Motorcycles, Children, and the Bursting of Bubbles….

For the faithful readers of my blog (and I DO thank you), and for the occasional visitors to it; I thought it might be fun to post a short missive on what really goes on in the wings of the stage and, in fact, on-stage or just behind the set during a performance.  As you read on, the title of this post will become clear:

With my stomach having exorcised its acid (read previous post “Acid and Angst”!!) and returned to normal, it was now time to concentrate on the opening night of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current production of La Fanciulla del West. With Maestro Sir Andrew Davis in a jolly mood, all of the singers healthy, and our secret weapon for success (Susan Hult in the prompters box!) ready to go, we all took to the stage still riding high from a very fine final dress rehearsal just two days earlier.  After a somewhat uneven start, we all settled in for the ride and were soon coasting smoothly along the silken melodic ribbons of Giacomo Puccini’s masterful score.  To say that this score is beautiful would be the biggest understatement of this new decade!  The orchestration is beyond sublime, the male choral work is at one turn tearful, and at the next, frightfully aggressive.  Every principal singer gets a “Puccini moment”, which of course includes the three most forward principals Minnie, Rance, and Johnson, respectively.  With Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani, and Marco Vratogna out front; with some high end support from ‘yours truly’ as well as my other substantial colleagues, it would prove to be an unbeatable combination.

This type of confidence in all departments inspires a sense of relaxation that is not always present for all productions.  The net result??  A whole lot of jibber-jabber!!!

As we stood in the wings awaiting our entrances, or at our pre-set positions before the curtain rose, we mostly talked (up until the very last moment, by the way) about the NFL Playoffs (which I am watching as I write this entry).  Could Chicago really beat Green Bay??  Could the Jets really pull off another unlikely victory??  “Where you gonna watch the game tomorrow?”  “Any money on the games tomorrow??”  “I want to see an NBA game while I am here”, says Marco Vratogna, “You know I played basketball in Italy for 11 years!”  “No we didn’t know that Marco”, chimes in another, “And we don’t really care either!”, says still another.  “It’s all about football right now Marco”, says I….”Not that crap you Europeans (more correctly) call Football, either.  I’m talking about American Football baby!!!”  We all laugh….

“Places please!!” call the Assistant Stage Managers all around us; and we scurry into positions.  A few “high-fives”, and we are off and running.  “Where are my matches??”, Marco nervously whispers as the curtain rises.  I whisper, “The only Italian drama we want right now comes from Puccini, not YOU Marco!!”  Quiet laughter; matches located and lit; first disaster averted!!!

As Act I continues, there are several entrances and exits to and from The Polka Saloon by the entire cast; which also means that there are long moments when we are either ‘static’ (but alive) on the stage, or in some cases we can actually hide behind the moderately large Saloon set piece.  During these hidden moments, Marcello Giordani, myself, and a fine young tenor, Rene Barbera, have a discussion about motorcycles.  You see, Mr. Barbera has just purchased a ‘relatively new’ Honda to replace his older one.  But this discussion about motorcycles is a continuing one actually, because Mr. Barbera simply cannot shut-up about this new “sweet bike” that he cannot ride until the spring.  “We know Rene, we KNOW….it’s a sweet-bike“, we joke!!  Marcello Giordani then says, “My kid calls me from Italy and tells me that he just bought a motorcycle…without telling me!!”  Meanwhile, Sheriff Jack Rance sings his one impassioned aria of the night to Minnie on just the other side of this set piece (but don’t worry, they can’t hear us), but we are not particularly listening to him either; motorcycles are more important at the moment.  “And now, dis-a-new-a-motor-a-cycle, she’s a leak-a-oil already!”, Marcello complains.  I tell Marcello, in my typical non-sympathetic style, “If your son can afford to buy a motorcycle behind your back, then he can afford to have it repaired too!”  “Oh No”, says Marcello; “He paid for the motorcycle with his own money, but I’ll have to pay for everything else!”  “Sometimes I feel guilty, because I’m always on the road, so I don’t want to tell him ‘no’; you know what I mean?”  “Yeah, I know.”, I tell him;  “That’s why I never had kids myself.”.  Veteran chorister, John Concepcion then says, “You should see how big Santiago (his son) has gotten, he’s bigger than me now!!”  And so it goes: on and on, until it’s time to re-enter, completely in character, to continue the action on stage.

This type of banter continues all night long behind the set, in the wings of the stage, in the hallways as we walk to the dressing room area, with ne’er a word about what’s going on out on the stage.  We enter the stage, sing our scenes, come off,  and then get back to ‘football’, or ‘motorcycles’, or ‘kids’.

Now the point of this blog-posting is not meant to “burst any bubbles” for those of you who think we are somehow different than anyone else when it comes to the workplace environment.  But if, just if, you may think that we are so wholly invested in our ‘characters’, or so attentive to our ‘voices’, or so completely engrossed in the ‘drama’ of this magnificent art form (that we are so privileged to present to the public), that we can think of nothing else; you would be wrong…..  {Ohhh my, the sound of that bubble bursting has left me deflated myself!}

So quoting from one of my favorite musicals (Chicago):  “I hope I haven’t taken too much of your time!”

Thanks for reading, as ever; this one was just for fun!!


p.s. As I modify this posting at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday January 23, 2011: NO, the Chicago Bears could NOT defeat the Green Bay Packers, nor could the New York Jets pull off a victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers!!!!