Opera is a profession where virtually nothing starts before 10 in the morning, and nothing is thought amiss of a rehearsal ending at 10 p.m. Luckily, I have always been a night owl, and these late hours appeal to me. Last night I went to hear my friend sing in "Simone Boccanegra" and then hung out with him and another friend until almost 3 a.m. It was a lovely evening, however I had to sing at 11 a.m. this morning for what was described to me as an outreach pre-Rheingold thing for donors. The director and the drammaturg (very nice person at this opera house who writes the program notes and prepares this gathering) would explain the story, the concept of the production, and I would be one of 4 singers to sing parts of the opera. No problem.
On arrival, suddenly there was the conductor of the piece who would also be speaking, and the head of the opera company himself, who would be observing. There were hundreds of people. This morning had suddenly been given a violent shove into serious.
We sang in the order of where our pieces fall in the opera, and as my character, Erda, doesn't rise from the depths until 86% of the opera has passed, I sat in the lobby area for an hour trying to keep my voice warmed up. I also now recalled that there would be a camera crew taping and that the drammaturg has asked me if I would be comfortable with him asking me a few questions when I finished singing. I had said that would fine, as long as I would be allowed to give my answers in English.
So, the door opened and smiling, I walked into a packed room with rows on three sides of me and a table with the drammaturg, the director, and the conductor beside me. As the pianist played the ominous, spooky, "Here's Erda!" chords, I couldn't resist bending my knees and pretending to rise up from the ground. I was gifted with some smiles and laughter. Then I had to look serious, foreboding, and concerned for the future the gods would suffer if Wotan didn't relinquish the ring. My voice showed up, for which I'm quite grateful indeed, and I decided I wasn't happy staying back by my piano, and wandered the room, scaring some patrons, and spitting on those in the front rows. When I sing in the German language, there is much phlegm involved, and the front row should be designated a Shamu-like "Splash Zone."
After my aria I went to go sit with the other soloists on the side of the room, but Malte the drammaturg called me front and center and handed me a huge microphone. I had thought this would be a panel-type question session, but it seems I was the only one being put on the spot today. Malte asked me in German and then translated into English that I was very young to be singing Wagner, and how did I come to this role so quickly in my career? I thought of you, dear readers, when I replied in carefully pronounced English that I sing loud, low, and slow, and I would never be a Mozart singer. This did not require any translation into German, and the audience laughed and laughed. He then asked me how this experience was different than my last time singing in Frankfurt as Ulrica in "Un Ballo in Maschera" a year ago as this Wagner was a premiere and the Ballo had been a re-mount. I said that it was great having more time to spend in this beautiful city, the opportunity to sing in German in Germany was exciting, and that it was very special to be singing my first Ring Cycle in Frankfurt.
I was finally allowed to go sit with the other soloists, and after the program finished, I was free to escape home for a nap. I may not have been the most demure diva, but I'm sure I was memorable.