One for the scrapbook - I went on in 'Tosca' last night...

I had quite a day yesterday. I got the call at around 8:30 AM, just as I was about to go off to the park to exercise the dog. Could I perform the role of Sciarrone in the evening’s performance of ‘Tosca’? The singer who had done the role for the previous 13 performances could not stand due to illness, so the usual emergency measure of someone else sings from the pit while the indisposed singer walks through the part was not an option. Someone would have to learn all the staging in the next 11 hours.

I told them that, unfortunately, I had never done the role and didn’t know it at all; they should phone around and see who else there is in Toronto who already knew it. 20 minutes later, the phone call comes in - there is no such person available in town. They understand that it is a role I have never done, but if I am game, they will do whatever is necessary to make this work out. Okay, I said, let’s go.

I downloaded the score from IMSLP and looked through it - there are six singing moments in the second act, one in the third. Luckily, my daughter and I had seen the opera last Thursday, so I had an idea of Sciarrone’s actions and what the set looked like.

So, I get a music rehearsal from 1:45 - 2:45, costume fitting from 3 - 3:30 and staging rehearsal from 3:30 - 5. Curtain is at 7:30. I spent the morning memorizing the music as best as I could; my wife did me a massive favour and got me a copy of the full score that I could mark up in rehearsal (for all of the acting entrances when I wasn’t singing - printing off and hole-punching 300 pages didn’t seem like a very good use of resources…).

So, I had three entrances in Act I, seven entrances in Act II and one entrance in Act III. The stage business included grabbing and beating the Sacristan, grabbing and beating Cavaradossi, throwing Tosca across the stage, dragging an unconscious Cavaradossi across the stage and of course, running across the stage and up the stairs in a futile attempt to stop Tosca from leaping off the parapet.

It was funny that the night we saw Tosca, I saw John K. in the audience - John alternated in the role of Spoletta with another performer. He’s an old and dear friend, and we had worked together on Ariadne auf Naxos last May. I had said to him ‘When are we going to get to work together again, anyway?’ He was my Spoletta last night, and he saved my bacon several times.

I was also struck that on Friday night, I took the dog watch (in our family slang, the person who stays up until at least 10:30 PM to take the dog for one last stroll before going to bed, allowing everyone else to turn in early) and was nodding off in my comfy chair while reading and listening to my iPod from about 9:30 onward… It made me think of what a boring old fart I was turning into, and how happy that made me. Let others seek wild excitement - I had a Josquin mass to listen to and a book of poetry to read. The same hour on the next night, I was fully awake and doing a role I had learned less than twelve hours previously.

It went far better than I had any right to expect. I won’t say it was perfect, but the show went on, albeit with a couple of expectant glances at Sciarrone who would then leap into action. ‘A follower, not a leader’ one would say of this character.

And at least I can skip the blood pressure tests I’m supposed to get as I turn 50; if last night’s stress didn’t do me in, I reckon I’m good for another 100,000 km…

[stands][claps wildly][throws flowers][claps some more][stops clapping after you leave the stage][/stands]

Whoa. Amazing story! Glad it went so well – what an adventure!

It must have been difficult to get a costume that would fit a guy who has balls that big! To suddenly jump into a role like that at the last minute?! You are one very brave dude! I know understudies who would have had a panic attack!

Kudos! Congrats! And just - wow!

Very cool. I would love to see it. Is it taped, by any chance?

You know, they make movies about people who have to go on like that. What happens next is that you become a big star.

I mean, when folks in the biz know you can pull something off like that they’re gonna come to rely on you!

Congrats! Sorry to say opera is not my usual thing, but I’d loved to have sat through that, just for moral support.

When does the next fiction contest start?

Amazing! Thank you SO much for sharing that; it really made my day.


Holy guacamole! Well done, well done.

Wow! That’s impressive!

:: we’re not worthy ::
:: we’re not worthy ::

Do you have a schedule of non-emergency appearances? It would be interesting to see one of your performances.

That’s very cool! Congrats!


Well, not to mute my own horn as I try to blow it, but it wasn’t as difficult as you might think, and there were a lot of people helping out.

Some things to consider -

The assistant director was just offstage the whole time, and every time I came off, she was standing by in case I needed reminding. She had taken me through the staging rehearsal, and she knew the way in which I had mentally organized all the entries, so when I needed to know ‘Is number 2 where I enter with the wine bottle?’, she was ready to say ‘Yes’. ‘Is this where I enter with the letter?’ ‘No, that’s number 7; this is number 6 where you bring in the unconscious Cavaradossi.’

Stage management were on high alert, cuing (or holding me on stand-by) for my every entrance and giving a reassuring ‘Yes, come off now’ signal for every exit. Props and wardrobe were also there with everything I needed, walking right up and putting it in my hand or taking it from me, as required.

The conductor was fully aware of the situation, and so every stand-by cue was the palm of his left hand, as unmistakable as a cop pulling me over for speeding. The ‘go’ was a point of the left hand index finger on the downbeat of the bar of my entrance coming at me like a ninety mile an hour fastball. It was in his best interest to make sure I could not make a wrong entry.

My Italian is rusty, but I had seen the show last Thursday. Between having followed what I didn’t catch in the surtitles and being able to understand some of what was being said, I was able to be onstage in character in the pages of music where I didn’t have an entry. It also made the staging much easier - when Scarpia says 'Occhio alle porte, senza dai sospetti!’ (‘Keep your eyes on the doors without attracting any suspicions’), I went to watch at the door. When he said ‘Attendi!’ (‘Wait!’), I waited. When he said ‘Aprite le porte che n’oda i lamenti!’ (‘Open the doors so we can hear the screams!’), Spoletta and I opened the doors. Thank Og it wasn’t one of those productions where it was all Tosca’s dream and none of the actions have anything to do with what someone is saying.

So, yes, I learned a lot of actions and some singing lines in a very short time, but there were a lot of people and a lot of things in place to make sure it would go as smoothly as possible.

Well, I’m playing the role of Maestro Spinelloccio in ‘Gianni Schicchi’, again for the Canadian Opera Company - we start rehearsals in a couple of weeks and open on the 26th of April. Spinelloccio is onstage for a grand total of 5 minutes, but it’s a fun 5 minutes. Then I’m in Edmonton doing ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’ next January, and back at COC to do Thierry in ‘Dialogues des Carmélites’ next April.

Other than that, I’m doing some recordings this summer and looking for more gigs to fill in the time between ‘Schicchi’ and ‘Hoffmann’.

No, the production was recorded for audio broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio 2 network in late January/early February, but that was long before I was involved. All three of the ‘unions’ involved (Canadian Actors’ Equity Ass’n, American Federation of Musicians and International Association of Stage Technicians and Electricians) forbid the audio or video recording of a live performance without pre-arranged payment. This one’s just in the memories of the audience, orchestra, cast and crew.

It never hurts to be talked about in a positive way, and it sure would be fun to be getting more work. I’ll just have to see what happens…

I’m hoping to start the thread for a Poetry Sweatshop sometime today; I’ll do the next Short Fiction contest sometime in mid-Feb. Sorry to make you wait, but the poets have been incredibly patient, and the Sweatshop is long overdue.

Wow. You can downplay it all you want **Le Ministre **- but that is jumping into the breach. Well done, sir.

No problem about the fiction contest, but, just to nitpick, mid-February is already past!:D:p

Oh, for crying in my sink!! Mid-March, of course! I was thinking about wanting to get the Poetry Sweatshop underway before February is over. Plus, I feel so far behind, I like to believe New Year’s was just a few weeks ago.

Good show! But, didn’t they have an understudy? Or did that person get sick too?

Holy crap! Well done, sir!

The understudy got a release for the last two performances so that he could sing a concert in Kuala Lumpur, I think on the logic that even if the regular singer was so sick that he couldn’t sing at all, he could still walk the part onstage while someone else sang it from the pit. The fact that he couldn’t stand threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

Awesome story! Glad you broke a leg!