Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

In 1966, or 1970–depending upon which release date you choose–music lovers of a certain age will remember a tuneful little song with a simple message. That message being:

“Just enjoy the moment”.  (In this particular case, the ‘morning time’ specifically…but we can broaden that inspiration to encompass the entire day as far as I am concerned.)

Paul Simon’s 59th Street Bridge Song (a.k.a. Feelin’ Groovy) was a Simon and Garfunkel classic…especially for those of us who are of a certain age. My slightly older brother at the time, with whom I shared a bedroom as a child, had firm control over the ‘record-player’ that spun his proud Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits album.  I often remember begging him to play what I thought was the song’s title…saying: 

“Hey, play So Down You Move Too Fast!”  He often obliged, because he loved the song too.  Who didn’t?!?  (I have come to learn that Paul Simon himself actually hated the song…but that’s another story.)

Who knew that almost 50 years later, this particular phrase (“Slow Down You Move Too Fast”), which represents the text incipit of this famous song, would spark a meaningful and detailed discussion during the rehearsal process of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. This presentation is currently being staged at Washington National Opera, utilizing a refreshed–and colorful–production, originally designed by Maurice Sendak.

We are performing this classic composition in English, including several elongated dialogue sections for all the characters.  In fact, I have actually been invited to write some of my own dialogue specifically for my character (Monostatos).  This has been a very enjoyable challenge, with the knowledge that it would be tweaked and adjusted as per the Director’s wishes.

Enter our Stage Director: Christopher Mattaliano

Mr. Mattaliano, a highly detailed and thoughtful Director, had one gigantic nugget of wisdom for the entire, very talented cast of newcomers and veterans…thanks to his many years of experience:  “Slow Down”, he suggested to all of us.  “When telling the story, stay in the moment and enjoy it. By all means pick-up each other’s cues, but when you are in the midst of your dialogue, just slow it all down”.  He further stated: “I have discovered over the years that if an actor is having trouble with a line, it is usually because they are just speaking it too fast”. 

**A light bulb went off in my head!

Question: Why did this small, but crucial, piece of advice seem so radical to me?

Answer:  Because it flew in the face of years of conditioning by well meaning conductors and music directors who correctly advise singing artists to NOT DRAG.  In other words, keep with their beat and tempo, and be careful to not get overly indulgent.

I suddenly realized that this motor response transferred itself to everyone when it came to our spoken dialogue…and that included me…a singing actor of a certain age.  I inquired further about Mr. Mattaliano’s suggestion; we discussed it as colleagues; and I left our rehearsal acknowledging to myself that you never stop learning in this business, and if you DID learn a ‘particular something’ at one point in time, it never hurts to have it refreshed.

“Life, I love you…all is groovy.”

October 20, 2019