What a night at the opera house! I’m sure other bloggers will be piping in soon with reports from front of the house, but I can give a small insight into what was happening backstage and, to some extent, onstage.
It was an exciting night for me to begin with, as my colleague KW made her debut as First Elf. I got her the cutest pair of slippers from the Opera gift shop: white slip-ons with “Diva” embroidered in gold on each one! Adorable. And since singers are often barefoot on stage, we get slippers as part of our costume to wear from the dressing area to stage and back. Usually the ones from the costume shop are used (although maybe the “big stars” get new ones?), so this way she can have her own pair with her every show! It made sense as a gift for this show, as the elves are, indeed, barefoot-ish. (They all wear tunics with a kind of body-suit-with-feet underneath. And blue faces. And beards!)
I stopped in to see her and was told of the plan to meet after intermission (we Elvenkind) and toast her with wine and cheese during Act II. Natürlich! I went down to the cafeteria to spend Act I studying my Barber and Messiaen songs. (I actually got a lot more accomplished since KW wasn’t there to chat with me!)
Our tenor had to miss the final dress rehearsal due to illness, but he was dressed and warmed up and ready to go at the start of the show tonight. But, he wasn’t as healthy as he thought and hoped, and he struggled through Act I. It is so hard to hear (over the loudspeakers in the caf) and see (from the stage, based on my colleagues’ reports) your friend and colleague struggling. Fighting to make things work! “I know I can do this! I just did it four days ago!” We’d watched him through the entire rehearsal process, and believe me, he’s an outstanding singer! He just wasn’t healthy tonight. All of our hearts went out to him, because, as with all suffering: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
So, at intermission, the decision was made to put the cover on. (I don’t know how this decision gets made, who asks or decides. I’m sure it’s different every time, and always a unique case.) And all of a sudden, the energy shifted! I stayed away from the backstage area during intermission, because I knew it would be crazy and intense. But during Act II, we listened through the dressing room intercoms and toasted our colleague stepping out and making a fabulous debut! He really nailed it, and we could sense the rest of the production rising up on his energy.
There was lots of holding our breath for upcoming high notes or killer phrases, and then cheering as he cleared hurdle after hurdle. I wasn’t invited to the opening night party – covers generally aren’t, but I guarantee they made an exception for MH tonight! – so I won’t get to see him until next week’s shows, but I can’t imagine how high he must be flying tonight. His wife and children are home in Mississippi, and I know he will miss them tonight as he falls, exhausted, into bed.
Congratulations to my colleagues! Two successful debuts, one planned for and prepared, and one unplanned for – and prepared! That’s the way to cover.
(In news of a certain other debut coming up in a few weeks: I found a fabulous dress for the opening night party! My dress is in a wine-colored stretch satin and shorter than the ones pictured, and I absolutely love it. I'll have to resist the urge to wrap and re-wrap it all night! "Look what this dress can do!!")