I am currently in Frankfurt, Germany. I arrived here several days ago, and as of yet, have not been called to a single rehearsal for my role of Erda in "Das Rheingold" by Richard Wagner. This is one opera of 4 in the "Ring Cyle", and I will be returning to Frankfurt for 2 of the others, reprising my role of Erda in "Siegfried" and singing First Norn in "Gotterdammerung".
The reason for my light rehearsal schedule at the moment is that Erda is the Mother of the Earth. The entire role consists of me rising from the depths (often accompanied by fog and strange smells), singing an aria lasting about 6 min, singing one more line, and sinking back into the earth. I usually emerge a little sleepy, a little cranky, a little confused, and a little dirty. I am the Mother of the Earth, after all. Often a sackcloth, messy hair, and brown smudged makeup are what an Erda wears. However...
I had been called into the opera house for a costume and wig fitting. I should have been suspicious when all they did was take measurements of me, and then fit me in a bra, taking very detailed chest-area specifications. I was then taken down to the wig department, where they tried on a wonderful red wig that was shoulder length. As I sat down, in my limited English I said "Entschuldigung, mein kopf ist sehr gross!" Which, roughly, means "Sorry, my head is very large." I always feel the need to apologize for the size of my head, as wig departments rarely have wigs in stock that fit my monstrous melon, and usually have to build mine from scratch. I hadn't realized what a reputation I had until I was in the cafeteria at the Metropolitan Opera for "Dr. Atomic" and the head of the wig department, Tom Watson, came over to me, (never having met me), placed his hands on my hair and said "I've heard about this head."
But I digress.... After the wig fitting, the woman asked if I would like to see the designer's sketch for my character's costume. I said "ja." What she showed me was a completely naked women, with bare feet and a red wig that stretched from my scalp to my toes, covering my nakedness. The only thing visible were two gigantic silicone breasts complete with nipples protruding from this hairy curtain. It looked like a cross between Pamela Anderson and Cousin It.
I needed a moment.
Now, mind you, I will not be naked (I assume). I will have a body stocking or some such thing on under that wig. I have another fitting Tues, and will attempt to find the German words in my limited vocabulary to implore thick garments of coverage from the costume department.
What this means is that my staging (what actions and movements the director asks of me) will consist of standing ABSOLUTELY still and avoiding drafts, so that my hair of modesty will not be ruffled. My biggest concern lies in me having to take a bow at the end. I'm sorry, but there will be no walking, bending over, or anything else that encourages wind.
What other news....
When I first arrived, my apartment was not yet cleaned, so I wandered in a jetlagged and sleep deprived state around the area for a few hours. I found myself at a Palm Sunday service which was lovely, and full of kids and even two live donkeys. It was a very very crowded room, and I was lucky to find a seat. However, the man that sat next to me started to be just a little too close and friendly with his hands. There was nowhere to move, and I lacked the German words to tell him what I thought of him. I resorted to a whispered "nein!" and a swift, gentle, and altogether holy kick in the shin. When it came time to circle the block with our palms, donkeys, multitude of children, choir, and parishioners, I kept going down the block instead of re-entering the church. I'm not sure where I will be Easter Sunday, but I know which church I will not be attending.
I went to the outdoor market 2 days ago. and by pointing, smiling, shrugging, apologizing, and using the numbers 1-10, emerged with a bevy of fruits and veggies, meats, and cheeses. However, my cucumber on closer inspection turned out to be a zucchini. Such is life.
That's the news from Frankfurt. I wish you all well. Auf Wiedersehen!