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

Thoughts from nearly 40 years on the professional stage

Jockanaan...A Great Production...and a new job

I have played the role of “Jochanaan” so many times (and have written about him on this page, OFTEN). I’m not sure if I have too many more words to say about him. Well, let me just say again that I love singing this role in Richard Strauss’ “Salome”. Having the opportunity to return to Vienna to once again sing the role, in this great production that dates back to the early 70’s, is an honor. This is my third visit to Vienna just for this production. I’ve also sung Wotan (“Das Rheingold”) and The Four Villains (“Les Contes d’Hoffmann”) here. This “Salome” is a production that clearly tells the story with no gimmicks. It has been the setting for so many great casts over the years. When the production premiered, the great Leonie Rysanek was the Salome. In another year, one of my greatest opera heroines (and a wonderful supporter), Birgit Nilsson, also sang the title role in this production. It is simply a joy to step out onto the stage of the Vienna Staatsoper (Staatsoper Wien) to once again help to bring this opera and this production to life. I think the cast assembled for this run is first rate. There have been wonderful things happening in our three days of rehearsal. The cast is full of committed singing actors who are pouring a lot into their roles We are lead by a very talented, young French conductor, Alain Altinoglu. I’m looking forward to our opening, tomorrow night. I wish it was a longer run than just three performances.
Traveling to Vienna was a bit of a struggle with all of the airport problems occurring in Chicago. However, the trip from Wichita wasn’t all that bad, all things considered. Traveling on such long flights can be dangerous for singers. Dry air, bountiful viruses and germs, and jet lagging time travel can weigh upon one’s health. I usually try to book in a bit of extra time to recover before trying to sing. I think, this time, I got the balance about right. However, I have to admit, I was concerned. I’ve never come into a singing engagement so quickly after a long stint of teaching. There were questions in my mind as to what kind of shape my voice would be in. I have to tell you, I feel great!
I have often said, “Teaching makes me a better singer”. I really had to try out that theory with this engagement. Joyfully, I can say that I believe that axiom to be more true than ever. I greatly want to thank my students at Wichita State University who have helped to prepare me more than ever for this singing engagement. Working daily with you and on your vocal issues has helped me to examine my own singing all the more. I truly have to “practice what I preach”. My voice feels very focused and strong as I enter this performance run. Perhaps it is from hearing my own voice in my head saying to the students this or that. Perhaps it is from trying to replicate, to some extent, the many right things that you do each day in my studio. Perhaps it is the realization that I now belong even more to a community of singers--a community with a future that I have a deep responsibility to help foster and nourish. You will continue to have my full dedication as a teacher to your development--just as your development and dedication is helping me in my career--as a teacher and as a singer.
I would be remiss to not thank the singers from Yale University who I have also been in touch with this week. I look forward to seeing all those returning students this December when I return to New Haven for a master class and private coatings. And, for those who have already graduated and are in touch (proudly, I have to say that one Yalie is singing an important role in this production here in Vienna), I look forward to continuing to be of support to you and to following your wonderful budding careers.
Of course, we have now entered Fall. I hope it isn’t redundant for me to say the simple fact that THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS ARE ONCE AGAIN IN THE PLAYOFFS. Followers of this blog know that their seemingly yearly appearance in the post-season drama brings great joy to my heart. I have enjoyed blogging through the past several post seasons about the success of the Cardinals. They have been “my team” since I was a small town boy in Washburn, Illinois. The 1967 team of Brock, Flood, Maris, Shannon, Maxvill, Javier, Cepeda, McCarver, as well as pitchers Gibson, Carlton, Briles, and Horner, will always live in my memory. They inspired my love for the game and for all sports. May the current team bring joy again to St. Louis this October (just as you have all summer and in so many previous seasons).
Our family has continued to adjust to being back in the Midwest. We are still getting the house in order. But, it’s coming. Thank you to all the Wichitans who have stepped forward to make us feel so welcome and to all my friends and colleagues at Wichita State who have eased my transition into academia. What a great Church family we have at our parish! Our younger two children are enjoying their new schools and being part of sports teams and music organizations. We are enjoying the fact that traffic is light and heat is plentiful. Nancy and I have found a new home. But we also are so thankful to have such a wide group of friends--back in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. You have been so supportive these past several weeks. Wherever we go, we find friends and others who are enriching our lives. I pray that we will always enrich and support yours as well.