That's a Wrap

Tomorrow marks 80 days since I left for Europe. No, I didn’t make it quite around the world but as I’ve been on another continent during this time period, I sure had enough time to do so. I’m so looking forward to getting home for 9 days before heading off on my next excursion. I’m not sure how much writing I’ll do between now and then but I look forward to getting back to reflecting on those things that move me to post. You never know what will role off these fingers.

The experiences during these 80 days have been so varied and interesting. The time in Vienna was enjoyed. The experience in one of my favorite cities, Amsterdam, has been treasured. It’s been great to be with old colleagues and to establish new friendships. But a singer likes new challenges. “Salome” and “Fidelio” are dear friends to me--but I’m very much looking forward to getting back to “Parsifal”. I haven’t sung this opera in nearly 9 years and so it’s time to visit this masterpiece once more.

Hopefully, the storm that hit the east coast these past few days will be enough of a distant memory to not cause problems for me in getting home tomorrow. I so look forward to being back with my wife and children for a late Christmas celebration and the New Year’s Fest as well. Hey, I even have a belated birthday to enjoy.

At the end of the year, I like to give my reflections on the highlights of the previous year’s engagements. That, I’ll save for another time. It’s late here in Amsterdam and a long day is ahead. But I’ll leave you with a few last shots of Amsterdam from this trip. I hope there will be more in the future. See you soon!!!

Happy Thanksgiving

I may seem early with my greetings but it’s only by 14 minutes. Thanksgiving Day has almost arrived here in Amsterdam. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, of course, the great American holiday of Thanksgiving won’t be celebrated in this country. However, I don’t need a day on a calendar or a certain location to define when and where I celebrate this truly great event. May every day be a day of Thanksgiving-a day where we express our thanks and gratitude to God and to the many people who mean so much to us. May we never fail to be grateful for our incredible blessings and the benefits that have come to us year after year. We have much to be thankful for-and I truly am so very much so.

I won’t be having a traditional feast tomorrow. There’s no denying the fact that I will miss the gastronomic joy of the day. However, I will miss gathering around the table with family more than anything. I try not to get emotional about these kind of things. If I had to grieve over every important day that I’ve had to be away from my family on the east coast or in the midwest, well, then I’d be grieving way too often in life. However, I’m fully aware that my gifts also require a certain giving and a commitment to my work which does indeed carry me away from many of my blessings. I just have to remember that the blessings are indeed still there-even if I’m not.

I will have an orchestra rehearsal tomorrow instead of hearing the bands play in the great parades back home. Instead of gorgeous floats, I’ll be seeing wonderful sets and theatrical magic. And instead of seeing characters disguised as enormous balloons floating over New York City, I’ll be seeing characters on stage acting out an incredible story of freedom and the triumph of good over evil (one guess as to who is Mr. Evil once again in this production of “Fidelio”). As for the football, well, I should be home from rehearsal early enough to see the Cowboys and Lions hopefully lose.

So, as now there are only 4 minutes until Thanksgiving Day (I guess I’m typing slowly tonight), let me wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and post this wonderful proclamation made in 1863.

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.  To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.  In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.  Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.  Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.   And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
A. Lincoln

Hodie Christus Naturs Est

This is the truth sent from above, The truth of God, the God of love: Therefore don’t turn me from your door, But hearken all, both rich and poor.
The first thing which I do relate Is that God did man create, The next thing which to you I’ll tell, Woman was made with man to dwell.
Then, after this, ’twas God’s own choice To place them both in Paradise, There to remain, from evil free, Except they ate of such a tree.
And they did eat, which was a sin, And thus their ruin did begin. Ruined themselves, both you and me, And all of their posterity.
Thus we were heirs to endless woes, Till God the Lord did interpose, And so a promise soon did run, That he would redeem us by his Son.
And at this season of the year Our blest Redeemer did appear, And here did live, and here did preach, and many thousands he did teach.
Thus he in love to us behaved, To show us how we must be saved; And if you want to know the way, Be pleased to hear what he did say:
"Go preach the Gospel," now he said, "To all the nations that are made! And he that does believe on me, From all his sins I'll set him free."
O seek! O seek of God above That saving faith that works by love! And, if he's pleased to grant thee this, Thou'rt sure to have eternal bliss.
God grant to all within this place True saving faith, that special grace Which to his people doth belong: And thus I close my Christmas song.

Herefordshire Christmas Carol “This is the Truth Sent From Abov

Christmas Eve in Holland

It is Christmas Eve in Holland. The skies have already darkened awaiting once again for light to appear in the morning. The daylight has decreased drastically during these past two months during my stay in Amsterdam. That fact has been felt even more intensely this week when the sun hit the peak of its journey South and began very slowly crawling once again to the North. The return to longer days and increased sunlight is greatly anticipated. But the sun in all its new found radiance is just a glimmer of the light that came into the world over 2,000 years ago on this night. For that, and for Him, we rejoice...and again, wait.

Merry Christmas

Hoffmann's Tales

Thursday, December 3, we opened the new production of “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The picture above (NY Times) shows yours truly peering from around the corner at the wonderful soprano, Anna Netrebko. I am playing the role of Dr. Miracle in Act 2 of the opera. Anna is singing Antonia. Dr. Miracle is just one of four characters I play in this masterpiece.

The evening was a wonderful success and a very tiring event. With an extremely difficult production followed by a gala party and then a long drive home, I didn’t get to bed until around 3:30. Fortunately, the remaining 8 performances should be easier.

I have always enjoyed singing in this opera. This is my 10th different production (that’s 40 different Villainous incarnations). It’s a lot of fun and I am grateful for tremendous colleagues both on and off the set. This is a very special production.

There was added pressure on Thursday evening with the premiere being broadcast on the Sirius/XM Satellite radio network. There was a time when I can remember less pressure on a singer. The internet, satellite radio, HD broadcasts, etc., have greatly increased our exposure--and that’s a tremendous thing. On the other hand, there are very few nights, it seems, where one can take even 1% away from the performance just to gauge things a bit differently. Four more performances will be broadcast and then there is the HD transmission to the theaters on December 19 (that should be a blast). I remember singing in “Hansel and Gretel” a few years back and having that broadcast to the movie theaters. I am so happy to have a copy of that transmission---our children truly enjoy watching it (as do I).

As I write this, it is snowing fairly heavily in Bucks County, PA. We’re only slated to get 2-4” of white stuff but that’s more than enough for me. It sure is beautiful---but I’m afraid it’s a forebearer of a tough winter ahead. We’re due.

Our Christmas decorations are all in order and we’re anticipating a wonderful holiday season. Stop by!!!

Tyrant Jailed, Prisoners Freed

Last night was my 87th performance of “Fidelio” (95 will be under my belt by the end of this run in Amsterdam). I’ve played three different roles in this opera over the years. My first outing was as the Second Prisoner in a wonderful production in Washington, D.C. back in 1988. James McCracken sang his last operatic performances during that run as Florestan. I went on to sing Don Fernando many times in various places but have been singing, primarily, the bad guy role of Don Pizzaro these past many years. As the prisoners are always freed by Don Fernando at the end of the opera and Pizzaro is lead away to jail (or, depending on the production, execution), perhaps I should have kept to playing one of the smaller roles. There are many baritones who don’t relish the chance to play Pizzaro. I’ve made him a specialty and always enjoy my evenings as the evil Governor. Last night was no exception to this rule and we had a very fine opening night. How can you not be swept away by Beethoven’s incredible music. Of course, he struggled himself with getting it “just right” as is evidence by the various versions he produced. But I think we’ve got a pretty good version with just the right amount of dialogue here in Amsterdam. I’m very happy to return to this wonderful production by Robert Carsen that we first premiered back in 2003. It’s great to revisit a classic. With a strong cast and chorus and an excellent condcutor, Marc Albrecht, leading the Nederlands Kamerorkest, we had a excellent evening of music and drama. Here is a clip from the production from nearly 8 years ago when it was new.