Broken flipper, Literally!!!---and a leap year benefit

Well, it’s been an interesting start to the run of “Rusalka” at The Royal Opera House-Covent Garden in London. What a magnificent evening of music we had on the opening night this past Monday. When you have committed singing actors, a marvelous orchestra, and a TREMENDOUS young and exciting conductor in the pit, great things are going to happen. And they did. There are some who will not like this production (and they made themselves quite well known on Monday night) but it was great to hear how receptive they were to the musicians involved. The critics have showered praise as well on the musical achievement. We are pleased. HOWEVER........

As you may know, I play the role of Vodnik, the Water Goblin (and Rusalka’s father). In the picture above (left) you see me in full costume and make-up with the wonderful Finnish soprano, Camilla Nylund. (I’m sorry that you can’t see my feet---which you couldn’t see anyway because I wear large swimming flippers in the show). We did the production together in Salzburg in 2008 and it is great to work together again. The position I’m in is pretty much my position for the whole show--I slither around a lot and spend 95% of the evening on the floor. However, for the remaining performances, it’s going to be more like 100%. In the last act on Monday (Act 3), I broke a bone in my foot (the 5th metatarsal) during a bit of stage business. Let’s just say, hurt a lot. Fortunately, the orchestra was very loud at that point--the pop that I heard and felt wasn’t heard past the lip of the stage. I was able to complete the scene without anyone being the wiser (including my cast members) and really hobbled through the curtain calls (sorry about that). Yesterday I went to the hospital and had an x-ray which showed the break--I was very surprised as I didn’t think it was “more” than tendonitis although the pain was pretty severe at times. I now have this lovely fashion accessory that you see in the picture on the right and a pair of very handsome crutches to help me get around--although, it’s a very slow mode of travel. It’s going to be very interesting to see how I can pull off these next 5 shows at the ROH. I have, however, TREMENDOUS colleagues and a great Maestro in the pit to help it all come together. I’ll be leaning on them just as I know I’m always there for them to call upon. There are “no people like show people”. We are a family out here on the road even though we are constantly meeting our new “relatives”. For each of them, I am very grateful and I look forward to sharing this journey together--the hills, the valley, the streams, the lakes, the strong steps, and the tiny shuffle.

We’ll find a way to get through these shows--I’m a bit more concerned about the trip home in a few weeks. That may be more of an adventure--heavy bags, crutches, cast, oh joy!!! I’ll then get some days off before heading up to Toronto with hopefully a much lighter cast on my leg. That should come off sometime after my arrival in Toronto and I’ll be all set for the next run of shows (what a double bill that will be).

Oh, and this is February 29th--Leap year Day. I can only re-post this---go get ‘em ladies!!!
From last week’s “Evening Standard”---
the one day in almost 1,461 when you are "allowed" to get down on bended knee. That Feburary 29 is the "acceptable" day for a woman to pop the question is said to be the work of Queen Margaret of Scotland, who decreed, in the 13th Century-that a woman could ask any single man. If he declines, she can claim a dress in compensation."

Rusalka Read to Roll

We still have tomorrow’s final dress rehearsal to complete but we’re ready to go. Opening night is set for Monday night (3 days from now). What a show it is going to be. It’s nice when things are going so well that you aren’t so nervous as to whether it will come together. This is not to say that we’re over confident. However, with the show having been so thoroughly rehearsed in Salzburg in 2008, much of the edge of having to get a new production up and running is minimal. This is the first time this wonderful opera has been staged at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London. I think the patrons are in for a treat. I hope they enjoy my flippers.

This is not a “normal” production of “Rusalka”. These days, is there such a thing (with the exception of the older production at The Metropolitan Opera House)? As mentioned, I was a part of this production from Salzburg 4 years ago. Our soprano Camilla Nylund is also returning for this run (what a glorious voice). The entire cast is top notch and the orchestra, under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is marvelous. The entire rehearsal period has been a joy and I think the results will show come Monday night.

This production is controversial but it does a fine job in uniting the fantasy world of Rusalka, Jezibaba, and Vodnik with the human world of the Prince (excitingly and beautifully sung by Bryan Hymel). The lines are blurred more than perhaps in some productions and the colors are something that really shock the eye. But the production allows for strong characterizations and fine singing. I am having a great time.

The pictures above are from the run in Salzburg but everything is pretty much the same here. I remember that time in Salzburg as well because my second oldest son came along for much of the time period. It was the first time he saw a production evolve. We had a wonderful time in the mountains as well. I think this opera will always be special to me because of the fond memories from Salzburg. Now, that son is getting ready to graduate from High School in just a few months and head off to college next fall. I simply can’t believe it. Wasn’t it just yesterday when we were eating Wiener Schnitzel and Pretzels in Austria?

We have now entered what is perhaps, for me, my favorite time of year. I truly love the season of Lent--the reflective and contemplative time of year in my faith journey. Of course, we should be cognizant of our entire selves throughout the year. But having this special time to focus even more, as we prepare for Easter, is truly cherished. May your Lenten season be blessed and focused.

R.I.P., Charles (Charlie) Anthony Caruso

On, January 28, 2010, I blogged about one of the truly great men of opera on the occasion of his retirement from singing. His career is noted for his 2,928 performances at The Metropolitan Opera over 56 seasons. Today, I am so saddened to hear of his passing, just over two years later.

Words are tougher to come by at a time like this. Let’s just say that there will never be another artist like him.

Many companies, when you’re there long enough, truly feel like a family. Charlie was the head of our Met family---a true mentor, teacher, and living example of how to live your life in this business. We are all greatly saddened to hear that he is no longer with us--for we are poorer for losing him--but how much richer we are all for having known him.

God bless you, Charlie! “May the Angels lead you into Paradise”.

A Bit Chilly

Before, I forget and blather on about the cold weather and life in London, let me invite you to go to the recording page on this website and check out the link to the Youtube clip of the new recording of “Salome”. Isn’t my hair “stunning”.

“Rusalka” rehearsals are under way and going just fine---exciting cast and conductor. This is the same production we did in Salzburg in the summer of 2008 and so it is nice to return to an “old friend”. Sometimes, it feels a bit strange in rehearsal to be on the same set but in such a different setting. You almost feel you’re having an out of body experience. When we rehearsed this nearly four years ago, it was very warm. I rode a bicycle through tranquil countryside surrounded by farms and gorgeous mountains. It was thrilling to feel that sun on your back. However, here in the megapolis of London, it is very chilly, snow has been around, and one has to dodge double decker busses, black taxi cabs, and so many people instead of cows. But once inside the rehearsal hall, things are back to normal. The set is the same and even the soprano a colleague from Salzburg. It’s great to be familiar with a staging and to watch the “new” colleagues re-create their roles with the “old” staging and bringing new ideas to the fore as well. It should be a very good run of one of my favorite operas---such gorgeous music.

As I said, it’s chilly here. I think I thought it would be warmer here than it is. Often, London has warmer winters than the east coast of the USA. It sure felt warmer in the winters of 1997 and 2002 when I was also here. However, this year it doesn’t seem to be the case--and as many of you know, I’m no fan of cold weather. With the horrible cold I had upon arrival, braving the elements is not something I wanted to do in the past week. However, things have indeed improved and I’ve been able to see a few of my favorite sites. I’ll post more on being a tourist in the city soon.

Being sick at any time is not a lot of fun. Being sick on the road is a major bummer. However, I have to say that perhaps, for me, it’s better when I go through the worst of a cold away from home (even if I have to rehearse). I can rest a bit more thoroughly (and more often) and concentrate on getting well far quicker. As a singer, I don’t have much of a choice other than to try and get well as soon as possible. I’m an impatient kind of guy---I’m looking forward to being 100% healthy soon. Until then, I’ll take the 85% health I have now--and that amount of vocal recovery as well.

I hope all who read this are staying healthy and away from the winter germs. Another reason to love warm weather!!! Send it my way.

Oh, the three pictures I posted were taken out of my window looking in each direction. I love the vistas in this old city. It’s nice to be back.