Mac Davis…and a magical night at the opera??

Among the many fine memories I have of my late brother (whose personage I rarely mention current day, since his untimely passing was over 30 year ago) was his love for a variety of music.  I recall very clearly that Mac Davis was among his favorite singers in the popular/country genre.  Actually, WIXY 1260 AM, was the preferred radio station for the younger generation in Cleveland, Ohio when I was growing up; and it played a potpourri of music that was popular with the growing student class, including Sammy Davis Jr. (The Candy Man), Wayne Newton (Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast), Alice Cooper (School’s Out), The Beatles (“anything”), The Who (Pinball Wizard), etc. etc., in addition to the aforementioned Mac Davis .  Well, my brother was quite proud of his “The Best of Mac Davis” album, and in 1976 Mr. Davis, who is still performing to this day, had a hit song entitled Every Now and Then.  I have never forgotten the lyrics to this song, or its message….in short: “Baby that’s what keeps me goin’, I find comfort just in knowin’, that it happens Every Now and Then”.

Last night (August 24) here in Santa Fe was just one of those nights that only happens “every now and then”.  It was the penultimate performance of The Tales of Hoffmann, and most seemed as usual in the dressing room and backstage….greetings all around, visits from the conductor and management to check on everyone’s well-being, assistant stage managers in and out, our dressers laying out costume pieces, hair and make-up staff keeping to their schedules of preparing the artists for performance, and announcements from the stage manager’s desk that get piped into the dressing rooms.  Just a normal night it seemed, until the downbeat at 8:00 p.m.

What ensued was an almost perfect performance where EVERY singer on stage had a great night vocally, thereby leaving no one out of the excitement.  The orchestra was fabulous, our conductor (Stephen Lord) was all smiles in the pit, the chorus was relaxed and relieved (now that their opera scene showcases were over), and there was not one technical glitch.  In other words, every “i” was dotted, and every “t” was crossed.  The group hugs just before curtain calls in the wings of the stage, where we all routinely say “bravo…great show” to one another, were just a bit more meaningful because we all really knew that this was our best…ALL of our best, ALL at the same time, ALL on the same night…again, no one was left out of the party.

Erin Wall, who has been intelligently navigating the treacherous Offenbach score all season as the Four Heroines was virtually flawless, with coloratura to burn as Olympia, breadth of beautiful sound as Antonia, and unlimited high notes as Giulietta.  This was a particular triumph for her, as these roles can be devastatingly unforgiving, and is why they are rarely tackled by one soprano alone.

All others, including ‘yours truly’, simply had it all at our disposal last night.  Not sure why?!  Maybe the cooler temperatures made it easier to breathe, maybe the 8:00 p.m. start time made us feel a bit more normal physically, maybe it was because we knew we were coming to the end of the run, maybe it was the wonderful audience, or the full moon; I simply do not know, nor will I ever.  I will simply say that while most performances at this level of international repute are basically quite stable and consistent, there are still some truly special performances for everyone involved that only occur occasionally….and they are the ones we will never forget.  So the best way to end this post is to simply quote Mac Davis one last time (and thank my dearly departed brother Dino for forcing me to listen to him!):

“Thank God It Happens Every Now and Then”

Young Love….

With only two weeks left before we settle the 2010 Santa Fe Opera season, there are still a few surprises for audiences, and we veterans alike, to experience–namely the two Apprentice Scene Programs, the first of which was last night (Sunday, August 15), the next of which will be next Sunday (August 22).  These fully staged, fully costumed, operatic programs are put on entirely by the “apprentice staff” from the various departments which they have served for, and learned from, these past many weeks.  It was, in fact, a nice touch to have ALL of the singers, and varied department and stage personnel, take the stage together for one big final bow at the close of yesterday’s performance.  They certainly deserved our applause, admiration, and extended encouragement.

These are the nights when all the principal singers of the season (along with the public) take to the seats in the theater to watch and support the young ladies and gentlemen who have dutifully served as outstanding ensemble/chorus members and fine colleagues throughout the season.  We were treated to scenes from Little Women, The Tender Land, Il Pagliacci, Vanessa, Werther, and more.

As I entered the theater via the stage door with Stephen Lord (who I happened to run into in the parking lot), we spoke about how the event was a sell-out, and we hoped we could find seats.  We came across that familiar buzz of excitement that permeates the backstage area with an energy that simply cannot be described.  Only this time, we didn’t have to really share in any part of that angst-ridden enthusiasm; no, we just broke away from one another with the knowledge that tonight was our night off–a night to look, listen, and enjoy.  These nights are the moments that the apprentice artists truly get to shine–all on their own–and while I cannot speak for Maestro Lord, I for one can say that I was not disappointed.

I sat in my seat and watched the first half, went to the Opera Club and chatted with colleagues during intermission over drinks and decaf, returned to the auditorium for the second half, and went back-stage to congratulate these young professionals post-performance.  All dressed up they were, as they were getting ready to head to the party on the vast opera grounds that was, at long last, in their honor.  They were relieved, thrilled, giddy, and very appreciative that so many of “the principals” had come to see them.  I also stopped by the costume and make-up shop on my way out, to commend that workforce on their contribution to the evening’s success.  Dressed as if they too were going to a Hollywood premiere, with hair “up-do’s” and long (as well as some very short) dresses, they could hardly believe that someone had actually stopped to talk to them or better yet, that someone even recognized that they were part of the magic.

I walked quietly to my car, to head back to my Santa Fe home, and mused about how I should really tell these singers to expect difficult years ahead.  Years that will be filled with uncertainty, industry politics, vocal changes, vocal troughs, labor/management issues, and an ever changing classical landscape that will muddle their hopeful, but never guaranteed, triumphs.  Then I smiled, and thought “No; not now; not tonight, perhaps never”….

You see, these fresh, new, and wonderful singers are in the throes of ‘Young Love’.  The kind of Love that inspires them, entices them to dream, and pushes them onward, as they service the music they adore and foster the talent that God, or the Cosmos, or Destiny, has gifted unto them.  There is, unfortunately, plenty of time for all the other….”just let them be in love for a little while longer with no interruptions or complications”, I thought,–as I continued to drive quietly home on what had become a cold, damp, and windy Santa Fe night.

Young Love–there is nothing like it!!


Mid-Point, Santa Fe 2010 (Life’s not worth a damn…)

The first week of August in Santa Fe can be nerve-wracking for some singers.  “The reason”, you may ask?  “The World”, would be my answer.  The month of August, but this first full week specifically, is the point at which all the opera productions are now on-stage.  Rehearsals have ceased, and only performances remain.  Sounds relaxing; right?  Wrong!!  Now comes the invasion into Santa Fe of the ‘international press’, members of ‘Opera America’, the ‘Artistic Directors’ and ‘Artistic Administrators’ from every major American opera company and their regional counterparts, as well as ‘General Directors’ from abroad, and all the ‘super-agents’ and ‘artist managers’ that you can think of.

They file into Santa Fe because they can now see all of the scheduled operas within a one week time-frame.  A daunting task for anyone; even for the professional movers and shakers in the industry.  They search for new, up-and-coming singers that appear on-stage, they audition apprentice singers who are here in entry level positions, they stroke the egos of the singers that they represent or whom they have already hired, and they pontificate with one another in Santa Fe’s private Opera Club (located just steps outside the theater auditorium, audience right) over the current state of,  and of course, the future of opera in general.  Last, but not least…and not unlike any other industry in the commercialized world….they come to enjoy a nice business related junket/vacation week here in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We warmly welcome them, to be sure!

However, this drives some of the singers crazy; they fear a bad performance during this week could cost them jobs in the future.  As the wonderful Stephen Lord used to counsel us: “All performances are equal…but some are more equal than others”.  A veiled attempt to advise singers: “For your own sake, try to do your best this week”  (This was advice that I recall him giving to us during his days as Music Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis when the same “industry invasion” takes place in mid-to-late May, or thereabouts).

Well that was the early 90’s when I first heard this advice, and we are now into the second decade of the new millennium.  And quite frankly, while I ALWAYS attempt to put my very best efforts on the stage every night, I don’t really care who is watching me anymore–so long as there is someone watching!  I am, of course, thrilled to see so many folks still coming out to see this magnificent art form during these difficult financial times, but for the first time in my career, I can truly say that I no longer fret about which power-player may be sitting in the house.

There they were, outside the dressing rooms after last Tuesday’s performance….oh, how I used to scan the crowd of opera executives buried three deep outside in that hallway hoping to catch someone’s eye…well, not last Tuesday.  I walked out of the principal men’s dressing room, my mind tired and my body exhausted after this rigorous staging of Hoffmann, and walked straight ahead, eyes fixed on the exit area, moving purposefully right past ALL of them.  Not that any of them were trying to get to me….not the point; the point is that I was not trying to get to them!  Down the stairs, through the orchestra area, through the doors, to the outer walkway that leads to the staircase that brings us to our cars….and what did I see????….several of my other cast-mates who had also quickly gotten out of costume and make-up and were headed home, just like me!!!!  What a feeling…..freedom to just allow yourself to go home!!!  (Erin Wall and I confirmed our quick and purposeful exit at lunch a few days later with a bit of a chuckle.)

In summary, it is this simple:  I basically am not going to be anything more (and hopefully nothing less) than I am right now–been doing it the same way for 20 years in the opera biz, 10 years previous to that on the night-club circuit.  Sometimes singing a bit better, some nights a bit worse, depending upon many factors.  But all in all, I am NOT TRYING to impress anyone any longer.  If my talent speaks to them; fantastic.  If it doesn’t, there is nothing I can do about it.

So thank you Albin Mougeotte (and you too, Jerry!); I now understand–although you both were singing/writing about something else!!

Life’s not worth a damn til you can say, hey world, I am what I am!

Welcome to the NEW David!!!!

After numerous requests, and after 10 years of the same boring ol’ website; it was time for the technically reserved David Cangelosi to get into the 21st century.  I have to admit that the time had most definitely come!!  So after meeting with my point person at Sanctuary Media Group for several hours–face to face, no less–, and after several phone calls from wherever I was in the world, as well as the countless number of emails exchanged, we developed the site that I hope you will now enjoy for well into the future.

It was no small feat to compile the audio/video clips, photos, reviews, interviews, etc. which make up much of the site’s content.  From my Opera News layout, to the oldest hometown news article (which I think I have finally deleted), to the literally hundreds and hundreds of photos, photo discs, and digital electronic photos that I have collected (and thrown in some box) over the years, had at times tested my patience and made me wish I had never started the project.  Now that the new David is “live”, I am determined to keep the site up-to-date, and hopefully, interesting to everyone.  I encourage all visitors to leave comments (good or bad) as I always enjoy hearing from friends and fans.

My thanks to Chris Auman, President of Sanctuary Media Group, for putting up with a techo-idiot like myself.  He has, however, empowered me with many tools that will now help me to keep my site current.  My dislike for “most things technical” was one of the reasons my old site had gotten so…well….OLD!!!  Mr. Auman, however, deserves much of the credit for the site’s contemporary and user friendly design.  He is as much an artist as anyone I have come across over the years.

So with all that being said (or written), I now invite you to enjoy the many wonderful audio/video clips, photo galleries with fully labeled production shots, blog posts with honest opinion and insider information from ‘yours truly’; interviews, scheduling page, reviews, and more.  Please post comments, and feel free to contact me at any time.  I will always try my best to get back to you!

Welcome to the NEW David!!!!  Enjoy!!!!

Albert Herring, Santa Fe Opera Review, July 31 2010

The Santa Fe Opera maintained two traditions that are now synonymous with its 2010 summer season last night: The first was getting an opening night performance (of yet another new production) successfully on stage; the other was doing so amid foul weather.  As penetrating threads of lightening splintered the cryptic night skies of Santa Fe, and sonic eruptions of thunder rattled the canyon below Santa Fe Opera’s Valhalla-like setting–as rain poured down intermittently–, the audience was treated to lighter fare in the form of Benjamin Britten’s three act comic opera, Albert Herring; being performed here for the first time.

The story of young Albert is that of a morally correct, fine upstanding young man who lives in the small town of Loxford in East Suffolk, and is suddenly thrust into the glare of a spotlight where he does not wish to be.  The town’s Festival Committee, unable to find a suitable May Queen, decides instead to crown a May “King”, with Albert being the reluctant recipient.  Albert, while shy and unassuming, is not without desires and dreams of his own.  The idea of possibly traveling away from this small town and no longer tending to the small grocery store along side his somewhat overbearing mother, has particular appeal….at least in his musings.  No matter, as the Festival Committee who has been grousing about the recent moral decay of society (particularly among the female set), and amid hopes of extending the greatness of the British Empire via its own small local contribution, has different and long lasting plans for Albert.  A party ensues in his honor, where he is crowned, receives a twenty five pound (quid) financial gift, a book on Martyrs, and a Bible, of course.  Amid small town pomp and circumstance, speeches, and songs, Albert becomes drunk on lemonade spiked with rum–thanks to the prankster antics of his friend Sid (Joshua Hopkins) and his willing–sort of–accomplice and girlfriend Nancy (Kate Lindsey).

Rumors fly quickly through this small town that Albert has indeed fallen from grace, and further conjecture brings us to the point where it is widely believed that Albert has indeed died, or been killed, as a result of a drunken “row”, or some other sort of disaster.  As the Festival Committee who anointed him, now mourns his passing in a too long, but extremely well written and sung, lament; Albert (nicely portrayed by Alek Shrader) suddenly appears from the basement storage facility of the little grocery mart…with girl in tow, still a bit drunk–but sobering, and is immediately vilified.  In a sort of ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘ soliloquy, Albert explains away this one time drunken episode, claiming he has now “been there and done that”, and wishes to get back to being just plain Albert Herring, while at the same time standing up to his mother…thus finally becoming his own man.  A bit of frivolity returns to the shop, and with candy all around to the town’s children, a fresh peach for Sid and Nancy, and a new sense of ‘being’ for Albert, the opera comes to a happy and frolicking conclusion.

What is missing in the construct above is mention of Benjamin Britten’s ever revolving, constantly revisited theme of “innocence comprised”.  While a lighter take on the subject, to be sure; and a necessary relief from the handling of this message in his other works such as Billy Budd, Peter Grimes, The Rape of Lucretia, and others; it must be noted that Britten’s obsession with this disturbing argument is, in and of itself, disturbing.  While much has been written about Britten’s return to this subject matter, I would like to submit that this repeated litany is better suited for analysis by professional practitioners, rather than this “arm-chair” opera critic.  And yet, it must be said that the sublimation of Britten’s intense preoccupation with this troubling human motif has produced outstanding musical and artistic triumphs.

A series of over-the-top performances and ‘Gilbert and Sullivanesque’ staging bits in Act I almost jeopardized an otherwise fine production, as it it spiraled downward toward near implosion within 25 minutes.  Fortunately, Paul Curran’s usual strong direction reigned in the overwhelming star power of this ensemble cast by Act II, giving us more believable characters, as opposed to the almost silly caricatures that he allowed to be unleashed so early on (Lady Billows eccentric Act II costuming not withstanding).  While all the roles were very well sung, including a very admirable performance by Jonathan Michie as the vicar Mr. Gedge (replacing a reassigned Wayne Tigges), and appropriately strong contributions were offered by all, the only true standout in the cast was the savvy veteran tenor Mark Schowalter, whose portrayal of Mayor Upfold was just understated enough that he was plausibly authentic the entire evening.  Resisting the temptation to compete with his colleagues’ exaggerated portrayals allowed Mr. Schowalter to sing especially well and, oddly enough, stand-out amongst the crowd.

However, the unvarnished star of the evening might well have been Sir Andrew Davis and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.  Davis kept his forces tick-tight the entire evening; their finest playing reserved for the orchestral interludes that underscored the scene changes.  While as beautiful and lush as Puccini (only in a different way), Davis never allowed too much sentiment or overblown opulence to creep into his performance of this Britten; thereby allowing the singers to always be heard, and Eric Crozier’s text to be fully understood.   Special mention must be made of the winds and percussion sections, who dealt with the sometimes rich, sometimes tricky score, with complete authority.

Kevin Knight’s scenic designs provided for perfectly synchronized and balletic scene shifts that actually elicited applause from the opening night crowd, while Rick Fisher’s lighting designs allowed us ample opportunity to see just enough of the risque interplay that ensued outside of Herring’s grocery mart.

For the record, the other finely assembled ensemble cast members included Christine Brewer (Lady Billows), Jill Grove (Florence Pike), Celena Schafer (Miss Wordsworth), Dale Travis (Mr. Budd), Judith Christin (Mrs. Herring); with fine contributions made by Erin Sanzero (Emmie), and Jamie-Rose Guarrine (Cis), respectively.