt like I hardly breathed. I have remember and spoken about that experience for years and will for the rest of my life...

marcillac said...

On a somewhat related topic, it says on the internets (and must therefore, beyond peradventure, be true) that you'll be singing Cherubino in Chicago next year. For that I have just one word:

Well...maybe a couple of words...err...thomes.

In your remarkable post about your trouser roles last summer you included a photo of your Cherubino in Pars. I commented under that post how much I regretted having missed it and added the supposition that you had almost certainly cancelled the good Captain. It is something of a pet peeve of mine when exceptional Mozart singers quite their roles in the DaPonte operas, and especially with respect to Figaro, Cherubino and most of all the Countess. This applies to interpretations I've heard, literally, a dozen times and, obviously, a fortiori to portralys by favorite singers whom I have not heard in these roles.

Still, I had missed your Cherubino and that was that. Indeed, in my request for repertoire (which I trust was taken for the humble pleading it was offered rather than the "demand" Dolcevita seemed to think)I did not include him because I did not dare hope a reprise was in the offing.

My satisfaction that you will indeed be returning to him is all the greater then for being such a surprise and almost makes up for the fact that cirucmstances and location compelled me to miss out on the Furore and the Met Concert.

Kudos to Lyric for staying in good financial health in the present circumstances, putting together a great season and in particular for persuading you return to the Page.
Happy marching, Captain.

So, to sum up: YIPPIE!

Your French sounds quite exceptional at the moment.

Papagena said...


I love the way you express the magic of that unique moment listening to the great Thomas Quasthoff, all alone in the hall.

You moved me, as usual :'-)

I'm happy that you were able to spend some time with Mr. Levine!