On October 23 2010, the first of my two contracts with the Metropolitan Opera for this season came to an end. The second contract is scheduled to begin on November 11 (the day after my birthday). So when the curtain comes down for the last time in the run of a show, and the next contract doesn’t begin for a few weeks, folks often ask what it is that we do in between. The answer, of course, differs for all of us and is dependent upon many factors. But suffice it to say, that those with families relish the opportunity to get home (wherever “home” may be) and spend the interim with their loved ones. For others, like myself, who have no wives or children, we often have some different plans. To be fair (and deferential), I must say that I do take many an opportunity these days to return to my hometown to visit with my parents–both of whom are in their 80′s–as well as visit my sister, and the few high school friends with whom I am still in contact. So now that I have made it clear that I do not neglect my family and friends, I can cover a few of the other things that we do when we have free time by using the past few weeks as a fine example:
Within one day of the “curtain going down for the last time” on the Met’s Tales of Hoffmann production, I was packed and ready to head out of New York City to spend one solid week in Boston to work with one of my musical coaches (Jeffrey Brody) who specializes in Wagnerian repertoire. In that the San Francisco Opera’s much anticipated Ring Cycle is right around the corner (next spring/summer), I thought it a good idea to spend some time getting the role(s) of Mime (Das Rheingold and Siegfried) back into my voice and body. This week of intensive work piggy-backs on a week that I spent in the spring of this year with Mr. Brody doing the very same thing.
With giant assignments such as these, I feel that it is imperative for a singer to do a great deal of prep work, even if they are roles we have sung in the past. One must give these larger roles the time and attention they need well before ever getting into the first day of rehearsal–a sentiment that I clearly articulated in my earlier blog post entitled Flawless on Day One. The additional reasons that I head to Boston to see Mr. Brody is because we have worked together for some 18 years; he knows my voice, he knows my working rhythm, he knows my strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, he is the only coach I know who will work for HOURS at a time on this material. It is not uncommon for us to slowly work this rep over the course of 5 or 6 hours each day. Typically, we will do a morning session of 3 hours, break for lunch, then come back and put in a few more hours before calling it a day. We repeat this task each day, with the occasional reward of dinner together–or at least time to enjoy a classic Martini around cocktail hour…or if we are really lucky, we make time for both!!
I cannot express in stronger terms the importance of a good coach that you truly trust. Every singer has at least one (and often a few) that know just how to deal with us, but moreover truly become trusted friends over the course of many years. Others that have fallen into this category for me are Steve Crawford (NYC), Marge Adler (Cleveland), a myriad of fine coaches from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the more celebrated “finishing coach” Craig Rutenberg, with whom I have worked in many international locations. It is because of their musical acumen, and extraordinary “ears” that so many of us excel when we arrive for our assignments. And so, I thank them ALL for bringing me up to speed and getting me ‘ready-to-go’ regardless of the material that must be worked.
While in Boston working with Mr. Brody, when we were “Wagnered out”, we also worked on a last minute assignment that I picked up for early next year–the role of Shuisky in Boris Godunov. It may be hard to believe that Mussorgsky was actually considered “relief” after working the Ring Cycle, but welcome relief it was. Even though Mr. Brody knew this score only cursorily, and my Russian is remedial at best, we patiently worked through the score together and laid a decent foundation that I will build upon back here in NYC when I get together with more experienced Russian coaches. In that Boris is being performed at the Met this season, coaches will not be hard to find who know this score like the back of their hand!!!
Finally, in an effort to erase/manage the memory of this summer’s devastating home invasion in Santa Fe (where most of my personal belongings were stolen), I spent the last few days of this break period flying to Hong Kong. It is there, about 5 years ago, that I purchased a beautiful jade bracelet to celebrate the holiday season that I spent there with my parents; and it is there that I happily replaced it this past week. I know, I know…one shouldn’t become sentimental over objects…I have been robbed in the past, and had my former home in Boston virtually destroyed in a flood a decade or so ago, so I know what it means to lose possessions. But just this once, I thought it might be nice to replace the item, recall its original counterpart, and the reason and circumstances behind it. Plus, it gave me a real chance to recharge my batteries in a city I love so very much; and again, truly begin some new and lasting memories….those are the only things we REALLY own, what is in our hearts and in our minds.
Plus I considered it an early Birthday gift to myself (!); so in an effort to get this editorial posted by today, I will say “Happy Birthday to Me“, and hope that the above chronology will help answer some of the questions that I am often asked about how we spend our “time off” in between jobs!
Thanks for reading,