You were probably wondering where the heck I'd been. Well, I was just waiting for something exciting to happen - and tonight it did. I found out, funnily enough- via facebook, that our Figaro wasn't' going to be able to perform tonight, so I knew we'd be having someone jump in to the role tonight. I got an email from the Staatsoper office today, informing me as much, and I spent all of 2 minutes introducing myself to the lovely young italian baritone called in for the job, only minutes before the performance started. And that was it. As I walked back to my dressing room, I thought to myself - well, next time I see him we will be singing a duet. In front of people. For the first time in our lives. At the Berlin Staastoper. That's Show Business!
Jumping in boggles my mind. First of all because we just don't do it in the U.S. I remember some years back when I was performing in the second cast of Nozze di Figaro at City Opera. We had several weeks of rehearsal with our entire cast, and although we didn't have the chance to do it on the stage with the orchestra before our first performance, we were very well prepared with the staging and with knowing each other. And even in that situation we were all freaking out. I remember the energy level during that first performance of the second cast as being extraordinarily high because we were all so nervous. But that was nothing compared to what it must be like to have only a few hours of rehearsal the day before the performance, and basically meet your colleagues on stage for the first time while you are singing with them.
In tonight's performance, the director of the show was backstage the entire night pointing and gesturing at the new guy when he might have been lost, and cheering him on as well. We also have a prompter, although I noticed that it was hard to hear her the few times that someone got lost, and various colleagues were whispering lost recit that may have been confusingly absent because of some cut. We rehearsed some of the second act trio in the dressing room before we started that act, and there was a part we were singing that the poor Figaro had never done before. He was literally learning the music during the intermission, and I thought to myself HOW ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW? But he really was calm and collected, which is your only option when you are in a jump-in situation. Otherwise, you will totally and completely lose your mind. I mean, everybody fears those moments when you are onstage, and for some reason you momentarily forget where you are supposed to be. When you jump-in, you know for certain that you will have many moments like that, and you just have to pray that a kind colleague will push you in the right direction.
And I personally am like a sheep dog, feeling the need to herd lost things in all situations. So it was definitely harder for me to concentrate tonight on my own singing and acting because I was always worrying about whether I needed to help the Figaro. I would imagine that Europeans who are more accustomed to the jump-in don't find it to be such a big deal, and go about their parts normally, with maybe a heightened awareness of what's going on around them. I, on the other hand, can't bear to see someone looking lost and take it on as my personal responsibility to make sure they know what's going on. It's probably annoying actually to these calm Europeans who are seasoned "einspringers" to have this bossy american trying to be "helpful." But I can't stop myself. I need to get myself some sheep or something.
All things considered, I would say the performance went remarkably well, and my hat is off to the gentleman who managed to keep his wits about him with only a few hours of rehearsal. As for me, I have only one more performance here in Berlin before I get to go home - TO MY OWN APARTMENT for the first time in awhile. I hope I still remember where I live.