Monday, January 15, 2007

That was close

What a day!

Before I get to the rehearsal itself – which went very well – let me explain how close I came to not getting there at all.

My plan for the day was to head up to Yonkers (about an hour away) and visit with B&N, my hosts from Santa Fe who are here visiting their grandchildren. I’d get up there around 11, have lunch, and then head back into Manhattan, going to the Met to sit in on the 3 o’clock rehearsal. The schedule said they’d be rehearsing Act I in the morning and afternoon, so I thought this would be good. I wasn’t required at either rehearsal, just some safety net watching on my part.

So I got up early (after going to bed early, which I never do, another little detail that made today a good day!), dressed in rehearsal clothes since I’d be going to rehearsal in the afternoon, put my music in my bag, and headed out the door at 9:45. I decided to catch the subway at the Lincoln Center stop, rather than deal with Columbus Circle construction, and I stopped on the way to get my morning coffee. Down into the subway, onto the train, I settled into my seat and took out my iPod. The Decemberists begin their story of the Crane Wife when I thought to take out my phone and check the time…

One missed call?! From the MET SWITCHBOARD!!!

I just about dropped my coffee all over the man next to me, who heard me gasp and gave me a worried glance. I quickly pack up my iPod, pick up my bags, and wait an eternal 45 seconds for the train to pull into the next station. As soon as I was above ground (at 79th), I checked the message, and sure enough: “Hello, this message is for Ms. Bird. Ms. “Jano” is sick today and we need you to come sing the 11:00 rehearsal.”

It was 10:10. That was a close one!

After calling the rehearsal department and confirming, I called B&N and told them about the change of plans, called my parents to share the excitement, and hopped in a cab. I was 25 blocks from my apartment, and while I was technically ready for rehearsal, I needed to warm up. If I could get home in five minutes, I could have 25 minutes to warm-up (and post!) and still get to the opera house in plenty of time.

More important that warming up, though, was the time I spent visualizing my staging. I’d done a bit of this since observing the first rehearsal, but this morning I did an intense, focused mental run-through of my scene, sitting in my chair with my eyes closed. I saw my entrance, Jenufa (Karita Mattila! She is even more beautiful in person.), the conductor and his baton – all from the perspective of being on stage. So when I actually did the scene, my mind felt like it had been there already.

This is an important skill to develop, one that was shared with me by another singer a few years ago. Today was the first time I’ve really put it into practice, and, wow, what a difference it made, I’m sure of it. When we watch rehearsals, we are almost always sitting in the front, watching from the audience perspective. So when we get up on our feet, things can feel like they’re reversed or like they exist on a totally different plane. And even when we do all the rehearsing up on our feet, being able to review things mentally can only help solidify them in our memory. Canadienne, any visualization stories? Anybody else?

So this, together with the musical coaching, made for a rehearsal that went smoothly and calmly. Of course, after I sang my first line, my heart was pounding through my chest! The director came over and said, “Hello, and who are you?” We’d met very briefly on the first day, but I wasn’t surprised he didn’t remember! Sprawled out on the floor like a ten-year-old boy, I shook his hand and re-introduced myself. Ms. Mattila turned and said, “Oh, have you not done this before?” A good sign!

(It was her first day, too, since her cover worked the rehearsals last week. But since she has done this production before, she was relearning the staging, rather than starting from scratch. Had she been totally new to the production, she would have been there from the beginning.)

My scene is short, and we ran it twice, so all in all I think I sang for about 15 minutes of the rehearsal today. At the break, CI, who I knew from Santa Fe and who was playing the piano for the rehearsal, congratulated me and told me that the conductor was “very happy.” Another good sign! Who knows how much word of my work in this rehearsal will get passed on, but I’m pleased with my first showing.

RC, another friend from Santa Fe, was there, too (covering a big role!), and described feeling what I have felt so often when I’ve seen my friends onstage, making good: “I even got a little teary, watching you up there, nailing it perfectly.” We all train so hard together, for so many years, and when we get to put it together? It’s thrilling, even just to watch.

Another test, another hurdle, passed! Thanks for all your notes today; it’s great to be able to share this with you all!


Patty said...

I'm absolutely thrilled for you! Congratulations!

Civic Center said...

That is a wonderfully written story and getting to sing Jano to Mattila's Jenufa sounds like too much fun for words. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Big congrats, Anne-Carolyn! I'm exceptionally proud of and happy for you! - SMB in Portland

Shauna said...

Wow, how awesome. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I'm so thrilled for you!

Also - could you go into more detail about visualization? And perhaps walk us through a day "in your voice" - what have you been doing to warm up? Are you working on any vocalises in particular, etc? Thanks for keeping us updated!

Princess Alpenrose said...

Great post, ACB. So real, it almost felt like we were living the day along with you!

Apropos of stagings one rarely gets to do onstage, do you mark the blocking into your score in some way?

I Sing Because I have to said...

Oh WOW!!! How wonderful!! Congratulations!

southern gal said...

So glad you checked your phone!!!

And stayed cool calm and collected!

May this be the first of many good rehearsal days!

(But may the rest be with more notice!

Sarah said...

Oh, RC. Or as I like to call him, DC. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

You do know that you could have just grabbed a practice room at the Met, right? There are tons of them just for this instance.

CMT said...

Sounds like a great day! I've been using visualization to walk through our future house based solely on the plans--it's really an incredible tool!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip! As a singer I really appreciate the insight. Would definitely appreciate future posts like this...taking us behind the scenes and giving us professional wisdom about the trade! Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Oh dude, that's great. I know I would probably have missed the call, checked the message when I got uptown, screamed like a little girl when I found out what I'd done, and then taken the wrong train in my rush to get back to Lincoln Center. I might have figured it all out by about 3 that afternoon.

Well done though, in stepping into such big shoes! Way to be on the ball!

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