Wrapping it up

Tomorrow night, we close our double-bill here in Toronto. It’s been quite a run. As it is with any project, you never know how a project will turn out until it’s finished. Of course, there are some who would say that you shouldn’t take on a project unless you know how it will turn out. In reality, I find that is almost impossible to pull off. I first started working on this double bill, even if only on the surface, way back in 2008 when I accepted the proposal to come to Toronto this season for these performances. Of course, I had sung the title role in “Gianni Schicchi” before. Taking on the first half of the double-bill, “A Florentine Tragedy” was a completely different matter. The score is very intimidating for many reasons. I won’t go into all that detail here but, suffice it to say, putting that difficult piece at the beginning of the night more than doubled the challenge of singing an opera--even two operas--even six operas. Some roles lie perfectly in a singer’s voice from near the beginning of the project. Simone “in Tragedy” didn’t. One always hopes, as a singer, that you’ll continue to grow in your skill and technic. You hope that the blessings you’ve been gifted with will remain with you far into the future. But you don’t know that this will be the case. To say I struggled with getting this piece into my voice would be not entirely accurate---but there were sections that I wondered just how I’d pull off. The role lies quite high and jumps all over the vocal range. There is so much text to enunciate as well. There isn’t a huge plot line that continues throughout the opera---much is carried out through long dialogue that really doesn’t have a lot to do with the story. But, as I said in an interview yesterday, it is in those long dialogues that we discover more and more about the character of Simone. When rehearsals begin, you hope that you are finally at a stage where the vocal challenges and the dramatic efforts can meld together. In our first weeks of staging, it took a lot of coaxing to find a way to make it all mesh. Finally, when we got to opening night (nearly a month ago), I felt that we were on to something. Often, I get that feeling far earlier in a rehearsal period. We now had a show on our hands. However, could I sing two operas in a night, differentiate the characters enough, find the right use of language (including proper foreign language diction), express the various styles, and quite simply, hold up singing so many notes in such a condensed amount of time. Doing these two shows isn’t like singing Wagner. It has been like taking a long Wagner opera and condensing it very compactly into the toughest vocal exercise I think I may ever sing. And you know what, with the results we’ve had, I’d do it all over again.The run has been an enormous success and I’m going to be sorry to put these two roles on the shelf for awhile---for all I know, I may never sing them again. But I’m grateful that indeed the blessings continued, the technic was there, the styles developed, and that this run in Toronto has been one I’ll never forget.After tomorrow night, I get a bit of a break (and OH, how I’m looking forward to that). We will celebrate my second oldest son’s graduation from high school. I’ll be putting finishing touches on “Bluebeard’s Castle” which I’ll sing in San Francisco in a few weeks in concert with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. I’ll also be polishing, once again, “Siegfried” for the performance that approaches in Munich. The thing I’m really looking forward to, however, is just being home with my family and being able to enjoy life again in my own yard with a healed foot. I’ve been home less than 4 weeks since the first of the year. I’m so looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. And a very happy and safe Memorial Day to all. May God bless our veterans---those we’ve lost and those we still cherish having with us.