Remembering the operatic stage…
When one leaves the stage, it is funny what memories stay with you the most. It is not always the applause that you remember so dearly. Sometimes it is the little things of the characters you play. If one is a method actor, as I am, then the characters all live inside. It is not that you have parted company with them. It is just that you can’t be them any more. My finest characters are still here inside my mind. I could become them in an instant, but without the stage it is difficult to become them again. Rigoletto, Macbeth, Falstaff, Germont and Boris are among my finest characters. Of dear Rigoletto I remember so well the different humps I tried on, the different make-up techniques, the different costumes, the way they made me feel. I remember my dressers and chorus girls I more than flirted with. I remember the pace my body needed moving through the opera. I remember feeling the character come alive in me as I made my entrance. I remember how totally I was immersed in the character by the grand last act. I remember what it felt like to sing the ending triple forte over that huge orchestra. I remember the grand opening night parties and the butts that I pinched. I remember all my jester’s sticks and the shoes with little bells on them. I remember the smell of each act. I remember eating candy bars between acts to keep my blood sugar high.
Of Macbeth I remember the heavy cloak, and broad sword. I remember that the role was a perfect fit for me. I was Macbeth. I remember long hot rehearsals and chorus girls with beautiful figures. I remember the crown I wore and didn’t like it! I remember the friendliness of the theatre in Tucson and how its walls liked my voice. And in this role, I also remember the tumultuous applause and the rave reviews like none I had ever seen given to any opera singer.
Of Falstaff I remember how fat I felt all during the rehearsals and show. I felt so old and fat. This character was difficult for me to play, unlike the others. I remember that. Since I performed it in Aspen, I remember how hard it was to do at 8,000 feet altitude.
Of Germont I remember so much; the many different canes I used. I would shop for canes; the right balance of age so that Germont was no more than 45; I remember how much affection I had for this character. I remember growing my own beard for the part. I remember thinking that the part was almost embarrassingly easy for me to sing! In this role I also remember the applause, bringing down the house at my Act 2 exit in San Francisco. I remember the New York Grand Stand stage in Central Park as I sang the part there with the New York Grand Opera.
Of Boris, I remember mostly the method work I did with the character and my love for the role. I worked so hard on the Russian. I remember the madness almost overcoming me in parts, I was so deeply in the role. I remember how hard I worked on the final death scene and the last lines. I was so into this part I do not remember the applause, but the reviews were good.
These memories and many more stay with me and I am grateful for them. But mostly I am grateful for the gift to sing and act and the opportunity to do my work all over America for many years. Just sharing…………..