I’ve arrived in Toronto and have already had a bit of rehearsal. I can’t say it was “fun” to have to leave home the day after Christmas but Herr Tristan and Frau Isolde were awaiting my services in Canada. So, North I headed--into the snow and cold. I’m not a chilly weather person but will get through it all just fine. I anxiously await the performances that begin at the end of next month.

It was a very nice but WAY too short break that awaited my arrival home from Seville, Spain on December 16. The next day I headed into New York to sing a concert of “L’enfance du Christ” at Carnegie Hall. What a thrill to sing on that great stage where so many have performed in the past. The concert was simply beautiful and quite moving. It was a treat to take part in it.

The celebration of Christmas was also greatly treasured in our home with much time together as a family. I also sang at Mass at our Church on Christmas Eve. It’s always meaningful, for me, to cantor for the liturgy. This year, I also sang “O, Holy Night” (accompanied myself on the piano). Somehow, Christmas just doesn’t seem like Christmas to me if I’m not singing at least a bit.

We also had a great reason to celebrate since our oldest son became engaged on Christmas Eve. No wedding date has been set as of now but we anxiously look forward to all of the plans coming together.

So, a lot was included in my short “break” from the opera stage. Of course, this is par for the course for our family. With all my traveling, I have to fit in what I can, relax when I can, and just hope that I’m top of it all. I’ve been able, since getting to Toronto, to catch up on quite a few business items and prepare my mind for the onslaught of year end accounting--oh, joy!!! But, as we get close to the end of the year, it’ll be fun to look back on the favorite (and not so favorite) moments of 2012. More soon on that front….

Absolute Heartbreak

It's the day after and the heartbreak of what occurred yesterday at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT hurts even more.  20 kindergarten students were murdered and 6 adult staff members as well.  We have had multiple shootings in the past 15 years in the United States--at schools, malls, movie theaters, and other locations.  We are a country that has become far too used to these things, but, thankfully, never accepting of them.  It is just before Christmas and I'm sure the youngsters were very much looking forward to the holiday. Presents were purchased and perhaps even wrapped by their parents.  Now, they are preparing to have funerals for their babies.

For about 9 years, our family lived in Danbury, Connecticut which is the first town over the state line between New York and Connecticut on Interstate 84. Newtown is the next town east. I know the area well and we still have friends in Northern Fairfield County. One of our sons was born in the same hospital where the wounded were taken yesterday. Unfortunately, only one of those wounded survived. Perhaps, because of a very loose personal relationship with the area, this shooting hits home a bit more.

I am all for the national discussion of gun control.  I am not for continued discussion with no action.  I am not for a total ban on all firearms but I see little reason why access to military style automatic weapons and ammunition need to be had in the general populace.  

I came from a rural farming area in Central Illinois.  Hunting is a huge part of many people's lives.  My family has had hunters amongst its ranks for generations.  I have no problem with the sport of hunting and providing food for your family.  I do have a problem with anyone who would ever want to hunt with an automatic rifle or handgun.  And I don't know of any hunters who would want to hunt with these firearms either.  

However, if we are going to have the discussion of gun control, as I said, let's have action as well.  AND, if we are going to discuss The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, let's also talk about the issues that have brought so many of these horrible incidents to the fore.  Let's talk about mental health and the access to care.  Let's talk about a culture that has become increasingly violent just as Hollywood has become more violent as well.  Let's talk about violence laced music blaring from our speakers.  Let's talk about a nation that does not respect life, in all its form from conception to natural death.  Let's talk about pure trash television and reality shows that are way out of control. Let's talk about an image setting industry that causes many people to feel as if "they just don't stack up".   Let's talk about a society that has thrown away so many of its youth and wizened elderly as well.  Let's talk about a country with so little respect for anyone in need.  Let's talk about a lack of love, about a callousness, about rudeness, about selfish attitudes, and about hate.  Our country abounds with all of this as well.  The use of guns are the end product of an individual so loaded with either mental derangement or the epitome of having lost all respect for anyone other than himself.  When we are willing to talk about ALL these things and are willing to act, then perhaps we will see a reduction of this kind of terrorism.  Until then, it's just talk and not very enlightened chat at that. We say we want to ban weaponry but we don’t seem interested in taking care of the things that bring about the actions in the first place. Let’s do both.
The shootings are only the end result of a society that has gone so far astray.  Yesterday we saw the actions of a young man who was described as having mental and/or social issues.  But yet, there were massively destructive weapons within his grasp.  How could the two issues, lack of clarity and destruction, become so intertwined?  In order to figure out the answer, we have to look into all the issues--not just half of the argument.

Siegfried's in town

Finally, it’s the day of the first performance. I’m very excited about this opening night. Yes, I usually look forward to opening nights but this one is one that has me excited in different ways. Of all the Ring operas, it took me the longest amount of time to warm up to “Siegfried”. Finally, beginning in 2009, and after many run-ins with the Ring, I started to find the genius and greatness of this wonderful score. It is interesting that there are never more than two people singing on stage at a time in this opera. It is a piece full of conversations. There are technical challenges galore: Forging the sword, Nothung, having the giant, Fafner, appear, a flying (and singing) bird, a woman surrounded by fire and a brave hero finding his way through the flames to awaken her. And, of course, the biggest challenge, making your way vocally through this gigantic wall of sound that Wagner has provided and through a nearly 5.5 hour masterpiece. It’s a long night, to be sure. Only Siegfried and Der Wanderer (Wotan), which is my role, sing in all 3 Acts. For any tenor, the role of Siegfried is one of the most difficult in all operatic literature---perhaps, only the role of Tristan is tougher. For me, Act 3 is one of the most difficult acts of any opera I sing. When it all comes together, it is a rewarding but exhausting experience. I think we have a very interesting and entertaining production on our hands here in Seville and I’m excited to sing tonight in front of an audience.

Also, I would be remiss to not mention that this performance begins, for me, the celebration of “The Wagner Year”. This season we begin the observation of his 200th birthday (his actual birthday is in May). Perhaps no composer revolutionized opera (and the orchestra) as did Richard Wagner. I have been honored to have been so associated with his music. NO, I’m not going into all the political ramifications of his character or his personal beliefs that are so controversial and appalling in this post. I am only paying honor to his music and theatrical genius. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share his music on so many stages in my career and I’m excited to do so again tonight. Later this season, I’ll be singing a great deal more of his music with “Tristan und Isolde”, “Die Meistersinger”, and scenes from “Die Walk
üre” all on the schedule. Of course, I’m not discounting the genius of Giuseppe Verdi whose 200th birthday we also begin to celebrate this season. But for tonight, “Siegfried” is in town. I’m looking forward to welcoming into the ‘ville.

I should mention, as well, that one of our dogs is a little miniature dachshund named “Siegfried”--although we call him “Ziggy”. Ah, the influence of this opera...

Bring on the shows

The rehearsals for “Siegfried” are now behind us and we await opening night (Wednesday). I’m very much looking forward to the full audiences and performing this interesting production. Having a few days off is greatly appreciated. We had nearly 30 hours of orchestra rehearsal this past week which is difficult when singing this kind of repertoire. However, we all survived.

One thing I’m doing during these days is adding all of the journal entries from my previous web pages to this more “modern” website. This brings journal entries from all the way back into 2008 onto this page. The only problem is that I’m not attaching all of the pictures and links that were part of some of those pages. It takes up a bit too much room and too much time (hey, I only get a few days off). It is fun, however (for me, anyway), to look back at some of these old posts. In some ways, they are like a travelog. On the other hand, there is a bit of a “personal diary” feel. Mostly, it’s just a showing of rambling memories. When your mind is crammed full of Wagner, it’s good to have a place to store up a few thoughts in case the mind just suddenly bursts from overuse.

I hope your Advent Season is off to a beautiful and reflective start.