This weekend my mom came to Berlin for a little visit while I'm here and in between auditions. She and my dad were planning on coming to see Agrippina in the winter, but I figured that by then, it would be so cold and cloudy that we wouldn't be able to do much sight-seeing. Unfortunately it is the worst weather possible this weekend - cold, cloudy, rainy - highs of like 40 degrees - so we are limiting our activities to the indoors. That included taking in an opera at the Staatsoper last night, and it happened to be one of the performances of Barbiere that I wasn't singing. Some people would say, "Oh- your mom came all the way to Berlin, and she doesn't even get to see you sing Rosina?" but honestly, she has seen me sing Rosina so many times, and having guests when you're in the middle of a run of a show can be really stressful. This way, I get to relax and hang out with my mom without worrying about how my voice is feeling, or if I'm wearing an extra scarf when we go outside in the cold. And seeing the production I was a part of and knowing how I sing Rosina, she can pretty much imagine just what I'd be doing up there, without having to deal with my stress before-hand, and my potential depression afterwards (if I didn't think it went well or something).
So, last night, the star of the show was sick. The Barber himself lost his voice, and they had to find someone else to sing the role with only a day's notice. I knew this was happening because I happen to be friends with the Figaro and he told me. I had to write an email to the Staatsoper asking them for tickets for the performance, so I told them that if the new Figaro needed someone to rehearse with, I would be happy to come in for a few hours and run the Rosina Figaro parts with him so at least he would have some idea where a person would be on stage. The Staatsoper people said YES PLEASE - that would help a lot - so I got to see first hand what it means to literally have someone jump in. The only thing I've ever seen happen in the states that was close was that someone once replaced one of the singers in a show I was in a week before we opened - and at the time, that seemed like very little time to prepare!
The baritone who they hired is a guy named Dalibor Jenis (you can find him on youtube if you're so inclined) and it was clear from our rehearsal together that he had sung Figaro literally hundreds of times. He was so relaxed and didn't seem even slightly phased that he would sing the title role at the Staatsoper that evening in a production he'd never even seen. The "get him ready crew" consisted of me, the director (who told him where to go and played all the other parts), the conductor and the pianist. Basically the director would tell him all the stage directions for one scene, he would run it once with the music (just barely singing obviously, since he had to sing the show later that night) and then we would move on. I kept thinking, "How is going to remember all of this after only going through it one time??" Of course, it helps if you've done the role many times before because there are lots of things that are just standard, but this production has lots of very specific bits that you have to remember because it affects what the other singers are doing.
Well, I am here to tell you that from an audience perspective, had I not been in the rehearsal with him where I saw him learn the stage directions for the first time, I would not have believed that he didn't know the production. Not only did he remember all of the staging, but he was able to incorporate it to such a degree, that he was improvising little acting moments around the staging that were really funny. I was seriously amazed, and I felt like a real tool for complaining about only having a few days of rehearsal. The other singers were amazingly relaxed as well, and if there was a moment where he was in a slightly different place than the other Figaro would have been, they improvised and made it work seamlessly as well. There was also a new Basilio who I had never met before (who I'm sure has done the production a lot before), and the Rosina had not done the show this time around with this conductor because I had done the shows so far that he had conducted. You definitely think of Barbiere as being an ensemble show, and yet, some of the members of this ensemble had never even met each other, and were interacting beautifully as if they had rehearsed together for weeks. Again, I say, I was amazed.
What did I learn from this experience? That I am WAY TOO UPTIGHT!!! I sometimes worry about every detail too much instead of just relaxing and giving myself over to the moment. Being on stage is such an alive experience, and if you don't always know exactly what you are doing, you will figure it out! I think we put so much emphasis on having covers (in the U.S. anyway) who are completely well rehearsed for every single role, that I have this idea that if you haven't rehearsed for a month, you are screwed. I mean, I am a very fast learner of staging, and I know I could learn the staging to any show in a day and do it well. However, you had better believe that if I did that, I would be telling everyone, "oh my god, I had to learn this staging in just one day! Can you imagine?" (see my blog posts on learning this production for example:). But this baritone, cool as a cucumber, never once seemed even slightly worried about a thing. So I guess if you just give yourself over to being in the moment, magic can happen. Really!!