Hi! Hard to believe how fast our opening of Ariadne auf Naxos is approaching. The first show is a week from tonight (Friday), although I’m not singing that one- I’m singing the matinee on Sunday, December 6, and the Friday night show on December 11. You’re coming, right??
Actually it’s a pretty good show to go to. It’s an amazing opera- plot’s a little weird but not incomprehensible. Gorgeous music. Not too many boring parts. And we’re doing it in English (a translation that doesn’t suck) so you can understand it.
So here’s what’s up with it lately!
I was really worried about the orchestra. Every time I would ask someone how they were they just said diplomatically, “You’ll see!” I got the impression that they were going to be awful (I’ve suffered through some pretty bad orchestras in my day), but they were pretty good! Actually the orchestra is way bigger than I expected. We have almost the full orchestra!! I mean what Strauss wrote for Ariadne was not as big as a lot of his other stuff, but still. I was expecting maybe a dozen people, but we have more like 30-odd. Wow! It means a lot more to do this opera with approximately the full orchestra. See, whatever research and speculation you do, it’s hard to tell what roles you can REALLY SING until you’re up there with the orchestra. I don’t have a huge voice (that’s why I can sing so high and fast, that’s how it works), so I sometimes get a complex about it and worry that I’ll never get A-house gigs because I’m not loud enough. But I proved in this case that I could easily handle this orchestra. Which is important, because basically Zerbinetta is THE role that is MADE for me, and if I can’t think that in a professional setting I can’t sing anything. So the verdict is that I can sing it. So, career moves forward.
The staging is mostly pretty decent. I wasn’t given any for my aria and don’t have any creative ideas for what to do with 11 minutes of coloratura and an empty stage, but since I’ve been using it for aria performances and auditions for so long (yeah people ask for it!) I’m comfortable toning it down and just being out there on my own singing the whole freaking thing.
They tried to give us staging for the first quintet, but it didn’t really work- the directions we were first given were at the same time dull and distracting, and didn’t really fit with the music. So finally they just told us to improvise the whole thing, and it really worked!! The guys are wayyyy funnier than I’d expected. I mean, basically, this is an opera with a LOT of men’s parts, and they’re double-cast, so I figured they’d be scraping the bottom of the barrel for these little, challenging, thankless parts- not Harlekin, who has that PERFECT aria and more solo focus; but Brighella, Scaramuccio, and Truffaldin- I didn’t even expect the guys to get the music right, let alone memorize it, let alone be able to do it at a decent tempo, let alone be able to really act and clown at the same time, let alone be able to improvise their own blocking. Um, guess what? I was DEAD WRONG. Whether through personal dedication or intense coachings, the quartet really thoroughly learned the music, is doing fine with memorization (with a few helpful cues from Maestro at tricky entrances), the tempo is pretty standard, and they are hilARious. Brett basically just told them to look like they were from “The Department of Funny Walks” and they just ran with it. There are two casts (except for Truffaldin as they couldn’t find another one who could learn the music and work out the rehearsal schedule) and- I sang with the other cast this week because of scheduling conflicts- they are both doing fabulously. I’m glad I can’t see them more because I would probably crack up.
The composer duet, we kinda threw out the staging that Brett gave us. I mean basically he borrowed the staging from someone else’s production, but it just wasn’t working for us… specifically, me. Sooooo not working. I mean basically it had Zerbinetta being really agressive and all over the Composer from the beginning, which I think contradicts the language at least at the beginning of the duet. I mean how are you going to be saying “I’m not REALLY a coquette” while rubbing all over a guy who’s name you don’t even know yet? I mean I guess that’s one direction you could take it, but the music is refined and delicate and beautiful. And it’s the Composer’s music, not Zerbinetta’s. Her Act 1 idiosyncracies I mean; “Noch glaub’ ich” is more lyric but even that is in 3/4, and you know Zerbinetta likes the 3′s- 6/8 etc, you know, the traditional peasant/folksong meters (just ask Mozart), and yeah Zerbinetta’s commedia dell’arte character is (as far as I can tell) based on the stock Colombina character (I think specifically she is a Smeraldina), which is supposed to be a servant-type, which is pretty folksy-peasanty. I dunno, maybe I’m stretching- Ariadne, the nymphs, and even the Composer have some 3/4 and 6/8 stuff and Zerbinetta has plenty of 4/4 and 2/4 stuff. This isn’t a research paper, actually it’s pretty stream-of-consciousness. Anyways. I was talking about the staging of the duet. Yeah the conductor is telling me I get sucked into the Composer’s world here. He has me change my style to match the composer’s legato style and not so chirpy. (Actually I was doing that anyways at “Ein Augenblick,” he just asked me to move it back to “Courage” which I thought was a brilliant comment.) And then the stage directions are telling me to be like throwing myself at his feet and stuff. I dunno. It wasn’t working for me. So my Composer and I more or less improvised our staging and worked that out, and it’s fantastic if I do say so myself. As a perfect climax we put in a kiss. I won’t tell you where, or why, I’ll just tell you that it’s perfect, and that I KISS A GIRL IN THIS OPERA SO YOU BETTER COME SEE IT. GOT IT???
One of the cast members staged the ending, it’s pretty cute and kinda ends with me getting the last laugh so that’s fine with me. I dunno if it’s musically correct to have Zerbinetta be the focus at the end, but as both the text and the music establish, Zerbinetta can fit herself into any situation, she’s extremely adaptable, that’s her thing. I’m not saying she doesn’t do her share of hijacking the music, but you know, the Composer duet as a perfect example, like “OK I’m going to sing in YOUR music now,” and does it perfectly.
So I’ve been doing a ton of research on Commedia dell’Arte (not like I haven’t before, but I mean, there’s just such a wide array of information out there, it’s like you can always wade through more), which has been really fun. And watching/listening a lot. I now own 4 Ariadne DVDs, which is more than I currently own of Fille du Regiment, Traviata, or Orphee aux Enfers (the runners-up). A bunch of CD’s too. Not all of them yet. Eh, sooner or later!
I’m already eying the 1912 version. Anyone wanna put it on for me? I swear I can sing the shit out of it. I will own that shit. Think about it.