Sunday, July 29, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

The days are just packed. Packed I tell you!

Friday I brought Alex to the ice-cream social. He was shy at first but after running around a tree five hundred times he finally warmed up. He even spontaneously broke into song, causing the artistic director of the opera to turn his head! He also told a bunch of people that he wants to be an opera singer, and just like in the video here, launched into Pa pa pa.

Saturday Jim and I went to see Die Zauberflote. It was great. The three ladies had matching sidekicks - "ladies in waiting." The girls had matching costumes with their lady - it was really cool. Papageno was hysterical - really really funny. He entered from the house and sang his first aria from the aisle. He couldn't see the conductor and he kept losing his place with the music. Otherwise he was great. Everyone was. The three spirit boys were played by three women from the chorus. They wore these Harpo Marx wigs and white or grey pajama-like outfits that I later heard were ordered from a clothing catalogue for gay men. Hmm. Pamina was great. I actually got a little weepy when she was singing to Tamino and he was keeping his vow of silence.

Then that night was the final Romeo. It was fun! We did our bit and then hung out in the green room. I brought a bunch of old Opera News magazines and a few bags of gummy worms. And those gummy worms were a hit! If I had thrown them to the floor I think people would've dove for them. And once again we had our hoods down for the curtain call.

This evening one of the guys who lives locally had a party at his house. It was the first time I really interacted socially with a bunch of the chorus, and it made me sad that I didn't have the opportunity to earlier. The artistic director told me that his favorite part of the Romeo curtain call was my hair. I'm glad it made an impact! I may have written this before, but I wonder if the audience realized that many of the monks were women!

I became friendly with one of the guys in the chorus and listen to this - he took the toefl a few months ago so I asked him if he remembered any of the listening comp sets he had. He described one to me and I totally knew it because I had worked on it! That was pretty funny. He was just shocked when I cut him off and told him what the rest of the conversation was about! I also learned that he is a student of Nathan Gunn. He said he's taking one of his classes in the fall and will tell him that he met one of his fans in NJ. Whatever...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My (biased) Review of the Scenes Concert

I wrote this as if I were writing a review, sort of. Here it is:

When I learned that there were comp tickets available for Mischief, Merriment & Mayhem, my first thought was, Oh well, I have a massage scheduled for that night. A moment later I said to myself, What, are you nuts? Reschedule the massage and go to the concert! And I'm so glad I did! The singing and acting was wonderful!

The show opened with a cute scene from Il Matrimonio Segreto. Two sisters were arguing over (uh… I don't remember what, probably a man) and their aunt was trying to keep the peace. It was so cute! The sisters kept bickering and the aunt, finding herself exasperated, sank to her knees to meditate in an effort to keep calm. The scene culminated with the sisters belly-whopping (is that what it's called?) each other and running off. Wonderful singing, wonderful acting. Plus they were wearing these great, shiny, colorful satin robes.

Next was a beautiful Mozart aria from La Clemenza di Tito sung by tenor John Viscardi. It's hard to find words to describe the beauty of his voice. Clear and bright, full of feeling… just lovely.

On to spookiness- Le Contes d'Hoffman – This was just wonderful. The lighting made huge shadows behind the singers – it was really creepy! Paola Gonzalez was fabulous as the dying Antonia. And Jenni Bank sat so still it was suprising when she began to move and sing. Ricardo Sepulveda was perfectly evil. Very entertaining!

Back to silliness – Rossini of course! People dressing in disguise trying to fool each other. The scene was from Le Comte Ory. It was hilarious. I love how the nun entered the scene from the audience. The three singers had great comic timing. This was just wonderful. The expressions on Kala's face were just priceless!

Then we were treated to the popular "La Donna e Mobile," sung by tenor Patrick Layton. His facial expressions and gestures added just the right touch to his performance.

The caption on the dress rehearsal photo said he was singing A Mes Amis. I wish I could have heard him sing that! Maybe I'll find him in the green room during Saturday's Romeo performance and make a request.

Next: Mozart. Don Giovanni. Need I say more? Well I will! WOW. Mozart is the master of everyone singing different things at once, and the group on stage pulled it off with ease. It was awesome.

Then we were brought back to Rossini, this time, La Cenerentola. Cinderella. She's so good to forgive all the people who were mean to her. Sara Fanucchi made Rossini's crazy coloraturas sound so easy. The choreography was great. I found it interesting that the music for this aria is the same as "Cessa di piu resistere" from the end of Barbiere.

After a short intermission, the show continued with what I believe was the highlight of the night: Zulimar Lopez. Wow. WOW! WOW! 'nuff said. I'm glad she didn't trip over the fallen barrette.

After recovering from Ms. Lopez's stunning performance, we were treated to another Mozart piece – one of my favorite arias from one of my favorite operas, La Nozze di Figaro. I don't recall the name of the aria. (I can still love it without knowing the name, right?) Ah the Count. Ah baritones. Love Rob's voice.

Ok then it was back to the master of silliness, Rossini, with something from L'italiana in Algeri. This was hysterical! The choreography was fabulous. Everyone had such great looks on their faces and excellent comic timing.

Next we were treated to a lovely Donizetti aria by Gabriel Gunsberg.

The show culminated with an entertaining trio from, you guessed it, Rossini. This time it was Guillame Tell. I got distracted part way through this one because I thought I heard someone's cell phone vibrating behind me. I peeked back and saw that an audience member had dozed off and was snoring! How???

So maybe I'm biased since I've seen all these singers perform over the past few weeks and have gotten to know some of them, but I thought the entire evening was fabulous.


So much has happened since I last posted. A dress rehearsal, two performances, two scenes concerts... where to begin.

I'll begin with the sad news that my dear aunt, "Auntie Cyd," passed away on Friday, the 21st at the age of 96. She had been so supportive of both Alex's and my musical aspirations. I'll miss her dearly.

Back to the opera.

I decided to make a true effort to "get over it" and be social. Well well well. It worked. Mostly. There are still one or two women in the chorus who I think are just unhappy people, but otherwise everyone has responded, even if hesitantly at first. Of course, the fact that I brought cookies, a big crossword book and the latest Opera News helped! Another thing that helped is that one of the guys told me about a group on Facebook for the summerfest program. I joined Facebook and joined the group. It's a cool site, much nicer to work with and look at than MySpace. So I've shared my photobucket link and I've sent links to Romeo reviews to one of the members who's been posting them.

Ok so... let's move on to the dress rehearsal. My robe was so long, I was tripping over it as I walked. I don't know how I got out there without dropping Erika (our dead Juliette) to the floor. Somehow I managed. Then when it was time to leave the guys got to her head and started lifting before Rachel and I got to her feet. We scrambled to get our end, meanwhile the shroud slid off in front of me so I tried to catch it, now only holding on with one hand, while also trying not to trip. So I might have stepped on the dress of the woman at the end of the line... sorry about that!

Two days later, on opening night, I found that the costume shop had hemmed the robe. Too much. Now it was above my ankles! Better that than tripping I guess. So after the prologue I went to the costume shop to have it lengthened. Of course no one was there b/c they were all backstage checking everyone as they went on. But eventually I did get it lengthened before my next 5 second appearance to remove the basket.

Sunday the 22nd was the next performance. It was at 2, and Auntie Cyd's funeral was at 2:15, so I was thinking of her as I went on stage.

I brought chocolate chip cookies so after the prologue I put them out in the green room, along with the NY Times crossword book, a cool ball and the latest Opera News. It was actually a lot of fun hanging out with people there. Plus as a bonus this cute 29 year old guy flirted shamelessly with me. Well he flirts with everyone but hey, who cares? He's probably already made his way through the female chorus so he moved on to the supers! Plus he sang a bit of Ecco Ridente... Aye aye aye. He's the one who told me about the Facebook site. If I were, oh, 10 years younger, and single... let's not go there.

Hair, hair, hair. They sewed these loops into the monk hoods and we have to make pin curls in our hair to clip to the loops. Pin curls, I learned, are made by taking a small section of hair, twirling it up and clipping it to the top of the head like Princess Leah (sp?) or something. We're supposed to have the hair people do it but they're always busy doing wigs and makeup for the singers so we're sort of on our own until the last minute, and I do mean last minute. As in, Jenny is giving the "places" call and they're busy redoing our pin curls! So Sunday I did Cathy's hair. In addition to the pin curls we have to have buns. So we sit around twirling and pinning each other's hair. Then, about 5 minutes before the curtain call we were told that we could have our hoods off, so we had this frantic minute of undoing and fluffing out our hair so it looked presentable on stage! It was fun. Rachel ended up keeping hers in a ponytail, and Sharron decided not to go out. Cathy and I had our hair loose. I wonder if the audience was surprised to see three women there as the monks?

We got comp tickets for both scenes concerts. Last week I brought Denise. It was great fun except that she spoke between every performer, usually to ask, "Is HE in Romeo?" "Is SHE in Romeo?" in spite of the fact that I told her that everyone is in all three operas. The performance was great!

Then yesterday I got three tickets so I gave them to Jean and she brought her son along. The show was fabulous. I wrote up my impressions and emailed them to Patricia for the njot blog. I'll post them here too. After the show I was walking out with Jean and Nick and then told her that I wanted to see if anyone I knew was hanging around, so they left. I peeked in near the stage door but didn't see anyone so I went downstairs to leave and who was there but my flirty 29 year old friend. I don't think I need to put his name here. If by any chance anyone from the operafest ends up reading this post they'll surely know to whom I'm referring and I'm sure they'll get a kick out of it. Anyway, he was primed for high-level flirting. Downright suggestive. I gave it right back to him, ingeniously including the fact that I'm married whenever possible. We said goodbye, I left and went to the car, and then there he was walking by so I offered him a ride. He accepted. Turns out he was going two blocks away. Duh!

Friday afternoon there's an ice-cream party and I got the ok to bring Alex. Then Saturday afternoon Jim and I go to Magic Flute, and then the final Romeo is that night. I'm sad that it's ending. I wish we had more than three peformances.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

No, I'm not crazy...

So much to report! Had the piano tech and piano dress rehearsals this week.

The tech rehearsal was the first time we rehearsed on the stage. The director had to make a few adjustments to make things fit. Like, the director told the guys in the chorus that they have to move all the way downstage so that we have enough room to get the bier through. More on that later... And now instead of moving downstage, Rachel and I move upstage to the back, otherwise we'd fall into the orchestra pit! I learned a lot of theater lingo and practice. Like, cue lights; they look sort of like traffic lights or those industrial light bulb cage things, and there are different colors for different cues.

Jim dropped Alex off during Friday's rehearsal. At first he was afraid to enter the theater because the entrance was dark, but as soon as he saw those theater seats he wanted to sit in one. And he did. And it promptly folded up on him! It was pretty funny. So I stuck my leg on the end to keep it open, handed him a box of raisins and he sat quietly watching the rehearsal until I realized that when I traded cars with Jim when he dropped Alex off, I left the keys to the car I was now supposed to be driving in my work bag in the car Jim was now driving to Philadelphia in... oops! Luckily he hadn't gotten far so he came back with the keys. Thank goodness for cell phones!

Saturday was the first dress rehearsal. The sleeves of my monk robe hadn't been sewn into cuffs, and they did it then, finishing a few minutes before the rehearsal started. The costume shop was very busy! Someone was doing wigs and hair extensions in one corner, someone else was ironing, sewing machines were whirring and people were hand-sewing things too. In between all that they measured and fixed my sleeves, cut and tied rope around all the monk robes as a belt and were constantly interrupted by cast members stopping in to ask if they looked OK. It was nuts! But my sleeves got fixed and we all got our belts. The hoods are huge. You have to have it just so or it'll flop over your face. Everyone kept telling us that we looked like characters from Star Wars. Actually that was the first (and pretty much only) time the members of the chorus really interacted with any of us.

Which brings me to the subject of my post. I wrote before about the social dynamics at work in the cast. The supers stick with the supers, the chorus sticks together and the principles seem to hang out alone. So on Friday when we were all assembling in the theater, I sat in a row where some chorus members were sitting. Someone in front turned around, I said hello, she turned back without answering. Okay... In the hallways too... I'd say hello... that is, if the person even made eye contact... Some grudgingly replied, most ignored, none smiled. On Saturday I arrived early enough to get coffee at the Wawa. One of the chorus was next to me getting milk and sugar. I smiled and said hello. She gave me this half smile and said hello as if it pained her to do so. Later I was walking behind her from the dressing room to the theater and she dropped one of the doors in my face. Did she not know I was behind her? Was I being too sensitive? Or were the women in the chorus being unfriendly? I asked Cathy, one of the other supers. She said she had noticed it too but like me, wondered if she was imagining it. So we started paying attention, saying hello as we passed them, etc, and almost all snubbed us. A few said hello but none smiled. Strange. Then during the rehearsal, the men didn't move down enough, so the last guy in line was directly in front of me when I had to come out. I managed to squish around. The director wanted to talk to someone about the scene so I asked the guy if he could move down. The woman in front thought I was talking to her and I told her no, she was fine, it was the guys, and I was talking to the guy behind her. She turned to him and said in the most distasteful way, "Ricardo, this person wants to tell you something." It was all I could do not to laugh at the way she said that! Okay... he was nice enough but really it's the first guy in line who wasn't moving down enough, so I told the asst stage manager.

We share a dressing room with the women's chorus, much to their disappointment. There were a few women there when I arrived and no one replied to my hello. In the green room near the dressing room there was a big bag of candy from the night before, with a sign on it saying it was for the supers to thank them for their hard work. I heard one of the women say, "Ugh. It's for the SUPERS."

Now I must point out that not all the chorus members are behaving this way, but most only interact with us if they absolutely have to, and then they make it clear that they'd rather not.
I'm not upset or personally offended since none of them know me. I do feel that their behavior is unprofessional. Funny, since the supers are volunteers and the chorus gets paid. (At least I think they do.) I'll continue to smile and be friendly, and if I keep getting snubbed I just might call someone on it. Just for fun.

The principles, on the other hand... They smile, say hello, hold doors, say "excuse me" and "thank you" and generally behave like normal, friendly people. The director is cool too. He's silly a lot of the time, makes a lot of jokes, even when sort of scolding people about what they're doing, so people can laugh at themselves and not get upset.

So I ask for comments here from theater and opera people: Is this normal behavior for an opera chorus? Is there some sort of pecking order here and supers are at the bottom?

And so not to end on a sour note, I leave you with Juliette's pretty aria before the ball from Friday's rehearsal, in three parts. THIS is why I wanted to be a super!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Can't type in the "title" field. Just as well because I can't think of a good title at the moment.

Had another run-through yesterday. Guess what? I got put into another scene! The director actually remembered my name, which is impressive since there are so many people involved in the production and I've only been to three rehearsals. He decided to have the supers do one of the scene changes, which I think is a cool idea. I've seen it done in other operas and I like how it looks. Definitely better than black-clad stagehands skittering about moving things around in the dark. So now I go on as R&J leave after their wedding. I pile a bunch of odds and ends into a basket and carry the basket off. Two other supers take the table, and Sharron (with 2 Rs) takes the chair. I feel like it's so silly to be excited about this and writing all these minute details, but it's really so much fun.

They went through the sword fight a few times, first as part of the run-through, and then a few times silently while the fencing guy (I assume that's who he was...) gave them tips. It looks like a lot of work! There are tons of people all jumping around, clashing swords and pretending to punch and be punched. One guy had to keep falling down flat on his face each time. Ouch!

It's weird being a super. There's a social dynamic that must occur with any production and we're sort of in our own little universe. Everyone seems very nice but I really haven't interacted with anyone except the other supers. I had one very short conversation with one of the singers yesterday about curly hair because we have similarly textured hair. But then the swordfight got a bit too close and she had to move or get stepped on. The chorus members have been rehearsing together for weeks now and all seem to know each other really well. They drape all over each other when they're not on and have all these different little social groups. Some stay in the room during rehearsal, others move to the green room. And the truth is, as outgoing and friendly (pushy?) as I can be, I'm actually a little intimidated to talk to anyone. What's up with that??

I took a bunch more videos and put them up at Photobucket.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Super R&J Business

I've been to two more rehearsals for Romeo. On Saturday we carried Juliette in and out on that stretcher thing about 5 times. That was a bit much on my arms! But I survived.

Yesterday was the first run-through. Once again it was amazing to hear all the singing! And what was really cool too was that I didn't care that all these extra people were watching. Not that I do anything momentous or requiring any skill, really, but I had no problem taking a deep breath and lapsing into, "Sad, accepting, respectful monk-mode," or, SARMM as I just this moment decided to call it. I hung out for a while after I was done, just to watch. It was such a treat! I wish I understood more French so I could follow the dialogue. I made a bunch of short videos. Here's one where the stretcher, which had been leaned up against the wall, falls, and one of the other supers catches it.

That one and the others are here.

Next time I'll see if someone will take pictures of the super-monks in action.

Road Trip!!! (Air trip actually)

Well well well. Oh dear. I learned something today, something... interesting. Oh yes. I thought I had read somewhere that JDF was playing Almaviva at The Lyric next year, so just for fun I went to their website. And guess who's playing Figaro. I mean, guess!!??

So now... I HAVE to go. There is no "thinking about it, maybe, hmm..." Oh no. I AM GOING. I think I have enough frequent flyer miles to cover the ticket. I just have to wait until Aug 1 when single tickets go on sale to see if I can get a good-ish seat for the night I can go - the only mid-week performance during Spring Break, when Jim will be able to stay home with Alex. I emailed Elizabeth in Seattle to see if she'd be interested in going. Either way, I'm going, even if I'm going alone. I wonder what type of hotels are near the opera house? (And on a related note, I wonder what hotel... never mind, I won't even finish that juvenile thought. At least not here.)

No sore throats allowed this winter, guys!

And of course I'm still going to R&J at the Met this December...

Speaking of R&J... time for a separate post...