Dress rehearsal for La Boheme tonight and - YIKES!! Last minute substitutions!!

Okay, so I’m in Victoria, BC doing a production of La Boheme. Tonight is our dress rehearsal. Rehearsals have been going well, good cast, good production. I’ve done these roles (Benoit and Alcindoro) before and they’re a blast. I have nothing more pressing on my mind than doing some kitchen prep for the post-rehearsal drinks and snacks in my room tonight.

Then at 4 PM, I get the phone call - come to the theatre for an emergency staging rehearsal. Okay. I get there - our Rudolpho, who has been fighting bronchitis for the last few days, went to the hospital and they’re keeping him there for observation. The company has phoned around, and there is another tenor who teaches at the Conservatory and the University who has done the role and is available. However, there’s no time to stage him into the show, and it has been long enough since he last did the role that he would be much more comfortable singing from the pit with the score. For this evening, the role will be walked by the director - a very talented theatre director who has enjoyed opera for years, but has never directed one before. Now, he gets to be onstage!!

Curtain is just under two hours away - I’ll let you know how this one turns out sometime after my guests have all gone.

And here I thought my biggest worry tonight was a new recipe for crab-stuffed mushrooms…

Wow! Break a leg, Le Ministre!

This will be one night you’ll never forget…

Totally break a leg! I hope all goes well.

No, really, I hope all goes well and is smoothed out for this Thursday–because that’s when my friend and I will be in the audience! Sing really well on the 24th, eh? :slight_smile:

Oh wowzers! I used to play in the pit for my high school’s musicals (which of course is nowhere near the scope you’re performing in) and I can’t imagine having to make this kind of last-second substitution. Breaketh a leggeth!

Do you guys not typically have understudies?

Ah, the joys of theater.

Years ago, I was in a production of Carmen. Our set was being borrowed from Chautauqua Opera and had to be shipped in during tech week. Due to a holiday, it ended up being a day late. Then it turns out they forgot some necessary pieces of the assembly. The set wasn’t in place until Thursday; we opened Friday. Since we had never even had the chance for a Wandelprobe, let alone a runthrough, our “dress” ended up being a quick and dirty slopthrough and we just winged opening night.

Worked out in the end, but that was an interesting week.

Break a leg, Ministre! Looking forward to your recap of the evening. :slight_smile:

Wow. Good luck for your upcoming performances. I nearly ended up having to just walk through a performance of Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi a number of years ago. I had caught a nasty case of bronchitis during production week and it wasn’t looking good for opening night. I marked the rehearsals, sort of, while hacking. My voice teacher was going to sing the role in the pit (she was too old and about 100 pounds too heavy to actually go on stage) while I lip synched.

Fortunately, the antibiotics kicked in at the last moment and I was able to perform. Even hit the high D at the end. (The tenor charmingly reassured me before the performance that no one would hear my D over his high note anyway, so it didn’t really matter if I hit it or not. Which I took as a challenge, goddammit, and whacked the sucker out of the park. The note, not the tenor. Although I was tempted…)

I worked backstage–one of the prop mistresses–for a high school musical. The Music Director’s son died Saturday before Opening Night.

Sunday was supposed to be the rehearsal where we added the orchestra–nope.

Orchestra got added Wednesday, I think, with Opening Night Thursday.

(Not that it matters, but the kid who died had a congenital condition which adversely affected his health and intelligence, and had significantly outlived the average for his condition. He was in wobbly health at the start of the semester, so his death ended up being not exactly expected, but not as shocking as it could have been).

On a more cheerful note, I was also in a high school play when the director and the other director (married to each other) had a baby either during or immediately after the last show. As in, she didn’t attend any performances-by doctor’s orders- and he left in the middle of the last show, leaving the sound and lights in the hands of two alumni who had never done anything like this before. It worked out ok, although timing for some stuff was off.

Still, much better for the audience than Plan A, which was to turn up all the stage lights and leave, assuming that we’d be able to fumble along (and figure out what was up for ourselves).

Er, not this Thursday. NEXT Thursday. The 24th.

…and how did it go?

My favorite opera memory happened in the mid-80s at a performance of *Die Walküre * at the Met. The soprano was obviously struggling during Act 1, and during intermission there was an announcement that, following an extended intermission, there would be a substitute Brunhilde. It turned out to be none other than Hildegarde Behrens (who was very renowned in that role).

I assume you mean Act II, or else she was really struggling.

Oh, lucky you!

I saw her in 1981 or 82, I think, at the Met, as Princess Electra in Idomeneo, a cast that also had Frederica von Stade and Pavarotti. She was AMAZING; I can only imagine her in Die Walküre!

In those days I would drive from Virginia to NYC on the weekends, get SRO tickets, and drive back home after the show because I couldn’t afford to stay in or near the city… plus I was young and could drive until 3 AM with no ill effects!

Le Ministre - wow! How did it go??

I’ve been wondering where you’ve been - there was that thread on the key-reach on piano that needed your input; should’ve known you were out hollerin’ somewhere. :wink:

My apologies for responding so late - we had an epic celebration last night, such that I had to clean the room before I could let the cleaning lady in. I also have to say that I’ve never before noticed how loud my laptop’s keyboard is; fortunately, this is a day off.

First off, I have to clarify a mistake I made in my original post. Someone had said that Benjamin Butterfield had sung the role of Rudolpho a few times. It made sense to me, even though I would have said the core of his repertoire lay in Mozart and his contemporaries.

He had not sung the role before - last night was his first time. I feel sure that he must have performed some of the popular excerpts (Rudolpho-Marcello duet from Act IV, the quartet from the end of Act III, the Act I aria…) as party pieces at opera fundraisers, though I have no confirmation for that idle speculation. Certainly the ensemble bits were being sung for the first time in front of a full house at a dress rehearsal. It wasn’t sight-reading; he’d looked at it with the conductor that afternoon. He wouldn’t have sung it all full out in that afternoon session, though - this is one of those roles that you would only sing once in a day.

It was a fantastic performance. It was not note perfect. Some of it was wrong, a couple of the entries went astray. (None of that matters, really, I just wanted to clarify that it wasn’t the way Hollywood would have written it up.) What was right was glorious, and by God, it was exciting!!

For the director, this was a totally different experience. He made the decision not to mouth along, but rather he used his (substantial) acting technique to convey the subtext of what was being sung without trying to give the impression of singing. It set him apart from the rest of us but he made it work for the character. It was a real challenge for the singers to react to the quiet guy standing ten feet away instead of reacting to the singing which was coming our way from thirty feet away and down. His challenge was to match the intensity of everyone else’s performance without overloading the acting. He performed splendidly.

It was really fun to have a theatre director experience that from onstage. When Mimi (as but one example) is really singing full out, you can feel the vibrations in your own chest cavity. Singers are used to that - for people, even performers, who are not singers, that can be a bizarre experience. Plus he got to live through singing’s athleticism - the surreptitious clearing of the throat between some lines, the extra intense breath before the climactic phrase, the eye that’s always out for the conductor and the ear that’s always out for the orchestra, the gauging of how long to hold the high note.

There’s so much else that we do have in common with theatre performers of any stripe - for instance, the constant lookout for something unexpected that we have to deal with without sending the story off the rails. Musetta’s earring fell off in Act II and lodged briefly in her decolletage, and so I was giving her a meaningful look in the eye followed by a meaningful look at her cleavage so that she could do something about it, or at least I could track it so it didn’t get lost or stepped on. (She has to give those earrings to Marcello in Act IV to sell in order to buy medicine. In an ideal world, she would still be wearing both of them…)

That sort of thing is common to actors, dancers and singers. This blending of the different styles is something I’ve never encountered in nearly thirty years of singing.

It’s not an ideal situation for the audience. We are anxiously awaiting news of my friend Luc. It is highly probable that he will not sing at tomorrow night’s performance, though we all wish him well and a speedy recovery.

Larger companies do keep understudies for exactly this sort of situation. Smaller companies are simply up against the harsh side of the cost/benefit equation. It would be prohibitively expensive to cover the travel expenses, accommodation and fees of the six extra artists required. Finding a replacement for Luc on short notice, making the travel arrangements, doing the emergency rehearsals - those, thankfully, are problems for someone else who knows what they’re doing.

We were talking at the party (and singing, laughing and hollering a lot, too - it was a pretty tense day for everyone and the fact that it went better than anyone dared hope lent itself to a great sense of release and camaraderie.) about how it would be fun to find a way to use this effect to artistic advantage. I think it would be great to take Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author”, make an opera of it and stage it so that the singers are never onstage - only six actors responding as if the thoughts being sung are coming through them. It would be particularly interesting if the actors did not always respond to the same voice. A little project for when I get home…

I’ll keep you posted as to how the rest of the run goes.

Heh. Have some aspirin, water and a long nap. It’s the only cure.

Oh, my god–he’d not sung the role before? He must have been quaking!

It sounds exciting! Talk about high drama!

*When Mimi (as but one example) is really singing full out, you can feel the vibrations in your own chest cavity. Singers are used to that - for people, even performers, who are not singers, that can be a bizarre experience. Plus he got to live through singing’s athleticism - the surreptitious clearing of the throat between some lines, the extra intense breath before the climactic phrase, the eye that’s always out for the conductor and the ear that’s always out for the orchestra, the gauging of how long to hold the high note. *

I did NOT know that. I want to get close to a singer at full tilt, now!

This is so fascinating–all the little things the audience may never catch, like the earring.

Speedy recovery, to Luc – and your hangover. I’m looking forward to my night at your opera.

Huzzah! Congratulations!

There is *nothing *like falling down the stairs and landing on your feet in a performance context. A story you’ll tell for the ages.

We made the front page of the Times-Colonist this morning. We meet the new tenor (I almost said 'the new boss/same as the old boss…) at a rehearsal at 1.

The TC shoulda had your picture up, so I could have pointed, and said: “Look! One of my imaginary friends from the internet!”

The TC always lets me down.