* Clothes make the maid: About thirty minutes into rehearsal on Saturday, I noticed that my stance and my walk were very “un-Susanna.” They were very modern; sassy, and not in the quick-witted-maid sense. I quickly figured out that is was due in large part to the fact that I had forgotten to put on my rehearsal skirt. I had never really paid much attention to the importance of a rehearsal skirt, preferring to inhabit the character without the aid of costumes and such. But when wearing my favorite black skinny jeans, the ones that really make me feel like a rock star, I just couldn’t seem to shake the “attitude” they give me. After putting on the full white tea-length rehearsal skirt, however, Susanna’s stance was back: weight evenly on both feet, posture firm but subservient. Even my interactions with Figaro were more “period appropriate,” less modern. Boleslawski wouldn’t like it, but I apparently need my rehearsal skirt in order to be Susanna.
* Fixin’ Diction: We don’t have a prompter or Italian coach here, so it’s up to us to come to agreements on things like how to navigate notes with more than one vowel sound. Our maestro helps, of course, but sometimes we can fix it ourselves, even without talking. (I’m not sure I can really explain this in words; it might be a “you had to be there” moment, but I’ll try…)
In the Act II Finale, there is a moment when Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess say together “how will this end?” - “com’ha da finir?” There are rests between the words, so it’s kind of like this: “com / / ha / / da / / finir” The first time we sang it (in a staging rehearsal), Figaro and I noticed that we were putting the M at the end of “com” in different places: I before the rests and he after. We sing the line twice; the first time we exchanged a look that said, “Wait, did you just…?” The second time, the look was “Oh yes, you did; we’d better fix that!” But when we paused, we got busy with staging stuff and didn’t get a chance to discuss it.
I did check in with our Countess, though, to see what she was singing. She was with me, putting the M on the end of “com,” and we were fairly confident that we were right. (Of course! FG, care to verify?) We ran the scene again, and when we got to that line, Figaro gave me a look: “Oh, we didn’t fix this!” My look back said, “I did!” The repeat of the line came and we both turned to the Countess, who pronounced the line together with me. Still singing, Figaro snapped his fingers and gave us a look that said, “Rats! Outnumbered!” and we all carried on, smiling.
It was really a sweet moment of nonverbal communication and collaboration, one that wouldn’t have been possible if we weren’t enjoying working together so much. This is a great cast, and we’re all having a ball. A bit of a stressed ball, but a ball nonetheless.
* Flashbacks: When we got together in NYC and ran through things (Count, Countess, Figaro, and I), singing through the Act IV Finale brought back some beautiful memories. First, the bittersweet moments as Barbarina, saying goodbye to Cherubino during “Tutti contenti…” (In the Met's Miller staging, Barbarina and Cherubino don’t end up together.) But then, when the music shifted to the upbeat final section - “In contenti e in allegria” - I was suddenly transported to the woods of Vienna, VA, where we used that music as the opening to our Instant Opera programs! I never had this flashback during the Figaro’s at the Met, though, because there I was singing Barbarina’s line, and at Wolf Trap I sang Susanna’s! It was a wonderful stroll down memory lane.
There was another flashback tonight, when I overheard our Barbarina singing her aria. That will be a special aria for me for a long time, I think. I was taken back to the dimly lit stage, to the warm lights coming from the orchestra pit, seeing Mo. Jordan on the podium and the beautiful Met house behind him, hearing Bryn’s quiet “Barbarina, cos’hai?” My opera career is just beginning, so I know these moments of “flashback” are going to start overlapping, running together as I do repeated productions. Yet I can’t help but think that those moments, those sweet, dream-like moments of late 2007, will always be special.