Alan's Blog...It's all Gesamtkunstwerk to me!

Thoughts from nearly 40 years on the professional stage

Baden-Baden...John comes "home"

We opened the new production of “Salome” last night here in Baden-Baden. Lately, I’ve seen this town referred to as Baden x2 which works for me as well. We had a successful opening night but I’m looking for the next two performances to be far better. There are nights when the energy seems a little off. I think, perhaps, that we felt a bit “over-rehearsed” on this one. The show has been in great shape for a few weeks and we needed an audience. Last night, we finally had it. Mind you, the show went well--it was just an evening when the slightest mishap could make things seem bizarre.

And things started off with me being a bit off. My character, Jochanaan (John the Baptist), sings a great portion of his role under the stage (amplified). In order to do this, there has to be good sound and video monitors which allow me to see and hear the orchestra and conductor. Last night, when the opera started, the video monitor was not working. Essentially, this meant that I was singing blind. When you are singing at that volume from under the stage, the sound is echoing so much that there is no way you can hear the orchestra clearly either. I can only hope that things were together. Fortunately, after not too long, a technician came and fixed the monitor but it was certainly distracting to have all of this going on when you’re trying to perform a difficult role.

Of course, this is very unnerving and can get one off to a rocky start. I don’t know that the audience had any idea that there was a problem---I know the director was surprised afterwards when I told him of the mishap. Obviously, that means things couldn’t have been too noticeable. However, it sure did throw the energy off and make one doubt his performance a bit. You just keep doing the best you can and hope for the best.

After I sing from under the stage for awhile, I come up on top from the dungeon (cistern) to have a wonderful scene with Salome. In this scene, I sing some of my favorite music and have a wonderful aria. That went very well last night and I was pleased. However, after cursing Salome, I then have to go back to the dungeon and deal with all the sound and video issues down there. All of that worked fine in the last half of the opera and we ended on a high note. But oh, was this a weird night.

And these nights happen. I so often tell students that they need to relax and enjoy their singing much more. We as singers are always looking for perfection and are constantly grading ourselves. This ability to evaluate your performance needs to be honest. It can’t be overly positive and it can’t be too critical. It just has to be what it is on any particular evening. I also always remind others that perfection does not belong on this earth. We may make that our goal but we’re not going to achieve it. We just have to do our best. I hate when my best is hindered by strange happenings--but it is what it is when it is.

We have two more performances here in Baden and I think they’ll be great. These performances are being recorded for a future release on DVD. I have no idea when that will happen. I am glad that last night’s performance won’t be the one on film. Let’s hope for the best in the week ahead.

Oh, and Baden literally mean “bath”. As John, I was certainly in the bath last night as I sweat out a tough show.