Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Working with Idols

Here it is the middle of the seventh week since I began my incredible journey as an HGO Studio Artist. I’m that kind of person who finds meaning in experiences, seizes opportunities, and is grateful for everything in his life. I have to say it, even though it may sound trite, but I honestly, never thought I would be here, in the studio of one of the world’s best opera companies. Many Houstonians are surprised to find that their opera company is one of the top in the country, with great companies as the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and San Francisco Opera. Some of the biggest stars have had their debuts here, and the Studio has been a home for some of opera’s biggest stars. It is humbling and exciting for me to have walked where so many of my idols have walked.

I remember our week of auditions like it was yesterday, and I think I’m still on cloud nine from the whole experience. I was nervous about our week of auditions, and yet, I felt strangely at home. Even if I had not been granted a spot in the studio, the company is a place of southern hospitality and most importantly a family. The music staff is world renowned. The company’s long history shows it is a company that not only survives floods and fires, but a company that grows and thrives within its community.

Week seven, and while I have been having the time of my life, I’m ashamed to say that I still have boxes I’ve yet to unpack in my apartment, only because we’ve been so busy getting ready for this season’s opening shows, L’Elisir d’Amore and Lohengrin. Being busy is a definite perk for the life of an artist. I would much rather not have time to do anything but work, and my parents and friends would say the exact opposite about their lives, but my work truly is my life’s passion. I eat, sleep, breathe opera.

Around week 4 of the program, I got the incredible opportunity to rehearse with the main cast of L’Elisir. I am performing the role of Nemorino in the student matinees and high school night performances of L’Elisir, but I got to jump in and get my feet wet in what is a new role for me, with the best possible situation. John Osborne (a phenomenal tenor!), the principal Nemorino, could not be at rehearsal until October 2nd, but staging rehearsals for the show started on September 21st. All of the other singers were here and ready to rehearse, but there was no Nemorino. This was my opportunity to help out the cast, and to learn from incredible stars and musicians. Eduardo Müller is one of the most famous conductors in the world, especially in the world of Bel Canto (the style of music/singing of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore). Ekaterina Siurina is the Adina in the show and performed the role in Glyndebourne, where the production originated. Alessandro Corbelli, is quite possibly the most famous Dulcamara of opera today. Liam Bonner is Belcore, the egotistical-ladies-man Sargeant, who is Nemorino’s rival for Adina’s affection. Mezzo-soprano, Catherine Martin, who is also a fellow studio member, sings Giannetta (usually cast with a soprano). The cast was complete minus a Nemorino, who, if you know the show, is quite central in most of the drama.

For two weeks, I got to rehearse and absorb as much as I could in the best of all possible casts for this show. I would be lying to say I wasn’t sad to bow out when John Osborne arrived to take his place as Nemorino, but I will forever be grateful for that opportunity. Now, I get to watch John work in this role. One of the fantastic things about opera is that different people bring different qualities to a character, and those differences can change often, sometimes from show to show. I love live theater for that very fact. Working with the cast as Nemorino, and now watching John work with those same people, I feel as though I have a well-rounded perspective of not only this role and this opera, but how opera companies produce a show.

This week we begin rehearsing the music for the alternate cast of L’Elisir d’Amore. Having worked with all of those fantastic people for that short period of time, has really prepared me for truly exploring this role and this opera. I am so excited to get to work with my fellow studio members. I am sure it will be a great show. Hope to see you there!!!

L’Elisir d’Amore opens on October 23rd, and if you can find a way to get tickets to the matinees (Nov. 4th and Nov. 6th) or the high school night (Nov. 9th), come see a cast of HGO Studio members. This is a fantastic show for first time opera goers. It is a comedy of a boy who loves a girl and will do anything to just get her to notice him.

Nathaniel Peake - HGO Studio Artist