One Last Hurrah…

It’s Final Siegfried Eve here in San Francisco, and as I gaze out at the clear blue sky (a true rarity these past few months) from my temporary condo at the Opera Plaza complex, I am thinking back on just how quickly the time has passed.  Even though the past three months have been saturated with rain, wind, cold, clouds, and illness…and I am indeed ready to go home…I still cannot help but think about how, in 2008, I thought this day would never come; and am now sorry that it is about to be all over.

I must admit, I had been waiting to recreate my favorite operatic role of Mime for some time now, especially when our sister production of this new and thought provoking Ring Cycle was canceled in Washington D.C. a few years ago.  I have to remember that I have been blessed with some truly legendary productions over time:  The Otto Schenk production that the Metropolitan Opera made so very famous; the August Everding production that so many in Chicago still talk about; and now what will surely be a legendary and lasting production by Francesca Zambello.  To be trusted to create anew a full Ring Cycle with so many talented singers, directors, stage managers, musicians, coaches, prompters, supernumeraries, volunteers, and company administrators; as well as the wholly prepared and ultra professional technical and stage crew, is simply the highest honor that one can hope to be granted.

I can only wish to produce one last fine performance, and go out with a bang in what is truly the Holy Grail of all opera.  The second Ring Cycle was unusually complicated for me, due to a late breaking case of ‘shingles’ that seemed to come out of nowhere (second time in six months)!!!  I wish to thank the medical staff that tended to me in an effort to restore me for tomorrow night’s performance…believe me, my fingers will be crossed until I sing the final note.

I know I will fall off an emotional cliff when it is all over–as I will not be going to work next week; but it is time for a bit of a rest, visits with family and friends, and a little world travel before I begin rehearsals again late this summer in Chicago for two fine productions of The Tales of Hoffmann, and Boris Godunov.

So now that I am packed (with most of my stuff shipped home), and have studied the score one last time (Maestro’s good orders), as well as having cleaned the condo unit (insist on leaving it as good as I found it); it is time to take my meds, watch the recorded WWE Monday Night Raw wrestling episode (my ‘trash interest’), and find a way to fall asleep (something I have not been doing too well these days), and hope to experience tomorrow night…

One Last Hurrah…


Out of the Closet…(Finally)

As a result of the dizzying success of San Francisco Opera’s new Ring Cycle, and for me, Siegfried in particular; I have come so close to being ‘outed’, that I might just as well cop to it right now on my own terms.  If I do not, then I am at risk of photos that may surface, and truthful innuendo that I simply may be unable to deflect any longer in this internet driven, social-media mad world!!  As a result of the recent publicity and media coverage that surrounds this extremely well received and very well reviewed musical and dramatic epic, I further run the risk of having those who knew me step up and verify that which I must now admit…

I realized that I was in serious trouble when, out of the blue (immediately post performance at the stage door, in the Opera House lobby, on the street, backstage, etc., etc.), I was beginning to get a lot of questions from complete strangers who somehow either surmised, or just outright knew, of a past-life that I have tried so hard–for so many years–to hide.  After speaking at a Symposium last Saturday for the local Wagner Society, I walked back to my temporary housing quarters here in San Francisco, ashamed and dishonored, that I had lied yet again regarding this matter.  I vowed to myself that I would not lie or deceive on this subject further, so in an effort to hold onto the last shred of dignity that I still grasp ever so feebly in my hands, I must now confess:


There was a period when, after my marriage ended near the end of 1998, I felt alone, angry, frustrated, and weak.  I felt the need to ‘run’–somewhere, anywhere–and the circus became my only friend.  I had been struggling to learn the French language, as I had secured several prominent contracts with the Paris Opera for succeeding years, and was determined to learn the language!!  I was also continually depressed over my break-up and so, in an effort to clear my mind and perfect that most silken of languages, I took up with a traveling troupe of French Circus Performers (Les Nouvelles Six Messieurs).  Despite the troupe’s name (The Six New Men–referring to the troupe’s founders), this was a full traveling circus…small and low-budget, to be sure…but they held their own.  We mostly traveled to small towns in outlying French Provinces where the larger circuses wouldn’t go–simply because there were not enough customers to support the really big, ‘Big Tops’.  I had had several years of springboard diving experience in my youth, which I continued to pursue through college; I had won a few awards in my early years, but that was about it.  Well, along came a man that I had met through a friend one night at my neighborhood pizza/sports bar that I frequented in Chicago.  (Yes, you guessed it, he was one of the founders of Les Nouvelles Six Messieurs)  A looong conversation later, and after we swapped stories of our failed marriages–only he had children, I did not–he invited me to spend some time with his circus, learn the French language, and otherwise escape my recent past…at least for a little while.  Therefore, in the spring/summer of 1999, when I had almost (and purposely) disappeared from the vocal scene temporarily, I took up with the gang.  They helped me with my air control, taught me the fine art of doing cartwheels, somersaults, shoulder rolls, back-flips, and the like.  While I mostly ‘assisted’ during the bulk of the performance routines, by the end of my time with them, they had worked me into the act.  After all, I was really nothing more than an aspiring acrobat, and thus was a lowly apprentice…if that!!!

That circus has long since folded…financial troubles and other interests of the founders eventually held sway.  But I will never forget those most interesting of times…the smell of the animals (even though they were few), the long drives, the setting up of the circus tent…we even set up our own chairs for the audience to sit in…and oh, those late nights…post finale, when we would just sit under the stars of ‘anywhere France’ and sip what little wine we had, and munch on the now– almost stale–baguettes left over from breakfast.  Sometimes the local crepe vendors would leave us their unsold, and we would place some cheese into them and feel like we were free-men supping at a grand banquet; la grande fete.  Yes, those were the months of my life when I was an ‘acrobat’.  So when Mime does his cartwheels, somersaults, and back-flips on the stage of the War  Memorial Opera House, you no longer have to ask me…

I am now “Out of the Closet”…FINALLY!!!!!!





(Note: Above is the myth, based upon the fact that even after I disavowed the growing rumors over and over again; people still did not believe me. Therefore, this will hopefully satisfy their need for a story to follow closely behind the whispers!)

Butterflies are free…

I write this blog posting as I wait to perform Das Rheingold, the first installment of Richard Wagner’s epic Ring of the Nibelungen, on this, the first of our ‘Cycle’ presentations.  We will perform all four operas this week, and repeat this task to complete 3 full cycles by the July 4th Holiday weekend.  As you can imagine, the anxiety level is as high as the excitement level.  Yes, we have gotten a head start by already presenting both Siegfried and Gotterdammerung in very successful stand-alone performances.  But as we head into the ‘full cycle’ presentations, the tension begins to ratchet higher due to the influx of “Ringheads”, the National and International Press, and Artistic Managers and Administrators; all of whom will come from every State in the Union, and countless countries worldwide.

Therefore, the title of this post should not be confused with the 1969 Broadway play, or the 1972 Feature Film of the same name.  No, the “Butterflies” of which I speak are the ones in the pit of many of our stomachs that come with presenting the world-premiere of this (now complete) new production of the Wagnerian masterwork.  These “Butterflies” are ‘free’, in that we haven’t had to pay for them, but they can indeed cost us dearly if we are not careful.

I know that, for myself, if I am feeling too nervous I begin to make mistakes onstage, and my voice gets bottled up.  A little bit of nervous energy usually helps to promote solid concentration until my auto-pilot kicks in–which is a good thing!  So with extra special attention given to my voice today, and the warm-up process it requires; but in an attempt to flow a relatively normal day, I will now head off to the gym (spin class, some weight work, and sit-ups), come home for a late lunch, and then (perhaps) take a short nap.  Thereafter, I will begin to get ready for tonight’s premiere performance.

This way, I will hopefully keep the nerves at bay, have them cost’ me nothing, and ensure that the “Butterflies remain free”!!!


Siegfried pandemonium, and “One for the Techies”

The roof of San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House almost blew off of it’s trusses last Sunday evening (May 29) at approximately 5:55 p.m. local time–and I am not kidding!!!  Don’t just take my word for it; ask anyone who was there!!  Read on, and you will understand some of what may have contributed to this, over and above the outstanding performance given by a stellar cast!

Baseball has it’s “Bottom of the 9th, down by 3, Grand Slam”; Football has its “Hail Mary Pass” (a thing of real beauty when it works!); Soccer has it’s “Bicycle Kick Goal” during extra-time; Golf has it’s “Hole in One”, OR the “Sinking of a 30 ft. putt on the 18th Hole” to win the tournament; and Basketball has it’s “Mid-Court, Three Point Game Winner” as the clock runs out .

When any of these events occur, what accompanies/follows them, is sheer excitement and near spectator bedlam.  To witness these events ‘live’ is something every fan talks about for the rest of their natural lives; to see them happen on HD TV provides a unique perspective and a proverbial “front row seat” to the action.  But to combine these two separate POV’s–in real time–for the avid fan (and I ain’t just talkin’ jumbo-tron, baby….but real, true HIGH DEFINITION), is probably as close to nirvana as it gets.  Well, opera fans who attend San Francisco Opera’s Ring of the Nibelungen, and have secured balcony seats, will get just that…thanks to something called OperaVision!!!

I would like to think that the instantaneous, almost non-stop pandemonium that materialized when the curtain fell on the Siegfried premiere last weekend was the result of the wonderful performance that the audience had just witnessed; and of course it WAS.  However, I now know for sure that OperaVision provided a great assist in the proceedings!  You see, those who sit in the balcony of the enormous War Memorial Opera House now get a bit of a ‘distance benefit’ for their hard earned dollars: Several retractable video screens have been installed which provide absolutely first-class, live HD video transmission of the stage action.  So those loyal (and usually most vociferous) of opera fanatics get to survey our performances from the furthest AND the closest of viewpoints.  (SCORE, GOAL, SWOOSH, IN THE HOLE!!!)

I visited the 5th floor media studio during Act III of our premiere (after my character, Mime, is killed near the end of Act II), and what I was privileged to witness was beyond belief!  A control room of 30 state-of-the-art video monitors, more cable, couplers, and joy-stick remotes than I could count, a separate audio control room, and a phalanx of production assistants, directors, and support staff who produced an ‘on-the-spot’ video mix (from 10-12 camera angles) of the live stage proceedings that left my jaw dragging on the control room carpet.  This digital feed went right to our audience, and was the most mesmerizing operatic experience (other than the actual in-theater experience) I have ever witnessed.  The clarity, definition, and audio were beyond compare and FAR superior to any that I have seen to date anywhere in the world!  I was further convinced that there is a place for both POV’s simultaneously, when friends who attended raved to me about it afterward.  Perhaps that helped explain an unusually boisterous balcony (those closest to the roof!) when it came time for curtain calls!!

So despite what was a truly thrilling premiere, excellent individual performances (I like to think I provided one of them, too…) and one of THE MOST appreciative audiences I have ever come across; I am going to step up here and chalk one up for the “techies” who helped enhance a performance with the most modern of technologies for the benefit of our audience–whose post performance eruption actually frightened the onstage cast!!!  From what I am to understand, every Ring performance will have a live OperaVision feed for our balcony subscribers… so please enjoy, as this is a superlative treat!!!!

(On a personal note: I wish to thank my many friends who traveled from as far away as Alaska for coming to see what I believe was a truly historic performance.  I was thrilled, and truly humbled, by the overwhelming response. To carry on about it would smack of insincerity and/or bias; but those of you who were in attendance know that I am grateful beyond words or expression!!!!)