It seems my theme in the show on Saturday Afternoon at the opera and my theme in life is “new tricks”. Sure there is the analogy that you can’t teach an old dog new ones, but todays show is really all about the opposite. I created a piece comparing singers in their prime (Domingo, Ludwig, and Gedda) by playing them in their prime and when they were over 60. There is the loss of the sheen of youthful voice and some richness of tone (except Ludwig, God I love her) sometimes the upper notes aren’t what they were, but no matter it turns out. What is lost in vocal gift is more than made up in the wisdom of how to sing. How to use the voice for color and effect. I think about my own singing and realize it is partly that I understand my voice so much more now in my 40s than at 20 but there is also a skill with age that makes the voice listen to me more than me listening to it. I loved preparing this piece and listening to such great music from such vocal luminaries. I confess that I teared up in studio during the Mondnacht I played from Ludwigs farewell concert in 1993. Stunning.
I also talked to Anne Sofie von Otter who has released a CD of Love Songs and CD 2 in the set are jazz songs and standards. In our conversation, she too talks about how the voice isn’t what it was at 30 but if you listen to the CD cuts we play I hope you’ll notice the maturity with which she wields her voice to color text as she wants. Not only that, but I respect but the wisdom at 56 ( I think that is how old she is) to pursue projects that she wants to, regardless of what the reaction may be. As the person who did the not always complimentary cross over show on Saturday Afternoon at the Opera last summer (I played opera singers singing pop and explained why it didn’t work well and often made my skin crawl honestly) I still will give Anne Sofie kudos for listening to her muse and always reaching out for new musical horizons to explore. She is out learning new tricks for sure.
And if the Met doesn’t run long, I’m hoping you will hear my interview with Michael Shamata, a very successful theatre director (you may have seen his “Year of Magical Thinking” starring Seanna McKenna at Tarragon in Toronto or at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa if you missed it at The Belfry in Victoria) and artistic director of The Belfry who had his debut as an operatic director this past Thursday with Pacific Opera Victoria. I’m sad that only about 3 minutes of our 20 minute chat will make it to air, but he was a wonderful guest, speaking honestly about stepping into new territory and being excited and rewarded there. I loved that he understood that Puccini (he directed La Boheme) doesn’t need a director to improve on him and that as a director of opera the music is taking where you need to go and no over lay is needed. Yes! Hurray! I hope he has many more opportunities to give over to the music.
So there we are, three ‘old’ dogs in story that are either learning new tricks or improving on the old ones they knew. As for me, today I will be live tweeting during the Met broadcast of Don Pasquale, which is a new thing for me that I’m rather excited to try. This is only my third time to guest host Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, so it still has that ‘new car smell’ to me. A portion of todays broadcast will be ‘live’ for me so I’m hoping to keep my breath centered, my nerves in check and my tongue un-tied! I love learning ‘new tricks’ too!