I can’t believe it. I simply cannot believe it. This is my third year of tour and this has never happened before. Never. Nothing out of the ordinary work me up this morning. In the past there have been trains, coyotes and even a bird flying into my window, but this morning, not a thing. I’m feeling a little wary, like I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop. Good morning readers, welcome to day 2! It’s gorgeous outside. Blue sky against snow covered mountains; Colorado at its finest.
Everyone is up and on their own this morning. Well, I assume they’re up, I haven’t actually seen anyone yet. We have a Master Class with some students from Western State University at 12:30 and then we have to set up for tonight’s performance. It’s going to be a late night, but that’s OK. After getting ready and doing some work, I decide to take a break and walk around main street. Everyone else is resting, which they don’t often get a chance to do, so I head off on my own. As I’m walking around, I see a few posters here and there advertising our performance of Barber of Seville tonight at 7:30. I’ll admit, I’d like to see a lot more. So, I decide that I need to do a little personal marketing. Readers, you would be so proud of me. I went into every store, restaurant or business (and one private residence, met a man named Chet, but that’s a story for another blog) and introduced myself, told them who we were and invited them to the show tonight. This is quite an accomplishment for me. I used to be incredibly shy. Performing certainly changed that, but I also have to give some credit to my boss – here’s a shout out to you Greg Carpenter – for teaching me the art of the introduction. I got lots of excited, and surprised, responses, so hopefully that translates to a full house. One woman I talked to said she was already planning on coming because her daughter had told her that we came to her school and she wanted to see the “good singer people” again. Love it!
After finishing my rounds, I head back to the hotel. I’m able to get a little more work done, checking over mezzo soprano applications for next year’s residency, and then it’s time to meet everyone in the lobby. Guess what. We’re a party of 5 again. I know Steven isn’t napping this time because I saw him just a few minutes earlier, but there’s still no sign of him or Joshua. So, we wait. Jared is becoming one with a leather chair, Cassidy and Morgan have gone into the couch again and Alex, well he’s immersed himself in the paper. Steven and Jared show up and we’re off, headed to a Master Class with some of Western State’s students. It’s a quick drive to the college and we meet up with our contact and get settled in the recital hall. I’m raring to go. I love teaching and working with students. Steven is too, he’s got his game face on. The Young Artists however, they look like deer caught in the headlights. They are so used to being on the receiving end of a Master Class and not the teaching end, they’re nervous. Steven and I could very easily teach this class together, but we feel that there is some real value to having the Young Artists do the bulk of the teaching. I give a quick pep talk, complete with instructions on how to approach the class and we get started.
Our first victim, I mean student, is a baritone. He’s a freshmen and this is his first Master Class experience. Jared and Alex will work with him. Now, I’m the one who’s nervous. He sings a German artsong and does quite well. Alex and Jared take the stage, I take a deep breath and the teaching begins. They work with him on breathing, support and opening up more resonance. All very technical terms for what we do as opera singers, but Alex and Jared are great. They keep everything relaxed and fun and pretty soon, the student is supporting more and I can already hear the difference in his sound. Way to go gents!
Next up, we have a mezzo who Cassidy and Morgan will work with. She’s adorable and sings a musical theater piece that all three of us Opera Colorado ladies have sung, so we know it well. Right away, we can tell that she’s got a lot bottled up inside of her. So, Cassidy and Morgan decide to work with her dramatically and I’ll support them as needed. They talk with her about making conscious choices about her movements and making the character larger. Morgan says, “go bigger, we can pull you back if we need to.” I’m grinning from ear to ear; this is something they’ve heard me say over and over when I work with them. I feel like He-Man, “I have the power…” They work a little with her on getting her body more engaged in her singing and again, there’s noticeable improvement. Nicely done ladies!
Our last students are a tenor and a baritone, singing The Pearl Fishers duet. This is not an easy piece, but they do well. All of the guys are on deck to work through this one. Joshua begins by working directly with the tenor, because, well… he’s a tenor. He spends some time getting the student to relax and release jaw tension. He and Alex work on getting him more grounded in his voice. Steven works with him on freeing up sound and moving forward through musical lines. Alex and Jared then move on to working with the baritone. He’s a senior and is looking at what his next steps will be in his vocal career. Alex and Jared work with him on placing his sound a little more forward and Steven also works with him on musical lines. I’ve reached the point where I can’t sit and not teach any longer so I go up for the last few minutes to work with them too. I work on releasing shoulder tension and aligning the spine so things flow as freely as possible. Yeah team – the students seems really pleased with what we’ve been able to work on and they’re feeling more confident. The Young Artists comment to me that they had fun. I knew it all along.
We spend the last few minutes of class answering questions from the students and the audience that has been observing. We talk about graduate programs, repertoire choices and what it’s like to live as an artist. We could keep going, but we run out of time. The Master Class and the Young Artists’ interaction with the students have exceeded my expectations. Way to represent Opera Colorado, everyone! The professors are thrilled too. Another successful tour program – check. Our contact walks us over to the Taylor Auditorium where we will be performing tonight. It’s a wonderful house and we’re excited to be able to perform on a stage, with lights. It’s the little things that make us the happiest. Alex and Joshua get the Yukon and the tank to the loading dock and we go into full set up mode.
We get everything out of the cars and into the elevator. The plan was to take all of the set and props up in the elevator and but the people would take the stairs. Heck, we’re feeling good after the Master Class, so we go for broke and pile in: set, props, costumes and people. You know readers; hindsight really is 20-20. Alex does a balancing act and operates the buttons, Steven becomes a coat rack, Jared is almost skewered by the bag of poles, Morgan and Cassidy get very cozy with Joshua who is sitting on a chair between them and I get to know one of the prop benches much better than I’d ever thought possible.
We make it and the elevator is unloaded, this time in stages. Set up begins with Mr. Quacksworth supervising. He and Jared have had a talk and it seems he wants to be included more. The duck and I are still mending our relationship after fall tour, so we’ll see. Back to set up. If you’ve never seen us do it, it’s a fascinating process. It’s like a ballet – choreographed motion. Well, maybe not a ballet, maybe more like mud wrestling. Still, at least we do it with style; Morgan and Cassidy are always fashion conscious. With some team work, the set goes up, furniture is spiked, costumes are hung, and the prop table is set. Steven tries out the piano while I work out the lighting and – viola we’re done. (How many people just read that word and said “vee-o-lah” instead of “wah-lah”?)
We’re ready for a break and some sustenance. We had to skip lunch again because of how things played out with our schedule, so we head off to grab something to eat. We settle on a local restaurant that’s won awards for its chicken fried steak. Alex decides he is driving and before we know it, we’re at the restaurant. Is there such a thing as warp speed? Our table is next to the fire place. Why tell you that? Because on said fireplace is an elk. No, not a real one, well, it was real at one point, now it’s not. Joshua ponders it. He tells us, with great emotion in his voice, to look at its expression. He says he can tell what it must have been thinking just before its demise, “Hey, I just got shot.” Our Joshua can be quite profound. Morgan hears her favorite karaoke tune over the sound system and treats us all to a little performance. Cassidy becomes overjoyed at her discovery of curly fries and Alex, Jared and I ascertain for ourselves that the chicken fried steak is indeed award worthy. Jared apparently also feels that I am award worthy because I am told I’d win a blue ribbon. Why I deserve this honor, usually reserved for prize farm animals, I have no idea, but I’m grateful. It’s the thought that counts. Hear that Jared, the thought. He turns five shades of red and we make our exit, still laughing.
We’re back at the hotel before we know it (Alex drove again. Warp speed, seriously, do some research and get back to me) and we have some down time before we have to head back to the theatre. On the way back to our rooms, we discuss what we want to do after the performance. Some people vote for watching a movie, Jared and Alex want pie, and Joshua wants to play a game. He apparently “likes group activities.” See, profound. We decide to decide later. I’m able to get a bit more work done before it’s time to meet up, yet again, in the lobby.
By now, you have to know what I’m going to say, right? Party of… 5! Those of us in the lobby take a moment to say complimentary things to each other. Joshua arrives, shortly followed by Steven (they did better this time) and we’re off! Alex drives us again and although we do not reach warp speed, we do experience a maneuver that leaves us baffled. Alex, with the lane of traffic clear before him, chooses to circle around a motor home in the parking lot and then back onto the correct path. I hear whispers coming from the back, and then Cassidy bursts into giggles. Apparently, Morgan is not happy with the driving, but since it’s not Mr. Harmison-Bouillon at the wheel, she just whispers her displeasure. I have to remember to tell Joshua. We reach the theatre and navigate the entrance which is coated in ice; a graceful group we are not. There’s just enough time to get into costumes and makeup and get me set up with a microphone for the introduction and the Q&A before the house opens. Steven comes backstage and tells us that the teachers we worked with yesterday have come to the performance and they brought us something. Thank you cards from the kids! (For those teachers reading this blog, I want you to know that we love getting these. We read every single one. Keep them coming!) Steven also shares a story that one of the teachers told him. After we left yesterday, one of her students came to her and said “You know, since I was little, about 4 or 5, I knew I wanted to be a singer. I still want to be an opera singer, now I just know what it sounds like.” (He’s all of 7 or 8 now) You go for it young man. You certainly inspired us!
It’s time for the show to begin and I go out to greet our audience and talk for a bit. It’s a good size crowd. We’re thrilled to see so many of the kids we worked with yesterday, some of the teachers and students and faculty from Western State. I see a few of the people I met in town today too although, to my disappointment, Chet is not there. The show begins and right away, I know this is going to be a test of endurance and pacing. Rossini is never easy to sing; we’re at really high altitude. Put the two together and you’ve got the opera world’s equivalent of the Boston marathon. The audience is loving the performance though; the laugher keeps building as the show goes on. It’s great to hear. I sit backstage for this show so I can help page the curtain. Little did I know what goes on behind the scenes. Jared and Cassidy have moves they do to Alex’s aria, actually most of the opening scene. It’s mainly made up of arm gestures, disco moves and bouncing. Joshua makes me laugh by putting his tie around his head and Morgan does one of the funniest character postures I’ve ever seen her do. It’s a show within a show!
We make it to the finale. Everyone is tired and in need of about a gallon of water, but we’ve still got the Q&A to do. Questions start out slow, but, with the help of the students from Gunnison Elementary, they soon pick up. My favorite of the evening? A little girl in the back of the audience stands up and says, “I really loved your show.” Well young lady, we loved performing for you and your “question” just made all of our hard work worth it. Questions over, we do a photo op with Mr. Quacksworth and some students. I have to admit, that little duck gave a fine performance tonight. I think our relationship is on the mend. One of the teachers comes up and gives me a big hug. She loved the show and wants to keep in touch so we can look at next year. Another student takes a picture with us; her mom says it’s all she’s talked about for the past two days.
Successful tour program #3 – check. The night’s far from over for us though. We now have to tear everything down and load the Yukon. Working as a well-oiled machine, we get done pretty quickly. We load the elevator; Joshua takes the stairs this time, but the rest of decide to tempt fate. Joshua is still amped up from the show and decides to spar with Jared. Apparently this is a regular occurrence. It’s like watching a bear play with a cat. Joshua is quick though, I’ll give him that. Yukon is loaded and Joshua goes to start it and… Well, it started but there was some hesitation. Great, now I will worry about a dead battery. The rest of us pile into the tank and make the trek back to the hotel. We stop for dinner at one of the only places that’s still open this late – thanks Subway. As we pull into the parking lot, I make what I consider to be a simple observation. “Oh look,” I say, “there are young boys in the hot tub.” The entire car erupts in giggles as my simple statement is again misconstrued. Alex loves this, I know he does. That’s it, bedtime everyone. No movie, no pie and no games. (This He-Man power thing is cool, but I think I’ll switch to Wonder Woman, she has a better outfit, complete with magic bracelets.)
I relay the plan for tomorrow. We have to be back on the road in the morning. We’re heading for Lake City and it’s going to be another long day. We’re looking forward to it though. Thank you to everyone in Gunnison. Sharing opera with you has been fabulous. We hope to do it again. You know readers, what we do through our touring and education programs is really quite a privilege. We are the very first opera experience for about 80% of our audiences; students and adults alike. We’re proud of that and we’re going to keep working to make sure that, whether it’s your first experience, or your hundredth, what you see at Opera Colorado leaves you wanting more!
Till then readers,