Friday, April 10, 2009

Ah, veglia donna

Well ladies and gentlemen, I'm smack dab in the middle of doing two shows at once. One, is completely new: Brief Encounter by Andre Previn (more on that later), and the other, Rigoletto (by Giuseppi Verdi), is a standard. Almost everyone coming to see this or stepping into rehearsal has seen and heard Rigoletto for years. It's just one of those operas that, if you're in this career or if you're an opera fan, you just know it. Its definately one of those that you could hear a snippet of the music and be able to identify it.

Except for me, of course. I'm one of those weird opera singers that had yearly subscriptions to Rolling Stone Magazine and flat out refused to commit to opera and singer-geared magazines until somewhere in the last year. (I still read my RS.) And, I don't come from an opera background, so I don't automatically know the plots of these time honored operas that thousands of people have already fallen in love with. But, there's no time like the present, and in my opinion, there's no better way to fall in love with an opera than coming at it from a completely fresh point of view.

I'm performing a very small role in this production at Houston Grand Opera, and her name is Giovanna. I've done a lot of maid/servant roles (and I'll do many more yet as a mezzo), but this is the first one that shows a truly nasty side. Forget this mezzo being the soprano's best pal from years of living in the same house... Giovanna, as small of a sing that she is, plays an important role in moving the plot along: she lets the Duke into the house, which in turn gets Gilda abducted. You know the rest. And, if you don't, I'm not going to tell you! :)

The other show that I'm doing right now, Brief Encounter, is a brand new opera by a wonderful team of creators. Andre Previn, as previously introduced, is the composer. John Caird is our director and librettist. These two men, with countless others, are leading the way to making something that only exists on paper into something living and breathing on stage. I've done several world premieres before, and I have to note... to me, it's not very different from doing a standard rep opera (mostly for the reasons above). There are a few key differences though... for one, the composer is living. Which means that, in a sense, so is the score. I workshopped this piece about a year ago, and from that time until this point, this score has undergone probably hundreds of changes. And that was probably just before the singers got into town. A real luxury in having a live composer and a librettist who also happens to be the director is that when something doesn't work, it gets changed. If a note is too high, or if a word just doesn't work in a certain spot, the problem is discussed, and in most cases, fixed right there in the rehearsal. Of course, that makes for an interesting challenge in remembering all of the changes and unlearning what you put a lot of time in the first place to learn, but it's worth it for the ending product.

So, as you can see, it's quite busy around here right now! But, I'm looking forward to opening Rigoletto on April 17th and to getting into dress rehearsals with Brief Encounter. Both shows should result in one heck of a sending off for the end of my time in the HGO Studio!