& I’m not afraid to use it. Well, maybe a little bit.
It is commonly said that opera singers can’t act, & sometimes with good reason, but we are expected to give it our best shot. These days, no matter how good the voices onstage are, audiences have come to expect a bit of theater with their music, & in my opinion, that’s a good thing. Even a musically solid production can be ruined, or at least diminished, by static, awkward, or otherwise ill-conceived direction.
At this point, we’ve had two staging rehearsals for Lyric Opera Baltimore’s “La Traviata”. In Violetta’s party scene, I’m a 19th-century “Mean Girl”, along with my friends Karen & Erin. After gossiping about all of the other guests, we end up downstage center & are pretty snobbish in our initial reactions to poor, nervous Alfredo when he agrees to sing a drinking song to please his hostess. All three of us ladies sang in the Baltimore Opera Chorus and are quite used to ending up at the front of the stage, for one simple reason: we’re short. Not that that’s the only factor a director considers in placing singers, of course, but we do all need to be able to see the maestro. We staged this scene with a few of the principals on Sunday night (10/23) & added Violetta & Alfredo the following evening. After a few run-throughs, the director, Crystal Manich, decided things looked good, & we moved on to Flora’s party scene, wherein the chorus men are costumed as matadors & the women as gypsies.
This is where the tambourine comes in. I love doing crazy stuff onstage – several years ago, in “The Siege of Corinth”, I did a fight scene in which I bested a male opponent, all while standing on an amphitheater-type set & wearing a long gown. Still, the small, round object I’ve been charged with carrying, banging on, & rattling in this production (presumably at the moments indicated in the score) has me a bit spooked. Why? Well, tambourines are… loud, even when partially muted, as ours have been. If I drop this thing during a performance, I will be mortified. That said, I’m honored to be one of the eight ladies who get to follow several principals into the party, so I’m determined to do my job & do it well. We ladies have a bit of choreography in this scene, too – more stylized movement than actual dancing, but we are opera singers, after all, & were hired for our voices, not our footwork. So far, the choreographer, Kyle Lang, is being most patient with us & we’re having a great time.
We’re staging at the Lyric Opera House, in a rehearsal room just off the principal dressing room hallway, which is a new development. Those of us who performed with Baltimore Opera remember (fondly or otherwise) going to staging rehearsals & costume fittings at the MSOC, or Monument Street Opera Center, a decrepit former warehouse located directly across the street from the jail. The place was allegedly mold-ridden & certainly nothing to look at from the street or on the inside, yet I miss it. I sang with the old company for seven years (2002-2009) & some of my fondest memories are of the MSOC & of the great music we made there. Still, the Lyric was, & is, our real home & I feel amazingly happy the moment I set foot in that building. Since we’re not done staging & the set is still being assembled, I haven’t trod the Lyric’s boards recently, nor have I seen the much-discussed technical upgrades that have been made (no more sandbags!) but I will report back as soon as I do.
fun, opera, singer, vocal