Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Balls to the Wall
|I’ve been asked by a fellow blogger to write and describe what it is like to sing Wagner. Well, the short version is that it feels like what a camel must experience when it hurls it’s larynx out of its throat. This is true. Camels will on occasion upchuck it’s vocal mechanism and let it dangle outside it’s mouth at a human it feels is a threat, or at attractive double humpback female camels as a mating ritual. Evil baritones have been known to do this when singing Wagner.|
The Flying Dutchman is one of Wagner’s early operas and consists of many signature Wagner motive’s which are prominent later on in his bigger grand operas, but also has much sense of the Romantic style that Wagner appreciated, especially from Bel Canto composers such as Bellini. Richard Wagner, however, has taken liberties with his compositions. He enlists broad strokes of melody with hellacious ranges, and gigantic leaps in dynamics for singers of opera.
To sing Wagner is a stretch vocally, musically, and physically challenging for one’s stamina. I was so physically exhausted after singing the men vs. ghost chorus in Act III that I literally collapsed in the Green Room each night after performing the scene. With wads of tissues in hand I dampened my sweaty brow and gulped water like it was sweet as milk & honey. It certainly did not help that the director’s staging had us stomping, hitting, and otherwise creating mass hysteria onstage while singing, “Steuerman las die vacht!” That chorus and style of singing can only be described by the term known to all singers as, "Balls to the Wall!"
And after each curtain call when the throng of 3,000 fanatics were finished applauding, whooping and whistling, I lingered on stage after the curtain’s final drop so that I could search for my vocal mechanism which was left somewhere downstage right. Wagner? Oy! I love his music, but I think I’ll stick to singing Mozart & Puccini.
Monday, April 09, 2007
At Least He Was Upwind
Monday, April 02, 2007
Is There An Octogenarian In The House?
|As read on my fortune cookie consumed before Flying Dutchman's final performance:|
Seek advice from an octogenarian.
What? What's an octogenarian? And why must I seek advice from one? Am I sick? Do I have only 6 months to live? Never in my childhood life until the present have I encountered such a fortune. Even when I was 11 and snuck an entire week's worth of fortune cookies from the local Chinese joint, opened every one, (ate half of them) and sorted through every slip of paper looking for the one telling me that Angel, my beautiful 6th grade classmate, was meant to be my guiding light, or at least my first kiss, there was Ne'er a fragment of fortune telling me to 'seek advice' from anyone.
I mean, singers are neurotic enough! Ya can't just let me snarf down a bucket of pork fried rice and tell me to seek advice from some octo-something-or-other and then "break a leg!"
What if I did break a leg? Then I'd have to seek advice from someone for sure.
I was about to enter an auditorium full of 3,000 people ready to watch German opera make it's triumphant return to the Portland stage. I was half tempted to ask...
"Is there an octogenarian in the house?"
Or at least ask if one would stand by just in case. But years of training and professionalism paid off. I made it through the show without breaking a leg. But I needed to find out what this octogenarian is and quick! I needed answers! So I did what any normal curious and concerned fortune recipient would do. Get the answer from Answers.com!
Being between 80 and 90 years of age.
A person between 80 and 90 years of age.
Huh? Can't seek advice from Grandma (may her soul rest in peace). Granpa is now 91. Who the heck could I turn to for this much needed advice?
The answer came in the most subtle yet obvious place. Palm Sunday Mass. The next morning while I performed my cantor duties I was approached by a parishoner. She was elderly, I'd say in her 80's. She told me she enjoyed the opera the previous night. But she had some advice. Oh, here it is! The fortune cookie was right!
I waited in great anticipation for the advice I had sought for so long. Well, at least sought for the last 12 hours. She leaned in, motioned for me to bring my ear closer. Obviously this was important advice that mustn't be overheard by just anyone. Then she said to me:
"I enjoyed the opera last night, and my husband goes every time whether he needs the sleep or not. But I think the opera would be more popular if it were more like football, with cheerleaders and a halftime show during intermission."
Amen, sister! I'll soon be holding auditions for the opera halftime cheer squad.