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:
Yes, YES, YEEESSSSS, I WAS AN ACROBAT IN THE CIRCUS, OK???
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!)