Today I had the very strange experience of watching a dress rehearsal for Chabrier's L'Etoile at the New York City Opera. It was strange because the only time I've ever had any experiences with this production were the two times I performed in it, when it was first seen at City Opera, and then at Cincinnati Opera. I had never actually seen this production from the outside, and I also hadn't been in City Opera since I last sang there and since the massive renovations have taken place. The first strange thing was seeing big pictures of my face in the the L'Etoile costumes - first outside the theater on a life size poster, then on the video playing in the lobby. I was entering the theater with a friend of a friend, and was explaining to him how I had sung in this opera, and just as I said that I pointed up to a big video screen and said, "oh look - there I am." It was surreal.
I spent my formative years at City Opera - I sang in over 80 performances during a total of 8 seasons from the time I was still a student until the last season of the former management. And L'Etoile in particular was my first starring role with the company, and the first really big thing I did in New York while no longer a student. I adore this particular production of L'Etoile because it's fantastically absurd and full of energy and life. And for some reason, I have made several friends who have turned out to be incredibly important in my life during both productions of L'Etoile. So, I'm a little attached to the piece, to say the least.
It was great to get to finally see the whole opera from beginning to end from the outside. I had tons of moments where I said to myself "Wow - that's what that part looked like???" It was also really nice to see the new and improved theater - the renovations seem to have worked quite well because the seats were more comfortable and spacious, there were nice big aisles (where you were formerly trapped inside 3,256 seats on either side because there were NO aisles - NIGHTMARE!!), and the notoriously horrible acoustics seemed to me to be greatly improved.
But I also really miss City Opera, I have to admit. I grew so accustomed to taking the subway to Lincoln Center and entering through that stage door on 62nd and Columbus. I was lucky that when the management changed, I managed to find other interesting places to work and was able to move on - some people weren't so lucky. But I miss Suzy and Tom in wigs and make-up, and my favorite Supernumerary Raven, and my favorite house director Albert, and even the dinky little break room with the broken down snack machines. And they're all still there, even while I'm off galavanting in Europe, eating bratwurst and drinking Hefeweissen. I'm just glad City Opera seems to be finding it's footing and sticking around. It's an important part of New York's cultural scene, and a good place for young American singers to get their starts.
Here's one of my favorite photos of me from L'Etoile: