This Bohemian Life
I’m in a post show slump. In the business we call it post-show depression, or show withdrawal. Yes, just like the severe medical conditions, finishing work on a show can be like giving up a drug. Coming down afterwards isn’t fun or pretty and once you’re hooked on opera, you’ll never really kick the habit. I would never dare compare how I feel to the battle that actual drug abusers have to go through, but I definitely exhibit some of the signs. I crave singing. On days when I don’t sing, I miss it. I love it. Sometimes I hate it. I feel lucky and blessed to do this job one day, and the next day wish I had gone into medicine. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job. I’m in this for the long haul…but it is more apparent every day that it is exactly that. A REALLY LONG HAUL. Then, when a show is over…I get a case of “the sads.” So that’s where I am.
Anyways, enough “Debbie Downer” talk. Blech. Why am I in a post-show slump? Recently, I was lucky and fortunate enough to be in a production of La Boheme at Pacific Opera Victoria. Having the opportunity to be in this wonderful show is always a treat. I have sung Musetta a number of times, but this was my first crack at Mimi. (She’s the one with the extra pretty music who dies at the end. Bring your tissues). The most special thing about this Boheme was that it was close to home. Victoria, British Columbia has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth and it was a real treat to be able to perform for many familiar faces and to make new friends as well. A little trivia for my American friends…Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. It’s located on Vancouver Island off the west coast of British Columbia, and it’s a fun boat ride from Vancouver! There you go! We’re learning!
Back to Boheme. It is not often that you get to work with a company like Pacific Opera Victoria. On top of that, there was a dream team of cast members, designers, artistic staff and stage management. Everyone I met confirmed the stereotype of Canadians. We’re just really nice! I forget this sometimes when I work abroad. I sometimes forget that politeness and kindness really do get the job done. That was definitely the case here. I know that everyone says this after most jobs, but my cast members were truly remarkable. Every single one of them. Generous in spirit on stage and off. That’s another happy stereotype of Canadians….we can party. This cast would hang out into the wee hours and chat and cook and play music and drink good Canadian beer. It was fantastic. We all became fast friends and I miss them now that we don’t see each other every day.
Besides making new friends, we did actually do some work. This was a memorable production for many reasons. My dear Rodolfo, the sensational Canadian tenor Luc Robert, was battling a cold for the duration of rehearsals. After a long struggle with this sickness he ended up in the hospital on the day of the final dress rehearsal. We were all devastated. My new friend and wonderful colleague had a very serious medical issue and ended up staying in the hospital for nearly a week. However, the show must go on! The final dress at Pacific Opera Victoria is attended by hundreds of high school students. This is most often the rowdiest and most fun performance for us as singers, and we were all looking forward to it. With Luc in the hospital, I was unsure how the show was going to proceed. We had no cover. No understudy. Plus, we’re in Victoria. It’s not like we’re surrounded by choices of nearby professional operatic tenors. We’re surrounded by water. Fortunately, our fearless director, Michael Shamata, had a plan. He would walk the part of Rodolfo on stage and in costume. The local University of Victoria happens to employ one of Canada’a most acclaimed tenors, Benjamin Butterfield, and he sang the role of Rodolfo from the pit. Yes, this was all a little stressful for everyone. Benjamin had never sung the role of Rodolfo and I was on stage with a fantastic, albeit mute, Rodolfo. I tried to just sing and have fun and get through it. The crowd LOVED it. They went crazy for this spontaneous, creative way to put on a show for them. You would think that the drama would end there. But this is opera. There’s always more.
Our poor tenor Luc is still in the hospital the day before opening night. Management is trying to find a tenor close enough to fly in who has recently done the role and who is willing to jump in at literally the last minute. They came up with a former colleague of mine, Gerard Powers. Gerry and I were in the San Francisco Opera production of La Rondine with Angela Gheorghiu in 2007. It is a very small world. Gerry flew into Victoria the morning of opening night. We went through the show musically with our conductor, Timothy Vernon and then we walked through most of the staging. He had a costume fitting, a nap, and I tried to remain calm and just went through my pre-show rituals as best I could. Gerry was amazing and the crowd loved our newest hero of a tenor. Gerry did the first two performances and Luc was finally feeling better and able to return for the third show.
The management also brought in a cover at this point as a safety precaution. Smart move if you ask me. So, we staged him into the show as well….and that leaves me with FIVE Rodolfos over the course of one show. Not too shabby for one lady. Heehee.
Overall, this was the first of (hopefully) many Mimis I’ll sing in my career. It is memorable for many reasons, and I hope to return to this amazing company soon. I made a new “bosom friend,” as they say in Anne of Green Gables. The astonishing soprano Marianna Fiset performed the role of Musetta and as the only two women in the main cast, we really bonded. I really think that is the thing that drags us out of the post-show slumps.
Knowing that this experience has changed me in ways I wasn’t aware of until it was over, and the connections you make with other singers and staff. I get to carry these wonderful memories of one of the most beautiful scores ever written, and the production we created, and I look forward to when I see my new friends again. If not for them, this long haul of a career wouldn’t just be long, it would be incredibly lonely.
(Production photos: © Emily Cooper)