Easter 2011

I am so excited to be the cantor at our parish Easter Vigil Mass this evening. It is an honor and one that I take seriously. It’s a very long service but one that is packed with such meaning. May your celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord be joyous as we celebrate the greatest triumph of all.

I am always moved by the words of the “Exultet”. The Deacon will sing these words tonight early in the service. They sum up what this evening is about.

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.

Quick Note

Just a quick note as it’s been a very hectic 72 hours. The final performance of the run of “Wozzeck” on Saturday was just an incredible event for us all. How exciting to have a good show for the international broadcast. I was thrilled to have friends in the audience as well who had not been to the Met for one of my performances. It was one of the more fulfilling run of shows I’ve been a part of for a very long time. The notes I have received from people around the world who heard the broadcast have been overwhelming. I am missing the cast and production very much.

I raced back to Bucks County (through downpours) following the performance in order to be with my 7 year old daughter at her “Daddy-Daughter-Dance”. It was such an emotional evening for me, after a performance, to be brought back down to earth with smiles and joy radiating from my little girl. Nearly 250 were in attendance and, thankfully, I didn’t make a fool out of myself dancing to the latest hits. No, the songs aren’t as great as those that I danced to back in the 70s. However, I didn’t mind as I just got to spend a wonderful evening with a beautiful young lady.

I enjoyed beginning my Holy Week observance at the 6:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday before hopping in the car with my family to drive to Pittsburgh. We enjoyed having some time together (even if just in the car) and visited colleges over the last two days in Ohio and Maryland. It seems like just yesterday when I was visiting colleges for my oldest son and now we’re well into the search for son #2. Thankfully, I don’t think we’ll have to do too much more looking as we may have found exactly what my son is looking for.

It has been raining so much on the east coast---at least the May flowers will be gorgeous. Everything seems sort of strange this year with Holy Week being later than I can ever remember it being. When was the last time Easter was so late in April? I am truly looking forward to the end of this week when we celebrate the Triduum. These three nights are perhaps the most solemn and beautiful of the liturgical year. One can’t help but be greatly moved by these ancient services. I’m glad I’m taking part in the liturgy on Saturday night. One of my sons will be confirmed during this service as well. I’m getting excited already. May these days of preparation find all of our hearts longing for fulfillment in the Risen Christ.

"Wozzeck" and a beautiful week

It is so hard to believe that this run of “Wozzeck” has reached its last performance. It was just 50 days ago that I found out I was jumping into this production at The Metropolitan Opera after having been off the role for over 5 years. These past few weeks have been an incredible ride and a real test as to how quickly I could get such a difficult role back in my brain, rehearsed, and then on stage in front of an audience. I have to tell you, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. There are few roles that allow a singer to dig deeper into their own minds. There are few roles that require so much physically and vocally (thank heavens it’s a rather short opera). There are few roles that are (at least, to me) more fulfilling. I am so grateful to have been a part of this wonderful cast and incredible production. The orchestra has been magnificent and Maestro Levine has been beyond inspiring. We’ve had quite a run but I now look forward to wrapping this up and returning to a bit of “normalcy”. I’ll get a few weeks off before heading to Germany for “Salome” (once again).

These past few weeks, on top of the performances, have brought other time commitments related to the career. I’ve had 3-4 interviews to do with various press outlets. It’s always fun talking about the work that you’re doing. However, one has to do these things at a slow pace in order to not break the rhythm of your show preparation. The hosts and interviewers have been so positive and uplifting as well. A good interviewer can help you sort out your own thoughts as well and help you organize just what you want to say. I’ve been fortunate, in the press sessions I’ve had these past few weeks, to have had people on the other side of the table (or on the phone line) that have done just that. Today, following the broadcast, the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) will play an interview that we taped just before Wednesday night’s performance. I was concerned about doing an interview before an evening of “Wozzeck” but it went very well. Much credit has to go with the fine folks in Vancouver who asked just the right questions. Thanks!!!

I also enjoyed doing an interview for a blogsite “operatattler.com” that will be published soon. We had more time for that one last Monday and got some good thoughts onto “paper”.

Last Saturday, during the weekly Metropolitan Opera Broadcast (“Le Comte Ory”), an interview I had recorded with Margaret Juntwait a few days earlier was played as well. What a nice interview that was. Margaret and I just started talking in the studio at The Met following the final dress of “Wozzeck” and then, lo and behold, it was recorded as naturally as two friends sitting and shooting the breeze (which is pretty much exactly what happened).

So thanks to the interviewers in my life the last few weeks. You made these experiences, for a guy that isn’t always comfortable being interviewed, MOST enjoyable. (Did anyone ever tell you people I’m actually kind of shy---I know, hard to believe!!!) .

This afternoon, following the show, I’ll quickly greet friends backstage before racing out of the theater as quickly as possible (I hope that my visitors don’t feel rushed--truly, that’s not my intent). I need to get back to Bucks County (about 2 hours from NYC) as quickly as possible because tonight brings the semi-annual “D.D.D.”---”Daughter, Daddy, Dance” at her school. This should be so much fun as I try to dance with my beautiful seven year old. I’ve been looking forward to this night for a long time (we even picked up a nice wrist corsage for her). I’m truly excited about having a date with this beautiful young lady. From what I hear, there will be over 250 in attendance. I just hope I don’t embarrass myself on the dance floor. I think, perhaps, it’s a good thing my daughter doesn’t know the story of “Wozzeck”. If she did, she might not want to head out to a party with me.

This next week is perhaps (no, definitely is) my favorite week of the year. Once again, after what has seemed like an extraordinarily quick Lent, Holy Week is upon us. I cherish each day of this week when we remember and celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and then, of course, EASTER. Each day, to me, is like re-walking steps---watching and remembering the steps that Jesus Christ took (and of course, His great sacrifice) and examining the path that we have found ourselves on in our own journeys. It is a week that helps to once again re-examine and re-affirm our faith. I am grateful for this week of reflection, growth, sacrifice, and commitment. I will try to blog a bit later in the week. I truly hope it is a week that brings contemplation and strength to all who read these words as well.

We will be looking at a couple of colleges this week for our second oldest son. I can’t believe those days have already arrived. What a journey this will be for him and for us all. We are excited for the possibilities and opportunities. Sometimes, however, I just wish they hadn’t come so soon.

May you have a truly blessed Holy Week---and now, back to the show.