Culture Magazine

Mental Health, Drill Sergeants, & Squillo - Opera in Chicago

By Pinkall @pinkall
Well, the week has been very eventful so far.  I sang on a publicity concert earlier today, which went relatively well.  The entire cast is now on site and we met the conductors and all the production staff.  The conductor of our opera, The Daughter of the Regiment, Joe Mechavich - who has conducted at Washington National Opera, Berlin, New York City Opera, and several other very prominent houses - is an incredibly funny person.  He has a vernacular all his own.
We have started staging as well - in a mental health center of all places...oddly appropriate for opera.  On the second day of staging upon arrival at the mental health center, we were informed that there would be a publicity event.  Because the opera is about a French Army regiment, we were to be instructed on appropriate military actions by two drill sergeants.  That was not necessarily what we came here to do, but it was for news coverage - so we had no choice.  It is somewhat funny because some of us are somewhat effeminate - especially in military terms - and two in our "regiment" had pink polos on.  It had the ingredients for a very funny publicity stunt.
Well, the drill sergeants arrived twenty minutes late.  And, yet another shocker.  The drill sergeants were retired veterans...from World War II.  Easily in their 80s, they were asked by our staging director if they could teach us how to march, salute, stand at attention, etc.  They said, "All they need to know is their left foot from their right foot".  Immediately, he yelled, "Uh-ten...uh!", and we stood at what we assumed was attention..."Leh...hace!", and we made a wobbly turn to the left....still no instruction.  "Foa!" "Aaah!"...and we marched in a circle in single file for about five minutes - taking a couple breaks for our drill sergeant to lean against the stool when he was tired of saying "eh, eh...eh, ah, eh".  That was it.  The conductors, stage directors, and production staff were trying to hold in huge bellied laughs the entire time - some near tears.  It was hilarious - most especially us marching in a circle for so long in a mental health facility.
The staging has been going well...it is very active.  There are bombs that will evidently explode and we must fly through the air, we march around all over the place, and I even have to pick up and carry the soprano lead at the end of her famous aria with another person.  I didn't think I would be picked to do that - arm strength is not one of my specialties.
Personally, this program has been incredibly beneficial for me.  I had another private coaching, and my recent vocal change has widely impressed the director of the program.  She said that I sound so much better than she remembered me in my audition last December...which is a good thing I suppose.  I have made a significant change.  My voice is now very very resonant with significant squillo.  It has lift, and I have eliminated much of the covering space that I had been singing with, as recently as a few weeks ago.  The high notes are easier, have spin, and a piercing ring.  I am very very happy with how it is developing.  Essentially, I am taking the baritone qualities out of my higher register.
Anyway, my coachings went so well, that I have now been able to get a private coaching tomorrow morning with Bruce Stasyna, who is in charge of the young artist program at Palm Beach Opera and Green Mountain Opera.  He was in charge of Minnesota Opera for seven years, and he conducted at Wolf Trap Opera - one of the most revered programs for young artists. I hope that it will go very well and perhaps something good will come of it.  I am very confident at this point, so I can only hope good things.
Beyond that, I will be hard at work again, but on Friday I will go through some specifics of "the business" and how this program fits in the whole scheme of things in the world of opera today.  It may be a little depressing - especially if the debt ceiling isn't raised - since a lot of companies are barely surviving the recession, but the future still looks bright...I'll explain why later.
SCHEDULE
July 20-August 7 - Sugar Creek Opera - Daughter of the Regiment - August 4, 5, 7 - Watseka, IL (near Chicago)August 8 - Audition - Kansas City Symphony Chorus

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