Thursday, November 19, 2009

From the Other Side of the Curtain

“Kiri, these are the men who will be carrying you out of the window. Would you like to practice this a few times before the show begins?”

We had never rehearsed with the chorus or orchestra before the first performance. So here I was with my hair in rollers being carried down from the window on stage just a few minutes before show time! What a way to prepare for my mainstage debut as Adina in Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love

I could hear students entering the theater as I returned to my dressing room to put on the rest of my costume. The entire cast was abuzz with adrenaline! I was nervous as I stood off stage waiting for my entrance … I could hear the audience talking in their seats and the orchestra beginning to play. At that moment, I remembered my elementary school days when I wished with all my heart that one day I would be an opera singer. I thought of all the students who would see their first opera today and be hooked just like me! Somehow, I found strength and tranquility in that thought. As I walked out on stage I expected to get even more nervous. I looked out into the theatre, and I could feel the audience’s presence. I took a deep breath, and I had an overwhelming feeling of peace. This is where I belonged. I knew that this was the chance I had been waiting for all my life. Today I was performing on the Houston Grand Opera stage, and no matter what happened afterward, no one could take that away from me. This was the chance of a lifetime.

As we began the show we were a little hesitant until the first outburst of laughter. As the audience began to respond to the actions on stage I could feel myself relax and just enjoy performing. I don’t really remember too many specifics about the show. I just know that we were all trying as hard as we could. It was all a blur up until the last scene. I told Nemorino that I loved him and then he dropped to his knees and hugged me. The entire audience gasped and began to clap. In that split second I realized that the students understood our story. They were with us on our emotional roller coaster. We had made a connection—that is what this is all about.

As we finished the last note and waived good bye to the audience, Nathaniel Peake and I looked at each other with eyes of relief and congratulations as we waited for our turn in the curtain call. He grabbed my hand as we ran out to center stage, and the reception we got was breathtaking. That was a day I will remember forever!

Kiri Deonarine- First-year HGO Studio Artist

Be Ready for Anything

This upcoming Friday night marks the opening of Wagner’s Lohengrin one week after L’elisir d’amore opened the entire 2009-2010 season in brilliant fashion here at Houston Grand Opera. The principle singers and chorus alike bring such mastery to this poignant opera but it certainly has not been without trials. There were and will continue to be many great lessons learned from this experience.
“I’m going to be in a Wagnerian opera!” That was my initial reaction after learning about my assignment as Third Noble in Lohengrin. After seeing the cast line-up which includes Adrianne Pieczonka, Simon O’Neill, Richard Paul Fink, Christine Goerke, Ryan McKinny and Günther Groissböck, I couldn’t wait to start! But everything would not unfold as smoothly as we would have liked.
A few days before our Elsa (Adrianne Pieczonka) was scheduled to arrive in Houston, she suffered a back injury and was doubtful to return to action in time to join our production of Lohengrin. Fellow studio member Rachel Willis-Sørensen stepped in for the rehearsal and staging process as she is the cover for Elsa. Soprano Marie Plette was hired to come in with short notice but health issues forced her to cancel. Shortly thereafter a meeting was called for the principle cast members to discuss the status of our Elsa situation among other topics. Adrianne Pieczonka made great progress with injury treatment and would perform Elsa as originally scheduled. Richard Paul Fink (Friedrich von Telramund) learned of a family emergency and would be out for a few days. Simon O’Neill (Lohengrin) also had a family emergency earlier in the rehearsal process and had to travel back home overseas. After the dust finally settled, we were ready to fine tune this updated production of Lohengrin.

So what have I learned from this process?
1) You must always be ready to step-in when called upon. Rachel stepped in as Elsa with much more poise and than most 24 year old sopranos would have displayed. I commend my studio mate for how well she executed when called upon during this production period. Adam Cioffari, fellow studio member and Fourth Noble in Lohengrin has also been on call as he is not only Fourth Noble but the cover for Ryan McKinny (Herald). Ryan and his wife recently welcomed their second child, so not knowing when or if Ryan would need to leave rehearsal could only make for Adam being prepared at all times.
2) Flexibility is the name of the game. Director Daniel Slater made it here to Houston weeks into the process after everything was staged by assistant director and choreographer Leah Hausman. It was to be expected that certain things would have to change. As an artist you have to be willing to try things and quick to adjust to changes which will evidently happen. I’ve always heard that complacency is the death of an artist. I’ll also add that rigidity goes right along with complacency. Two very important lessons that can carry into any project I undertake in the near and distant future.

Michael Sumuel