A Bizarre Performance--but a cherished one

So, it was a bizarre night at the opera. Two of the more emotional performances I've ever been part of occurred in this same theater (Opera House) at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The first one was on 9-12-2001...I don't need to go into much detail as to why that was emotional--being in D.C. during that time period was an experience that I'll never forget. At the end of the night, it was clear that we helped the audience during difficult times--and they helped us as well. Tonight was a different story. "Dialogues of the Carmelites" is always an extremely emotional experience for the cast and audience alike. However, today, a pretty significant storm hit the D.C. area. Now this storm wasn't nearly as bad as what I've been through before or in line with what Boston has been receiving. But, this is D.C. It's basically a Southern city and things are a mess. There is not the snow removal equipment here that there is in northern cities. It was announced earlier today that opening night would go on--and so, it did. But, just before curtain, I looked at one of the monitors that we have backstage that gives a clear view of the audience. It didn't look like anyone was in the house! Very disconcerting. However, our wonderful director (and the Artistic Director for the Washington National Opera), Francesca Zambello, went out to the audience and invited everyone to come down to the orchestra level and move together towards the center since so many were not able to make it into the theater for the performance due to the storm. Out of 1,800 tickets sold for tonight's performance, only 636 people were able to make it (including two of our favorite Supreme Court Justices who never seem to miss an outing at the opera). 25% of the chorus was missing at the beginning of the show and one trombone player as well. The people gathered in the center of the hall and sat enraptured through the next three hours of incredible music drama. The reception at the end of the night, after the last strike of the guillotine, was very moving. This is a powerful piece, one that speaks incredibly to the present situations in the world. It is a piece with overwhelming grace, sincerity, and reality. It is a piece that I am thrilled to have been a part of tonight. And, I'm grateful for every single one of those audience members who came to the performance. For those who couldn't make it, I understand your tickets will be warranted for another performance. Don't miss it!

"Carmelites" Opens tonight

Greetings from Washington, D.C. How great to be back in one of my favorite cities (although I could do without all this cold and snow). This is approximately my 30th production in the D.C. area and my 25th or so with the Washington National Opera. It has been a home away from home for so many years--and the company that really supported my operatic career its’ beginnings. I am very grateful for each experience that I’ve gained with this company, whether it be one of the small roles in my early days, or the theater where I sang some of my bigger roles for the first time. The Kennedy Center has long been associated with my career--and my history--more of that later.
Tonight, we open a production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites”. This is the first time I’ve sung this opera. Some may wonder why I’m singing a smallish role here in Washington at this time. Well, two years ago, it looked like I would have a hole in my schedule. My agent and I talked to the folks here at the WNO and I said I’d be happy to sing the role of the Marquis in this production. That was before I knew about my teaching position at Wichita State. However, as time went on, I realized that this is really a great role to do at this time. This company, as I said, gave me my start. It’s nice to give back to it a bit as well. And, this role is very non-stressful for me--we need these kind of roles in our pocket to break up all the harder evenings. I’ve been able to do the rehearsals, enjoy the experience, stay in contact with my students, do some teaching here, sing for various events, etc. It’s the complete life of a singer. The role of the Marquis de la Force is not overly difficult and certainly not long--but it is important. I get to wear a great costume and wig and sing some interesting and challenging music. It’s great to spend time with a favored director, Francesca Zambello, and with so many of my cast mates who I’ve known over the years. Nice gig.

As I mentioned, my history with the Kennedy Center goes back a ways--all the way to 1972. The Kennedy Center opened in 1971. In June, 1972, I was a member (as a tuba player) of the Junior High School Band of America. We travelled from Illinois to the east coast where we played a concert at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. The next night, tickets were given to us to go to the Kennedy Center to see a performance of some piece (I forget the name of it). We were young kids--I was 13. I was exhausted from the tour and hadn’t been all that well for a great portion of the trip. All I can really remember of the performances is that I fell asleep on the soldier of the man next to me, a complete stranger. What is more interesting, however, is that very weekend, the building next door was being broken into and robbed--you may remember that little incident at The Watergate Hotel? Funny how lives and incidents are so intertwined. OH, and I swear I had nothing to do with the break-in. I had a good alibi.
This weather is atrocious for singers--and everyone else. Please make the snow and cold go away. Summer does have to come, doesn’t it.
Finally, we have entered into one of my favorite times of the year. This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and our Lenten journey continues. May yours be meaningful and blessed!