Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Becoming Beatrice

I'll admit it - this role of Beatrice has been WAY down on my radar screen, and I was finding it quite difficult to find the motivation to dive into this. To be quite honest, if you compare it with Octavian, Alcina, Ariodante, Romèo, Elvira - well, those roles spoke SO loudly to me, like black holes they pulled me into their vortex and didn't let go!!! Beatrice? Not quite so much ... I welcomed the opportunity to procrastinate and avoid learning what seemed to be a rather glorified operetta, with seemingly little to offer artistically. Well, shows you what I know! I arrived in Houston ready to hate the piece and the process. ("Where's the DRAMA?!?!?!" I asked, having been so spoiled with those iconic, heart-wrenching roles of the first paragraph! "Where's the DEPTH?!?!?") Well, ok - there really isn't any drama, it's true. And the depth is there, but it's definitely not the deep end of the pool. BUT, it's sunshine! It's a spring breeze! It's panna cotta! And it's been a joy to jump into - thanks to a fabulous atmosphere, cast and team!

Our conductor, Michael Hofstetter will be making his US debut with this piece, and he's a real discovery for me. He has a beautiful sense of the French style and has a wonderful sense of humor, freshness and enthusiasm that I just appreciate more and more. The longer I am doing this career, the more I gravitate to those people who unapologetically love what they do!The production's effervescent quality fits the music perfectly, and our cast is just a complete and total joy. It hardly feels as if we're working, as the atmosphere is so light and easy. I had no idea how much I needed a production like this, for it costs me nothing (in terms of vocal power, stage energy, relentless concentration) - and instead, I feel as if I get to dress up and just go PLAY for a few hours, tripping along without a care in the world. It's as if the "Opera Career Doctor" knew the exact, perfect prescription I needed!! The other beautiful thing about this experience, is the dialogue in this piece. It is taken expressly from the Shakespeare, which means that I don't mind TOO terribly much singing this piece in English - for it brings it back to its theatrical origins. (Although, I can't lie: I do miss the ease of the French as Berlioz perhaps intended, however I'll make up for that in February!) But we sit around a table for hours at a time working on ONE PAGE of dialogue - and I've found it exhilarating!

As a singer I never get to make choices about beats and inflection - the composer has made all the choices for me, as he has chosen the dynamics, the stress, the articulation, etc. This is a new world for me having this kind of freedom! But it's a bit unnerving at first to feel so COMPLETELY insecure in how to utter a line without the net of music underneath me. It's alarming how naked that feels! Thankfully, we have a real pro among us, the wonderful Charles Krohn, who is putting us all to shame with his ease of delivery and expertise.Hopefully we'll catch up a bit by the opening night! But it's funny how you can be so sure about one thing, and in a matter of moments, be proven completely wrong. Happily, I can say I was terribly wrong and am enjoying this Shakespeare/Berlioz cocktail of sun, smiles and sass!

Photos courtesy of Joyce DiDonato

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