I haven’t written about Ainadamar rehearsals for many reasons, not the least of which is that when I have free time I’d rather sleep than blog. But it’s a new production of a new opera, so details should be kept, not necessarily secret, but at least under wraps. So, once we open on Saturday, I’ll write a bit about the production side of things. (Look, too, for opinions on the work from Charles at Ionarts, who was able to sit in on our piano dress rehearsal Monday night. I was so pleased to have the time to meet him for coffee and get to know another music blogger. We talked about (among other things) the changes coming to print journalism via blogging, and I think Ionarts will be a real force in the change for music journalism. A change for the better!)
Another reason I’ve been quiet about the rehearsal process is that I don’t quite have the words to describe what it’s like to work with Peter Sellars. I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment (2nd Grimes performance tonight), so I won’t even try right now. Someday, hopefully next week after things have quieted down a bit, I can sit and find the words. Just know that the entire cast agrees that this production will be a highlight of our careers.
I do want to share two concepts/philosophies/ideas that have been presented to me through Ainadamar. The first is a Buddhist idea Peter shared with us at a rehearsal in which we were particularly tired and feeling flat. He told us about “right livelihood,” the idea that your work (how you make your living) causes no harm, either to others or to yourself. The arts, he reminded us, are some of the few occupations which can be considered as such. Not only do we not destroy anything or cause harm, we create things! Beautiful things! And our work can heal rather than destroy. If you have ever felt rejuvenated or at peace after hearing a piece of music or reading a poem, you have been on the receiving end of the artist’s “right livelihood.” Peter reminded us that we are blessed to come to work everyday knowing that we aren’t subtracting from our karmic balance.
The other idea was first presented to me at Tanglewood in 2003, when we gave the first premiere of Ainadamar. Osvaldo talked about duende, an idea about which I only got the vaguest hint of its meaning. I knew it was good, that Lorca liked it, and that it was a fleeting thing that could either be present or not. After a dress rehearsal, Bob Spano, our conductor, said to me (regarding my dance solos in the piece), “You know why that was so good this time? You had duende,!” I said “thank you,” of course, but I was too shy to admit that I really had no idea what he was talking about.
So, when I saw the book "In Search of Duende,” – a selection of Lorca's prose writings and poetry on the subject – in the SFO gift shop, I picked it up, determined to really understand it this time. And I’m so glad I did. I read enough to find this quote from Lorca, which sums up his idea of “the duende:”
The duende is a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all that is truly alive, all that the performer is creating at a certain moment. The duende resembles what Goethe called the "demonical." It manifests itself principally among musicians and poets of the spoken word, rather than among painters and architects, for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence. -FGL
An amazing idea, no? I realized a few days later, in the middle of another intense rehearsal to which my cast mates and I were all giving our all, that together in this production, we all find our duende. That is how we are so moved, and how we are able to so move others. Another quote from the book, this from the preface: In Andalusia, people say of certain toreros and flamenco artists that they have duende - an inexplicable power of attraction, the ability, on rare occasions, to send waves of emotion through those watching and listening to them.
How can we not want to have that power all the time?! To put aside our egos and let the duende flow through us. To bring healing and beauty to our audiences – to the world – every time we step onstage. It is my new goal, what I want to strive for in all of my work.
While this isn’t a post about Ainadamar, I think you can start to understand how I feel about the work we’ve done in the past few weeks. I can’t wait to tell you more.