Thursday, February 19, 2009

Living the music

As many of you know, about 8 years ago, my eldest child got our family into opera. She was a super in a production of Susannah at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and she fell in love, and got us all involved TOO. We are an opera family the way Sarah Palin is a hockey mom—it defines us and determines our schedule. Up until this season, my main contribution has been to subscribe to the season and serve as a chaperone to my Super Kids, (Supers are Extras, or live props, in an opera—non speaking, non singing roles). But this year, my daughter INSISTED that I audition with her to be a harem girl in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. I got the part—as understudy to all the shapely babes half my age. Ordinarily understudies get to hang out in rehearsals on a chair, but due to the large size of the super cast, and everyone’s schedules, some nights I am doing two and three parts, covering various positions for missing harem girls and Turkish women. The other night, I got the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end of the act one we have a scene, lovingly known as Harem Girls Gone Wild. After being dragged about on a rope through the scene, we are hauled onto the stage in the middle of a melee, and our guards drop our rope. Chaos ensues. One harem girl flings herself onto the back of our captor—Osmin, and holds on tight as he finishes singing and brings the curtain down.

Since I sub in often at the last minute, there were no introductions of us lowly supers. I knew the part, ran across the stage and flung myself onto the back of one of the best bass singers in the world: Andrea Silvestrelli. Trying not to interfere with his voice as a tried to figure out how to act this part and not fall off, I hung myself over his shoulders and wrapped my legs around his waist and then got the shock and thrill of my life. I have never hugged the speakers at a rock concert, but I imagine that would be close to the physical sensation of hanging off the back of a world class singer. His voice rattled my very bones. It filled up my entire molecular structure. It was like I plugged directly into the music. It was utterly unlike anything I have ever felt in my life. Silvestrelli is a giant of a man—we first met him when he was Fasolt in Das Rheingold, when we did like 6 operas in 5 months and lived at the Lyric. He is also a darling—nicest guy EVER. It lasted probably sixty seconds, the act ended, I jumped off and he turned around to see who I was (I am sure I weighed more than the regular girl) and I just smiled and said Hi! I am the New Girl. I mean after that—I could barely speak. I could still feel the vibration standing by myself.

It would be an amazing way for deaf people to come to know opera if the just could hug a singer while an aria came forth. A trained voice feels so different than a garden variety human voice. And that bass—it was like being hooked into the power source of the earth.

It has been an amazing week—I highly recommend immersing oneself in art to get through the winter doldrums—between watching a wonderful dress rehearsal of Cav/Pag at the Lyric to seeing last night’s recreation of Le Sacre de Printemps at the Joffrey to hearing music from the broad back of an opera star, I have hardly noticed the new snow fall and the biting wind chill. I am on a cloud, in a world of my own making……

Picture credit: Production design photo from Lyric Opera of Chicago


Unknown said...

What a terrific experience for you--and how interesting that it was unexpected and electrifying, even though you are quite familiar with opera by now.

You're right: this would be great way for the deaf to learn about the art. It would also be a great way for ANY non-singer to get some idea of the unusual qualities possessed by a world-class opera singer. The "Singer's Formant" ain't exactly a household term.

Hmmm, now we need to have some male singers volunteer for hugging or lugging whilst singing. I volunteer to be lugged.

Unknown said...

What a wonderfully told story! I am a super in Cav/Pag, and I hope you get to go on in Abduction. Keep us posted.

Cindy Fey said...

What an amazing experience! Very cool. Welcome to Chicago Moms Blog. Great to have you on board - and nice to hear you're married to Matt. He shot our wedding and we love his work. Looking forward to reading more of your posts!