Friday, August 6, 2010

It's my birthday, baby!

Yes it is. 35 years young today and still kicking.

What am I doing to celebrate this birthday? Why, I'm performing the final dress rehearsal (with a full audience, so basically a performance) of a 5 hour Pergolesi Opera to a bunch of people in Austria. What? That's not a normal way to celebrate your birthday?

Wow - I'm not gonna lie, the past week has been absolutely exhausting. The opera really is 5 hours long when you take the two breaks for intermission, and it feels like a marathon. And we've had rehearsals every day since Saturday - we had a piano dress rehearsal Saturday, two 3 hour stage orchestra rehearsals Monday, two more Tuesday, two more Wednesday, a pre-dress rehearsal yesterday (and the large air circulation unit near the stage blew up and sent dust flying onto the stage after only about 20 minutes into the first act, so we had to wait an hour before continuing with the rest) and tonight the final dress rehearsal. Of course singing Pergolesi for 5 hours isn't like singing Wagner for that long, but it's still exhausting emotionally and physically to keep your concentration and focus and energy going for that long. I'm really looking forward to the day off we have tomorrow before the premiere on Sunday.

Oh, also, as I previously mentioned, Sony is making a recording of the performances for release. So in addition to the microphones placed all around the stage and in the orchestra, we are each wearing body mikes that are taped to our faces. I kept seeing the little mikes on people's cheeks last night and thinking that the make-up department had painted little moles on their faces the way they sometimes do in period make-up. Plus, since the opera is so long, the macho microphone dudes have to come in during intermission and reach down our pants (or up our skirts) and fiddle with the mike packs. There really is no time for modesty in the theater - have I mentioned that since the mikes are always on, they can also hear us going to the bathroom? Yup. that must be real fun for them.

The singers in this group are really wonderful, both as singers and as people. I find that when I sing baroque opera, the singers I work with always seem to be so nice and generous and kind. I mean, singers in general are good people, but when I sing baroque music there is nary a diva in the bunch. I don't have a theory as to why that would be, but it's good news for me, as I seem to be singing more and more baroque music these days. And I have to say that even though this piece is extraordinarily long (since we are doing it without ANY cuts whatsoever) the music really is wonderful. Pergolesi wrote some incredible and varied music for this piece - especially for the castrati roles, which, in this case meant the two male leads AND the two female leads. Apparently in Rome in 1735 when the opera was premiered, women were not allowed on the stage, so not only were the two male leads sung by castrati, but their female love interests were as well. It is extraordinary for me to imagine male voices singing these four roles (which are all too high for a modern countertenor, so are all sung by women) and to imagine the female roles being interpreted by men. What an incredible journey this opera has come through, to now be performed and recorded 275 years later, albeit with different gendered voices portraying the leads. One of the things about music that is so overwhelming as both an artist and as a listener is to realize that you are not just observing history, you are giving it life.

So, all in all, not a bad way to spend my birthday.

And, in the spirit of being grateful for getting to live this life, I just want to say thank you to all of you for reading, and especially to those of you who take the time to comment. You are often leaving such supportive remarks, or even just sharing your opinions, and it means so much to me that you take the time to share some of yourselves with me. I'm not just saying that - I really do get so much out of being able to have this "conversation" with all of you, and I sincerely appreciate that you are willing to participate. I raise my (proverbial, because I can't get drunk before singing an opera) birthday glass to all of you!


pat said...

And cheers to you and Pergolesi, you're such a corker. I must say that it has been my pleasure witnessing your life unfold from that first historic cry 35 years ago in that hospital in California to the song you will be singing tonight on that stage in distant Austria. I will always remember that even though I was busy giving birth to you, I could still hear the choir that was standing outside the delivery room door singing "It's a Small World Afterall." It is indeed, as you have proved. My heart and mind are with you today. Blessings, Mom

tiham said...

Joyeux anniversaire, Jenny !
Happy birthday, Jenny !
Gutes Geburtstag, Jenny !
Buon compleanno, Jenny !

Enough for today ? Say Hi to Bacchus from me...

Michelle said...

Have a wonderful birthday! I wish I could hear the Pergolesi, I'm sure it'll be fabulous!!

JessyF said...

Happy Birthday from a Los Angeles blog follower, waiting for you to come back (yes I'm counting Opera Pacific as 'Los Angeles')!

Anonymous said...

Happiest of birthdays! Despite the rigors, it sounds like a pretty wonderful way to celebrate. Enjoy.

Thank you for generously sharing your talent AND your insights. As a civilian who first encountered you as Rosina with Opera Pacific, it's been such a treat to experience a little of your artistic life through your blog. The highs, the lows, the triumphs, the fears.

No doubt, as you get even more successful, some manager/agent type will try to curb your candidness, but I'm confident that the honesty that informs your performances can’t be stifled. Way to go, Jenny!

Sending you a virtual glass of champagne and a big slice of Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte (or the Austrian equivalent)!

Kim said...

Five hours of Pergolesi? That's insane. I can't believe the rehearsal schedule, either. That's really crazy. And microphones that never shut off! And four castrati roles! This is one unique opera!

Opera is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but sometimes I feel like it's one of the weirdest things on the planet. And I say that with all the endearment possible (because, of course, I love opera more than almost anything in the world).

Enjoy your day and good luck with Pergolesi! I'm excited for the recording. :)

Sibyl said...

Happy Birthday from a fellow Native Californian! LOVE Pergolesi; love your blog. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!

-from an aspiring opera singer in college and fellow native Californian. Also, thanks for your blog. It's so great to actually be able to read an account of what the life is like once you get there-- ups and downs alike. Best wishes for your opening night!

Diane said...

Happy Birthday (belated) Jenny! Will you be singing in the New York area any time soon? We'd love to see you again. Love your blog.


Anonymous said...

Happy happy birthday! First had the pleasure of hearing you sing at the Berkshire Choral Festival hope your day was wonderful!

Janet said...

It sounds like just about the idea way to spend a birthday. I hope the Austrians have some equivalent of "Happy Birthday" and they sing it to you.

May you have a very happy birthday, and please come sing in New York so I can finally hear you.

Anonymous said...

Happy belated, and yes, I remember those days of longing for that glass of wine and not being able to drink before a performance - it IS the ultimate SACRIFICE for your ART...

Enjoy and go and get drunk ASAP after the run of the opera is over!

- Mariel

Zoe said...

Happy birthday! I hope you had fun...and thank YOU for writing such an amazingly entertaining blog! :) Best wishes.