Monday, April 12, 2010

Barber bliss

So, can I just say; Portland Opera is the sweetest gig EVAH! The pay is excellent, plus they give you housing and a per diem. The General Director has GREAT taste in singers (and can afford to pay them) so he gets GREAT artists to come here. The sing through today was a joy because every single person was simply outstanding! This hotel that the opera houses us in has free breakfast every day, and on weekday evenings, serves free microbrews (score!!!) or wine, plus appetizers and/or entire meals between 5 -7 PM. And then there's the fact that here in Portland, "Happy Hour" is big, which means many of the local restaurants and bars have a deal where with the purchase of one drink, you get a whole menu of food that only costs 2, 3 or 4 bucks per item during certain hours. Oh, and have I mentioned that we're right on the river, and the opera gives us each a free bike for our time here? Also, Portland Opera has it's own super nice office and rehearsal space. Seriously. SWEETEST GIG EVAHHHHH!

The first day of rehearsals is generally used for a musical rehearsal with the conductor, and today was no exception. That first rehearsal, or "first day of school" as one of my colleagues dubbed it today, can actually be rather nerve-wracking. You are sitting or standing before all of your colleagues, the conductor and director, the staff of the opera company, and often the company's young artists, and singing through your role. Usually you just arrived on an airplane the day before and have "airplane throat" and a bit of jet-lag. And you'd better believe that everybody is quietly assessing everybody else and forming their opinions. Plus with Barber, each principal's first major entrance is with an aria (usually stacked with a high note or six), so even if you've sung the role a bunch, you're still pretty glad if you remembered to wear deodorant that day. I got all nervous when the pianist started playing the introduction to "Una voce poco fa" today, and I had to tell myself to CALM DOWN - IT'S JUST THE SING THROUGH! But once I got over that initial fight with my nervous system, I started to relax and have fun.

And my colleagues are not only all really good singers and really funny comedians, but very supportive and fun to be around. And my experience dictates that when every person is this good, they also tend to be really nice to each other, and the working environment becomes a really positive one. And with great colleagues, and a fabulous director and conductor, both of whom I've worked with before, I have kind of scored the trifecta of a good gig experience this time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: There are regional opera houses in this country that are putting out operas in which the artistic quality could rival any "A" house. But these companies are often largely ignored by the greater population of the operatic industry because they aren't the Met, Chicago, San Fran, Houston, Seattle, L.A. or D.C. Well people, I'm here to tell you; First rate opera is happening all around you. It's time to wake up and smell the talent. Awwww, yeah.


pat said...

I noticed in the box of things that you want me to send you there are more shoes. I know that these are something that you will really need. Ha ha ha ha ha. It really made me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Funny comment, the one above :-). Yes, your experiences and descriptions absolutely confirm what so many know, as well. The Met and comparable houses are not the only places excellent performing can be found. And in fact, the inverse is quite often the case.

Many fresh, healthy, energetic talents are busy working, sometimes in regional theatres, while the top level all too frequently makes choices based on other factors. We often are forced to endure the mixed result, unfortunately. I partly attribute this to a rigid system of advance casting combined with a seat-of-the-pants emergency measure kind of approach. In other words, the houses lock themselves in when it is always possible a singer will arrive in a compromised state 3 years after the contract was signed, so they have to resort to half-measures at the last moment. And also, there is a religious adherence to the concept of name singers selling seats, which can be true, but then again they take the risk that the final product will be the farthest thing from excellent! A name is meaningless if the work is sub-par, no matter the resume or past accomplishments.

More than anything, however, I believe casting directors are letting agencies do much of the casting, though they'd never admit to this. They aren't traveling themselves and listening to new talent with an open mind. This is why they come up short so much of the time. They are not personally familiar with the options; they are relying on hearsay and succumbing to other pressures. Using media to do casting is definitely not acceptable, either, because so many aspects of a recording can be unreliable.

Anyway, just some thoughts, and by no means the total picture. Glad you're enjoying your Barber. I'm sure it will be great! Lucky Portland...

Katypracht said...

Sounds like a dream, Jenny, I'm so glad you're having fun and feeling appreciative of the people who are appreciating you! :) Enjoy!