Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hibernatory Hiatus

My blog has been in extended cryogeny while I've worked on this (any comments, criticism or contributions are desired so long as you don't make me cry) and gotten back to the business of scraping out a symphonic subsistence. Okay fine. A certain amount of laziness may have been involved in my hiatus. So sue me. As for this latest lull, you're extremely welcome but your good fortune, like my posting procrastination, has come to an end. God save you. Here's some hibernation highlights...

Hide-n-Seek Hindemith
Recently I performed Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis for the third of five times and with the second of three orchestras this season (for those counting). In a neat little coincidence I was even issued the same German rental part that I used in orchestra #1 last fall, complete with my mysteriously missing Star Spangled Banner tucked inside the cover. The prodigal Banner part has returned from halfway 'round the world, penniless and destitute having no doubt spent its advanced allotment of my freelance fortune on decadence and debauchery! Still, I accepted it with open arms, casting aside the faded, photocopied foreigner holding its place. This, much to the chagrin of parts one, three and four who've stayed dutifully put in their player's possession lo these many months. Or whatever.

“I musicisti e mobile...”
Some time ago I was embroiled in tragic yet tuneful treachery involving lust, love, power and passion which exposed the true tension of bonds of family, bindings of social class and heart strings of... um, the heart... through the cursed life of a hubristic, hunchbacked humorist. No, I'm not talking about my Second Life avatar, Fran. It is Verdi's Rigoletto of which I speak, dear friends.

(Note to self: Give up alliteration for lent. You're addicted and it's a clich├ęd creative crutch. Doh! Starting NOW!)

While performing opera can be rather exciting, rehearsing opera I usually find to be quite the opposite. Playing Verdi without singers is only mildly more enjoyable than death-by-shoehorn. Hold that rehearsal in a high school band room after an hour-long commute through freezing rain and the balance tips slightly in favor of the shoehorn. The performances, however, almost always make it worthwhile in the end. Despite crowd sizes dwarfed by the number of performers, a skimpy and skittery string section and a weak, intonationally-challenged chorus humming directly behind my skull I again found this to be true: Opera is fun to perform.

Opera singers have always amazed me. They perform hours of music, lyrics (in a foreign language!), dramatic expression and stage direction intricately timed with an unwieldy orchestra... from memory! I can't imagine a more complete performance artist. Even mediocre opera singers inspire me. Should they really? I don't know, but they do.

This latest foray did lift a bit of my veil of ignorant admiration because the orchestra in our zero-scenery production was situated on stage behind the action rather than in front of the stage with our backs to the performers (or, more commonly, under the stage completely hidden from view). Since we faced the action and the audience we were privy to each singer's most vulnerable moments, such as when Rigoletto once lost his place during the second act, looking back toward the conductor with exasperated confusion for a scene-saving vocal cue.

Of course this setup also requires us musicians to remain focused while particularly compelling and/or attractive performers are doin' their fine thang right in front of us and behind the conductor. Long story short, Maddalena had it goin' on in both her make-out scene with il duca and the storm/murder scene which follows. To paraphrase Kosmo Kramer, “Yeah I see you maestro but she's really showin' me something!”

“Vy ju alvays callink me like zis?”
For the past couple of months I've been getting calls from a number in Mass. from someone of Slavic origin. At least the voice mail messages seem to be in a Slavic language of some sort. And googling the number leads to a person in Boston with a Russian-looking name.

The calls come, on average, twice a day with messages of a consistently calm and matter-of-fact tone left every few days. I'm not sure how someone could leave dozens of messages for someone who never calls back and not sound more and more peeved with each iteration.

I've been practicing the accent and will answer some day to see how long I can keep the conversation going. I'm shooting for twenty seconds because my high school math teacher taught all of his students a little Polish which I'm banking will be temporarily, albeit confusingly, convincing. “Strovach mario, Vaski pelna, pon stobon buogo stravia naski, menza nemia stami, owot jawota foiegu Jesus.