Wednesday, August 23, 2006

changing gears

This week has been a lesson for me in changing gears quickly, both in a larger sense (changing between opera and choral singing, and between music and the rest of life) and in the context of the workshop. I'm in three scenes this week, and they couldn't be more different. In Poppea, I'm playing two characters: Valetto and Nutrice. Valetto is a horny teenaged boy (think Cherubino). I'm singing a scene with the beautiful young Damigella, where I spend most of my time chasing her around the room. I've done the scene before, with the same partner, so putting it together was quick and easy, but we've had lots of help this week from our director Anna, who is a Baroque dance expert and choreographer, and the scene has really come to life. It ends with a beautiful duet, and the two of us being discovered in a compromising position and running from the room.

Nutrice is another story entirely. This is the role I will be playing in the full production of Poppea next February, so I was excited to get to work. The initial reaction from Stephen was that the role was too low for me, and he was right. The entirety of the role never goes above an a in the staff, and we're performing at A=415 this week (a full half-step lower than A=440, the modern accepted pitch). My scene happens with my queen, Ottavia, just after her gorgeous lament, "Disprezzata regina...". Stephen came up with a brilliant solution -- all of my lines have been transposed up a 5th, which puts the whole role in a great range for me and still works with Ottavia's part. This is one of the last scenes to be staged, and we had our first music and staging rehearsals on it today. After our initial run-through, Stephen asked if I would be willing to try it in more of a character voice. Of course I was willing to try, though I've never really done anything like that before, and I wasn't sure if I could. Apparently I can! I opened my mouth, and out came this nasal, cackling sound. Suddenly, the scene (which I had struggled a little with dramatically) made perfect sense to me, and judging by the reactions of the instrumentalists in the room, I think it was a success! The staging is equally fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

In the third scene I play Dido, the widowed, mourning queen of Carthage. I'm falling in love with Aeneas, a handsome Trojan prince, much to the delight of of my friend and confidante Belinda and my ladies in waiting. I'm resisting my own feelings, out of grief and fidelity for my dead husband. A gorgeous lament, and I've been having so much fun playing her this week.

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing about it. I have this afternoon and evening off, so I'm off to take a quick nap, do a little editing work, and spend the evening with my husband and a few friends. Tomorrow, it's back to final rehearsals before the performances this weekend, and then off to Union for two weeks of choral concerts. It will feel like a vacation, I think, after this week!

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