Reflections from Opening Day and Night

We opened “Peter Grimes” at the Washington National Opera on Saturday night to excellent critical acclaim. It was a very special night. I have loved this opera for a very long time and have always found singing the role of Captain Balstrode to be a treat. First of all, it’s nice to sing in your native language once in awhile. Second, the evenings are shorter than a typical Wagner evening. Third, the story is so dramatic and the opera is fast paced. Fourth, this is an ensemble show and it is always great to work so closely with colleagues, especially when they are as talented as the cast, chorus, director, conductor and orchestra assembled here in Washington. No wonder the opera is being so well received.

It was great to have one of my sons along for the opening night and the dinner that followed at The British Embassy. I have tried, over the years, to involve our children in as many opportunities as possible. One son joined me for opening night here in Washington in 2001 (three days before September 11th) as we opened “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”. I’ve had the children travel with me on various occasions so they can see just what Dad does, especially as he has to spend so many hours away from them. My son truly enjoyed opening night--the opera and the dinner. He is very interested in the arts and I’m sure these experiences are a great education for him.

As my role in this opera is not my most demanding, we were able to do a little touring on Saturday. We went to the National Archives and were greatly moved by so much of what we saw there. I have toured there before but it was special to have my son along as we viewed the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of The United States. We also saw one of the original editions of the Magna Carta. These incredible documents were displayed alongside so many other historical artifacts. We saw the original Homestead Application filled out by Charles Ingalls displayed just feet away from one of Shaquille O’Neal’s sneakers---that’s one big shoe! It truly was a great day.

Allergy season has hit D.C. with the trees blossoming everywhere. It’ll only get worse in the coming weeks as the Cherry blossoms burst forth. So many of us are feeling the discomfort that this time of year brings. However, a singer has to muddle through and sing as well as possible. I hope things don’t get tougher in the weeks ahead---and we could really use some rain here to fill the streams and clean the air. It’s long overdue.

In Washington, D.C.

There are few opera companies more associated with my career than the Washington National Opera. In my first season with the company (1987-1988), I performed five different roles. Since then, I’ve performed around 15 others here in D.C. with the company. If you add together other productions I’ve been a part of with Wolf Trap Opera and The Washington Concert Opera, I’ve been involved with over 25 productions here in our nation’s capitol. You can see why I always look forward to performing here and being amongst so many friends that I’ve worked with over the years.

We began rehearsals on “Peter Grimes” last week. It is refreshing to come back to this work after a nine year absence from my schedule. It is an opera that I adore and have performed many times but sadly, not recently, and not since my debut at La Scala in 2000. We have an outstanding cast here in Washington. Following these performances which run through early April, we’ll jump immediately into “Siegfried”. That opera has also been off of my schedule for awhile but, as always, it will be great to be back with Wagner.

The last few weeks have been full of challenges with winding up “Salome” in Geneva and a horrible day of travel that brought me back to the States. We were delayed, due to mechanical problems, getting out of Geneva by 12 hours. This brought us to the east coast right in the middle of a snow storm. That 26 hour day of travel lead to quite a bit of exhaustion and, unfortunately, a cold taking over my respiratory system. I’m fighting it and have every hope of being over it soon and just fine for opening night (March 21).

I enjoyed so much being with my family a few days in the past week. After 8 weeks in Switzerland, it was so wonderful to be with my wife and children and also to see many friends at our church. I will enjoy this time in D.C. but I look forward to a long break which arrives in May.

Washington is always a great city for walking and I’ve already done a great bit of that. My entire family enjoys being here and I’m glad we’ll spend time here together this spring. I especially look forward to Cherry Blossom time which will arrive in a few weeks. Seeing the trees in full bloom is a spectacular sight. This is my third year in a row to spend this part of the year here in Washington. I’ll never get tired of being in one of my favorite cities.

Oh, and this picture was taken outside of the rehearsal space we utilize in Tacoma Park, Maryland (a D.C. suburb). This poster shows a view of the final scene from “Die
Walküre” in our 2007 production. It’s kind of strange seeing yourself surrounded by flames on the side of a building. My mind holds great memories from that production so I guess I don’t mind my likeness hanging around for awhile.