I have been out every night this week at rehearsals for the New England premiere of Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking based on the memoir by Sister Helen Prejean. It is being produced by Boston Opera Collaborative and opens a week from today, Friday March 15.
It’s an honor to be a part of such a touching and humane work of art. I have long admired Sister Helen (I remember my freshman year at a Jesuit university she visited and was hailed as a rock star, and I thought ‘oh, that’s what this social justice stuff is all about’) and am so impressed by the way Heggie’s opera brings her to life.
Faith and justice are so much on my mind with this piece (when are they not, but they are in a particular way while working on this). For that reason next week I will have a series of blog posts on the issues raised in Dead Man Walking. Stay tuned.
On March 20 I have a recital with three other lovely ladies as part of the Wednesday Evening Concert Series at a church on Boston’s Beacon Hill. One of the songs I am preparing is Samuel Barber’s “Nuvoletta” and is based on a section of Finnegan’s Wake. The text is delightfully Joycean and I am having a blast singing it. When else will I have the chance to sing the word “sfumastelliacinous”?
Proving that when it rains it pours, I have another concert on March 23 at a small theater in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston. This will be a cabaret of the music of Cole Porter and the Gershwins. It’s been a while since I performed anything from the Great American Songbook, as it’s called, so this is a nice change of pace. I get to sing “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “Summertime”, and a love duet medley. Life is good.
There are some interesting differences between opera and musical theater auditions. Probably the most difficult to get used to is that for MT you often only sing a few bars of a song, whereas in opera you sing entire arias. The summer musical audition circuit is heating up the next few weeks, so I’ve brushed off my 16 bars of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You”. Sometimes they ask for 32 bars and I get to sing the whole thing, because it’s so short.
Short arias are the name of the game as far as I’m concerned. Auditioning is hard enough without trotting out a fourteen minute aria which will undoubtedly aggravate the time-conscious audition panel. One of the short soprano arias I’m singing for auditions this month is the old warhorse “Quando m’en vo”, from which this blog gets its name! I always feel like I should wink when I get to the “Felice Mi Fa” part.
Right now three of the arias in my audition package have some version of my name in them. There’s Quando, Marguerite’s Jewel Aria from Faust, and Menotti’s “Telephone Aria” which begins “Hello? Hello? Oh Margaret it’s you”. I get a kick out of that one too. That’s also on the program for the March 20 concert if any Boston-folk want to hear it.
I have two engagements I’m preparing for in May but I’ll spare you the details, for now at least. The calendar page of my website always has that information, and if you’re interested in hearing some of these pieces which I’ve recorded, head on over to the audio page.
If you can’t make it to Massachusetts for the production of Dead Man Walking, you can still read my posts throughout next week. If there’s a particular element of the opera/film/memoir you’re interested in reading about, I’m open to suggestions. Have a great weekend!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!