Clearly, I have commitment issues. It has been six months since my last entry and I feel terrible. The truth is, I had completely forgotten to write until a couple of family members complained that they didn’t know where I was in the world because I wasn’t keeping up with the blog. Whoops! Well, here goes. Let’s start from where we left off.
I spent the summer months in paradise working on the most incredible music. Two months in Santa Barbara, California working with Marilyn Horne, Warren Jones and the incredible music staff at the Music Academy of the West were just what the doctor ordered. I was so grateful to be able to dedicate the whole summer to working on Gilda and Juliette, my first set of new roles for the season. I call them a set because that’s a bit what they felt like. By the time I had stepped off the stage after my last performance of Gilda in Toronto, I had to be on a plane across the country just six days later to start rehearsals of Juliette in Vancouver. If I had not had the summer to eat, drink, sleep and dream these roles, it simply wouldn’t have been possible. I am so grateful to Ms. Horne for letting me come back to Santa Barbara after some time away, to do some much needed detailed work with her, and her incredible team. It was the most wonderful summer surrounded by old friends, colleagues and of course, those rolling California hills and beaches. I was in heaven.
I flew from California directly back home to Toronto and began work immediately at the Canadian Opera Company. A new production of Rigoletto for the company, with a fabulous international cast and sublime production team awaited me. Before I knew it, I was into costume fittings with the incredible Canadian designer Michael Levine, as he moved seams one inch this way and that, added finishes, and altered hemlines, creating some of the most stunning and intricate costumes I have ever seen. I just wanted to take them all home with me!
There were coachings with our company’s wonderful music director and conductor for the show, Johannes Debus, staging sessions with the remarkable stage director Christopher Alden, concept discussions, hair consultations, meetings, press photo shoots and interviews and before I knew it we were into the theatre. The whole rehearsal process was wonderfully liberating, challenging and rewarding. Christopher pushed us each to create and reveal our own character and was always open to discussion and collaboration. Add to that the fact that the man can sing the entire piece – and I mean every characters part – from memory and crack jokes with the best of them, and needless to say, the experience was pure joy from start to finish. I have to admit that there was a moment in the wings, just before my first entrance, when I looked down at this beautiful gown that had been made to my measurements, took in the glorious set that surrounded me and gazed into that vast auditorium at the Four Seasons Centre complete with full Verdi orchestra, where I thought, “What the hell am I doing up here and whose idea was this!?”. I have to say though, with the dramatic inspiration of Christopher and the musical preparation of Johannes, I quickly realized that it would all be just fine. I took my first step onto the stage and into the character. The rest is a blur. At the end of the final death scene, as I walked into the upstage centre spot light in the final bars of this Verdi masterpiece, I snapped back to reality and could hardly believe it had all really happened. When it came time for the curtain calls at the end of the show, I was completely suprised, grateful and humbled by the reception. It was one of the greatest moments of my little career so far and I won’t soon forget it. The cast had a small celebratory dinner after the show and everyone congratulated each other on what was a tremendous team effort. We had done it!
I had three more performances to go and family and friends flying in for each. My mother, father, high school and university singing teachers flew in from the west coast. My compeers from the Music Academy in Santa Barbara flew in, as well as friends from coast to coast. But perhaps the most incredible visitor was my amazing mentor, Marilyn Horne, herself. She flew up from New York for just one day to see a performance and I couldn’t have been happier. Anyone who works with Ms. Horne knows that her work schedule is about as busy now as any working singer. She flies all over the country and abroad making appearances, teaching masterclasses, judging competitions, giving speeches, guesting at universities and the list goes on. The fact that she would make the time to come up and see a performance brought tears to my eyes. We went for a lovely dinner following the performance, with my boss, Alexander Neef, and a few of the cast members. I was so grateful she made the trip and so proud to share the experience with her, especially after all the work we had done on Gilda together in the months leading up to my debut. It was another night that will be hard to forget.
By the end of the Rigoletto run I was exhausted and thankful in equal parts. It was now clear to me what I was made of. It was also very clear to me that I had amassed the most incredible support group of friends, colleagues and confidants that I could lean on and trust no matter what happened. That role debut would absolutely not have been the same without them. You know the old saying, “It takes a village…”, well it applies to creating professional artists too and I am so thankful for mine. With just a few days to catch up with these wonderful people, pack my bags, clean my house for the incoming sub letter, and do some final coaching on the next role, I was off to the other side of the country to start the whole process again. This time in French. More on that in my next post.
Happy holidays to everyone and Happy New Year if I don’t get to the blog again before then!