Thursday, November 19, 2009

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

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