Meet me in St. Louis

I have looked forward to this engagement in St. Louis for a long time. Christine Brewer and I are joining Maestro David Robinson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in all Wagner concerts this weekend. Not only am I performing with one of my favorite colleagues, but I’m visiting a city that has meant a great deal to me over the years. As a life-long Cardinal fan, it’s great to be back in “Redbird Country”. I can still run off the starting line-up for the 1967 Cardinals when they beat the Red Sox in a 7 game World Series. Cheering for the Cardinals (and against the Cubs) has been a big part of my life. It’s just wonderful to be back here on the banks of the Mississippi.

Many friends are planning on coming to the concerts this weekend. It will be fun to see one of my groomsmen as well as a junior high school teacher and coach. There are several other friends coming as well--some I haven’t seen in over 30 years.

Speaking of my groomsman, that reminds me of our wedding. I don’t think I have spent a night in St. Louis since our honeymoon 28 years ago. We didn’t have many days to celebrate our wedding due to not being able to get off of work at that time. (Mind you, I’m still celebrating being married to my wonderful bride). We had such a wonderful time here during those 24 hours or so in St. Louis. We went on the Goldenrod Showboat and visited the incredible zoo here in Forest Park (right across the street from my current hotel). This city holds so many memories for me. It’s great to be back.

I’m a little jet lagged as I took the “red-eye” home after Sunday’s performance in Los Angeles. I was home about 48 hours before flying to St. Louis. I look forward to buzzing home after Sunday’s concert and then driving the next day to Ohio in order to pick up our oldest son from college (wow, his Freshman year went fast). I’ll then get about a week at home before heading back to L.A. for more “Gotterdammerungs”.

What would Wagner think?

I’ve often wondered what certain composers would think of how their works are interpreted by musicians and artists of the theater. Richard Wagner was a revolutionary force in music in so many ways. It is no secret that I have a special relationship with his music dramas and feel a strong urging to present his works to the best of my ability.

Certainly, I strongly support any director to bring their own stamp to the works when they re-create the drama on stage. Achim Freyer, our director in Los Angeles of The Ring, is a genius. He has created a feast for the eyes utilizing incredible color and lighting. Somtimes, it may be difficult for any production to make absolute sense to the audience at all times. I always hope that it makes sense to the singers as well. It is only then that we can all come together to understand the concept and how it reflects upon the composer’s composition.

The rehearsal period for “Gotterdammerung” here in Los Angeles was a tough developmental process. On the whole, I think the show has come together well and that the singers are doing an outstanding job in trying to bring something to the stage. We have a wonderful cast. Due to the nature of the style of this production, I have to admit that I’m not sure how it is all coming across. This is hard to reconcile at times. Mind you, I have sung the role of Gunther probably more times than any other role in my repertoire. I know this opera VERY well. I am all for new interpretations. I think concepts must always be true to the original story and to the composer’s intentions. I hope that we’ve hit that mark in this presentation of this great opera in Los Angeles. It certainly has been a different approach and I do have to admit that I’m having fun behind my mask.

In the picture above (I’m on the right), you can see me singing (well, not really) with the wonderful tenor, John Treleaven, the “blood-brotherhood” duet from Act 1 of “Gotterdammerung”. This is one of the scenes of this production that makes pretty much complete sense. As a singing actor, it is tough to accept that so little of my acting is coming through facial expression (usually the most important aspect of an artist’s dramatic presentation). I basically stand behind that facade most of the evening and do basic hand and arm gestures. It is a tribute to the very fine conductor, orchestra, and cast that the story is still coming through. We are asked to do a great deal on stage during our performances. This concept goes a bit beyond the normal request in some ways---but I’ve heard many in the audience are truly liking the experience as well. One man told me that this was the finest “Gotterdammerung” he had ever seen. Obviously, we all have varied tastes---I wish this was a production I could see as well as be in so that I could get a better picture of it all.

Other than that, I am still enjoying being in Southern California. I missed the earthquake of 10 days ago as I had flown to Pennsylvania for Easter---and what a joyous time that was on the east coast. Spring is certainly here for most of the country. Another winter has passed. Life is good (even in Wagner land).

Götterdämmerung and Holy Saturday

Could there be a more diverse approach to the day? Today brings the opening performance of Götterdämmerung here in Los Angeles. I have sung “The Twilight of the Gods” so many times--perhaps the opera I’ve performed most often in my career. It’s a 5.5 hour marathon but one with incredible power. However, something far more powerful is the realization of just what this important day, Holy Saturday, and tonight’s Easter Vigil means to humankind. The fictional opera by Wagner deals with the fall of the God’s. The Holy Saturday Vigil brings us the remembrance of the very true triumph of our Lord and the crowning glory of our great omnipotent God. Although I’ll hopefully be on a “high” from singing the show this afternoon, my mind will be on a very different plane of thought as I take the “red-eye” home tonight. It will be on the great words of the “Exultet” that is sung early in the Easter Vigil proclaiming the greatness of God and his triumph over darkness. Exult!!!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever! Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people! My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light, join me in asking God for mercy, that he may give his unworthy minister grace to sing his Easter praises.
Deacon: The Lord be with you. People: And also with you. Deacon: Lift up your hearts. People: We lift them up to the Lord. Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father, and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father! This is our passover feast, when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain, whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers. This is the night when first you saved our fathers: you freed the people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea. This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin! This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness. This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer? Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son. O
happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead! Of this night scripture says: "The night will be as clear as day: it will become my light, my joy." The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride. Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled with God!
Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night, receive our evening sacrifice of praise, your Church's solemn offering. Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God. (For it is fed by the melting wax, which the mother bee brought forth to make this precious candle.) Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night! May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Thursday

The Triduum is perhaps, to me, the most moving and inspiring time of the year. These three days leading to my favorite holiday, Easter, never cease to place me in a state of awe, reflection, sadness, joy, and wonderment. It is a time of deep and soulful contemplation. I can only print the words of the ancient hymns Pange Lingua and Tantum Ergo below---other words escape me on this Holy Night.

Words by St Thomas Aquinas. Translation Anon.


Pange lingua gloriosi Corporis mysterium, Sanguinisque pretiosi, Quem in mundi pretium Fructus ventris generosi, Rex effudit gentium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus Ex intacta Virgine Et in mundo conversatus, Sparso verbi semine, Sui moras incolatus Miro clausit ordine.
In supremae nocte cenae Recum bens cum fratribus, Observata lege plene Cibis in legalibus, Cibum turbae duodenae Se dat suis manibus
Verbum caro, panem verum Verbo carnem efficit: Fitque sanguis Christi merum, Et si sensus deficit, Ad firmandum cor sincerum Sola fides sufficit.

SING, my tongue, the Saviour's glory, of His flesh the mystery sing; of the Blood, all price exceeding, shed by our immortal King, destined, for the world's redemption, from a noble womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin born for us on earth below, He, as Man, with man conversing, stayed, the seeds of truth to sow; then He closed in solemn order wondrously His life of woe.
On the night of that Last Supper, seated with His chosen band, He the Pascal victim eating, first fulfills the Law's command; then as Food to His Apostles gives Himself with His own hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature by His word to Flesh He turns; wine into His Blood He changes;- what though sense no change discerns? Only be the heart in earnest, faith her lesson quickly learns.

Words by St Thomas Aquinas, Translation: Edward Caswall


Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.
Genitori, Genitoque laus et iubilatio, salus, honor, virtus quoque sit et benedictio: procedenti ab utroque compar sit laudatio.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble sense fail.
To the everlasting Father, and the Son who reigns on high, with the Holy Ghost proceeding forth from Each eternally, be salvation, honor, blessing, might and endless majesty.