I have been asked on occasion to write a few articles for our trade publication: The AGMAzine.¬† Below is a copy of the article which has (or will) recently appeared.¬† This may be a good way to kick off the year 2014…since I have rehearsal later this morning to start the post holiday season!
A day in the life of an opera singer has many permutations depending upon the time of year, or where in the performance calendar one happens to be.¬† On this particular day in late September, I have only begun my daily processionals into the opera house by a week or so‚Ä¶ in this case, the Lyric Opera of Chicago.¬† As a multi-decade principal artist of this august organization, I have by now seen almost every post, from General and Artistic Director right down to the fine doormen and service staff, change hands.¬† There is an old saying:¬† ‚ÄúHang around long enough and you will become part of the establishment‚ÄĚ.¬†¬† I know just about everyone here, and everyone knows me (for better or worse, in the case of the latter).¬† But make no mistake, in the dynamic environment of a major international opera company; some things are always changing, while others never do.
I am up early on this day (6:00 a.m.) since the schedule indicates that I‚Äôll be rehearsing some of my big scenes today.¬† Those paper rehearsal slips located in our artist mailboxes in the rehearsal department, have now become a thing of the past.¬† I head to my iPad to look at the new online schedule that we now receive daily via email while the morning coffee percolates.¬† A quick glance through my emails, then it‚Äôs right to that schedule.¬† Yes, I remembered correctly, an 11:00 a.m. start‚Ä¶ and I had better warm up my voice this morning!¬† A few sips of half-caff coffee as the WGN Morning News plays in the background.¬† Can‚Äôt stand the damned iPad keyboard when I must write an email to my manager/agent about a free time period that I would like filled on my calendar; so it‚Äôs up and out of my comfortable lounge chair and into my office to get my laptop.¬† I write that snarky email, read it over and over again, send it off to my agent, and then perseverate over it for the next 20 minutes.¬† ‚ÄúWhy won‚Äôt they hire me?‚ÄĚ I ask myself.¬† ‚ÄúAm I too old?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúHave I gotten too expensive?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúDo I not sing well anymore?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúDid I do something wrong?‚ÄĚ ‚Ä¶wait a minute‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúI have never even sung there, how could I have done anything wrong!?‚ÄĚ I finally tell myself.¬† Look at the clock; I‚Äôm going to be late for my 7:15 a.m. spin class at the gym.¬† Out of the chair, into my gear and out the front door.¬† Leave the gym by 8:15 and back home by 8:25.¬† Pour another cup of coffee and take a quick look at MSNBC‚Äôs ‚ÄúMorning Joe‚ÄĚ before heading into the shower.¬† Lip trills while shampooing gives me confidence‚Ä¶ ‚ÄĚlots of resonance in here‚ÄĚ, I say to myself.
It‚Äôs 9:15, but I wait until 9:30 to sit at my piano and start the vocal exercises.¬† Easy does it at first.¬† Computer ‚Äėding‚Äô tells me I have email.¬† I glance through the junk correspondence and focus like a laser-beam on the reply from my agent.¬† He promises to call Houston again‚Ä¶ (yeah, yeah, that‚Äôs what they all say.)¬† I want to be out of the house by 10:15 but thankfully I have a contract in quadruplicate that I must sign for a future engagement before I depart‚Ä¶ one copy for me, one for AGMA, one for my agent, and one for the company.¬† ‚ÄúWell, at least I have somewhere to work in the future‚ÄĚ I tell myself.¬† Envelope, stamp, return address? ‚ÄėCheck!‚Äô Got ‚Äėem all; and into the outgoing mail on my way out.
I enter the Stage Door, and there he is, security doorman extraordinaire Mr. Holliday (one of the great things that hasn‚Äôt changed)!!¬† ‚ÄúHow ya feelin‚Äô???‚ÄĚ he says with a smile, and comes around to give me a hug.¬† ‚ÄúYou know, just trying to stay busy my man‚ÄĚ, I reply.¬† Into the building and say hello to Gabby and Sal in the rehearsal department (two new members of our Lyric Opera family).¬† ‚ÄúYou have mail in your box, Mr Cangelosi!‚ÄĚ‚Ä¶‚ÄúPlease, call me David‚Ä¶ ‚ÄĚ¬† How nice, an invitation to the opening night party for the Madame Butterfly cast.¬† No time to deal with that, as I must rush up to the music library on the 6th floor.¬† Wendy, the Librarian, helps me pull several scores that I need for current and future reference.¬† I duck into one of the practice rooms for five more minutes of warm-up, then on to rehearsal room 200 right on time!¬†
It is the start of a four-hour rehearsal with so many familiar faces in the stage management staff, with hugs all around almost every morning.¬† Everyone is in a good mood (Maestro Armiliato, James Valenti, Amanda Echalaz, Christopher Purves, Mary Ann McCormick,¬† just to name a few), including our wonderful understudy/cover cast; and I think how lucky I am to be working with such great colleagues.¬† A break after 90 minutes sends most of us to the washrooms, or the coffee pot.¬† Hello to John Coleman in the elevator and Lucy from wardrobe in the hallway, a hug to Marina whom I have just seen for the first time since arriving back, a schedule clarification from Ben, a favor to ask of Josie and Amy in the rehearsal department, a shout out to ‚ÄėJunior‚Äô, Mack, and Charlie (stage-hands)‚Ä¶ all on the way to the coffee pot.¬† DAMN, no one has made any fresh coffee!!!¬† Stage manager Caroline Moores calls over the system-wide intercom (in her ever elegant English accent): ‚ÄúThe Butterfly staging rehearsal will resume in 5 minutes, all principals and maestri to Room 200 please.‚ÄĚ¬† (Didn‚Äôt really need coffee anyway, I tell myself.)
Back in the rehearsal room:
I am surrounded by delightful people, stunning vocal talent, fabulous pianists, and outstanding conductors, directors, and choreographers.¬† We laugh as we make mistakes, compliment each other as we work, ask for a costume piece or prop that we have forgotten, lumber up the raked stage, trip up a stair, or lose our balance slightly on a ramp.¬† The set is new, and we are getting our bearings.¬† ‚ÄúI love this job‚ÄĚ, I sigh to myself.¬† ‚ÄúThank you Lord‚ÄĚ, I whisper in virtual silence, as we all attempt to stay relevant.¬† We check our cell phones for emails, sneak out a text message to our friends and loved ones, or look at photos on these hand held marvels and wonder what we did before they existed as a ‚Äėpalm accessory‚Äô.
We finish our work after 4 hours (but we usually rehearse for 6); there is more to do, but I am done for the day at the opera house.¬† I stop by the FedEx Office to make a few copies of items I need, then head home.¬† I live two short blocks away, by design.¬† Sometimes we have 2-3 hours of break in between rehearsal periods, and commuting long distances in between became too much for me about 10 years ago.¬† Because I‚Äôm so close, no matter the circumstance, I never have to worry about being late and can always run home in between rehearsals or for lunch.
I arrive home by 4:00 p.m., but my workday hasn‚Äôt finished.¬† Seated in my study chair‚Ä¶ the one that faces away from the television, I crack open that score of Cunning Little Vixen.¬† Czech isn‚Äôt my best language, and I struggle mightily trying to put the text to the rhythm.¬† I‚Äôll be singing it with the Cleveland Orchestra in the Spring, and it‚Äôs got to be perfect.¬† That‚Äôs what a lot of folks simply don‚Äôt understand; we work at home in silence, or at our pianos for hours on end, and do not get paid for it‚Ä¶ that‚Äôs just part of our profession.¬† I grow weary, frustrated, and angry because the text just won‚Äôt come out!!¬† C‚Äômon David, c‚Äômon!!!¬† I slam the score shut and curse my lot‚Ä¶
I make a light dinner, pay a few bills online, check in on the news of the day, FaceTime my fianc√©e, and call my parents.¬† But still I see that score sitting on the piano‚Ä¶ it taunts me.¬† I hate you, you ‚ÄėCunning Little Vixen‚Äô; I can bear you no more today.¬† The phone rings at 6:30 p.m. (7:30 in New York), I recognize the number.¬† It‚Äôs him.¬† ‚ÄúYes John‚ÄĚ, I answer without saying hello.¬† ‚ÄúDaaaviiiid, Houston just hired you for back-to-backs in 2015‚Ä¶ what do you think? ‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI love you John‚Ä¶ and thanks for this.‚ÄĚ
I guess I CAN study that Janacek score for another 45 minutes before ‚Äėcalling it a day‚Äô after all‚Ä¶ .