This past week was all about revisiting Vodnik and seeing how much of the role was still rattling around in my brain (and in my voice). Some excellent coaching from our fearless leader definitely helped knock some of the cobwebs off! Surprisingly it has come back to me rather quickly, even though I haven’t sung the role or really even looked at it since last July/August. This is not the first time I’ve revisited a role, but it is definitely the first time I’ve done so with a role of this size. Most of the time I’m revisiting some supporting role–those are usually rather small and not full of any real juicy vocal or dramatic moments. These characters don’t get the big dramatic death scenes or the heart-rending love duets, but you definitely need them to tell you when it’s time for dinner (among other things)! They generally serve to drive the plot along from some moment, so in reality they can be quite important, if a little thin on the character development.
Some highlights of my comprimario roles: The Officer (Barber of Seville), The Official Registrar (Madama Butterfly), The Court Usher (Rigoletto), Flora’s Servant (La Traviata)...some I’ve done multiple times. Slightly larger, of course, is the ever-popular Antonio (Le nozze di Figaro), the troublesome gardener who may or may not be drunk most of the time (depends who you ask). These roles are sometimes confined to just one word (Official Registrar, I’m looking at you), and they can often be more stressful than you might expect–you have one shot to get it right, and you have a lot to remember leading up to your shining moment in the spotlight!
Having now had the opportunity to revisit both small and larger roles, I definitely prefer revisiting the latter. I am discovering some wonderful new ideas about Vodnik this time around. Last year I was really focused on getting the Czech as solid as I could and trying to do justice to Dvorak’s heavenly music. The drama was there, but it definitely had some stiff competition in my brain! Side note: this role is really a dream to sing–it is beautifully written, and it just feels great to come back to it after some time away! This year I feel like I can focus more on the story I am telling, the dramatic beats going on in a scene, and all of the tiny musical inflections that I may not have fully grasped before.
There is a growth process that happens over time after you put a song or a role away for a bit after learning it. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this (I tell my students this all the time), but I am truly experiencing it in real time now. Without even thinking about it, some of these ideas and colors are there, and it feels like I am making new little discoveries every day. This isn’t so surprising to me–I definitely fall into the “re-reader” camp when it comes to books. If I like a book, I will keep it and reread it multiple times. Every read reveals something new, or some new perspective, and it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book at all to know what will happen. It feels very much the same revisiting this role–like I’m picking up a favorite book after some time away and diving into the world again fresh eyes.
The performances are coming up next week, so we are now heading into some group rehearsals. Aside from the musical and dramatic work, there are many other considerations to iron out: working with tracks, when to use headphones, when to turn on the camera, how to interact with said camera, finding virtual background images...all things I never thought I’d have to worry about! And of course...figuring out what my makeup plan will be this year! Last year’s blue and green theme was great, but I am thinking I’ll mix it up this year and perhaps try something different for each performance. It’s the little things in life, you know?
The home stretch is nigh–this week will be a busy one, no doubt! But really, it’s nice to BE busy with singing, and I am reminded why I love this process. Even in a weird virtual format that is not terribly similar to the real deal, the preparation work is familiar, and Rusalka is an incredibly rewarding opera to perform. I can’t wait to put all of the pieces together and hear everyone in the different casts! Since I’m single-cast, I get to sing with EVERYONE! Production week, here we come!
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