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Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

End of an Era

And so it's official: my local opera company which had hoped to weather the recession with the reprieve afforded by declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy announced this week that they are now filing for Chapter 7 and liquidating the company.

I've been privileged to sing many supporting roles with the company over the years, and was also scheduled to sing with them this spring before they cancelled the season back in December.

As any singer who has the luxury of repeatedly performing with the same company in the same theatre can tell you, there's a comfort and joy to having a 'home" house. You know the theater, and banal but practical practical matters like how to time your journies to work, where to park and how to find things backstage are second-nature and stress-free. Even the stage itself is like a longtime friend, despite the limited amount of rehearsal time in the theater itself (in many - most? - US regional houses you're frequently only in the theater itself for a week or so, which usually means only 3-4 rehearsals on the actual stage before the final dress). You know from experience which corners favour your voice and which direction to sing to enhance the feedback you'll hear; how to angle yourself to see maestro (because you KNOW those angles); how long it will take to make the crossover under the stage, and whether or not you *really *have time to stop by your dressing room first.... (!) Sure, you figure all these things out in new houses (it's part of the job), but you DO have to figure them out; in a familiar house, it's that wonderful feeling of coming *home*, with that many fewer things to think about that distract you from the singing itself.

And it's not just the nuts-and-bolts of the building and space: you know the people. Not just the management and musical staff, but each production is GUARANTEED to be a reconnection with familiar colleagues backstage - the dresser and makeup artist who know just how to make you look your best, stagehands who know your name, the supers, the chorus, and even the volunteer ladies who run the green room coffee shop. You're going to work with "old friends", and the sense of shared experience and history is a welcome and relaxing change from the often-frantic yet lonely pace of an opera singer's life on the road.

From a purely practical and entirely personal point of view, the closure of the company will mark a huge change in the way I run my professional life: the two big companies within driving distance have both been kind enough to keep me well supplied with roles and covers, meaning I've had consistent work right on my doorstep between the two houses, particularly in recent seasons. Even though it is sometimes advised not to sing too much with any one company, when one has a young family and is given opportunities to sing at the highest level without ever having to get on a plane, change time zones or be away from home during a production ... how can one possibly say "no"?! Add to that musical colleagues of the highest order and the most professional artistic standards, and it's been a no-brainer to prioritize my schedule to sing with the company as often as possible; I shall miss that luxury more than I can say.

While I suspect that some kind of operatic Phoenix will rise from the ashes in time - this town is full of singers, musicians and opera-lovers! - the closing of the company is a huge loss to us all. I have yet to speak to anybody in the community who is not badly shaken and deeply saddened by this turn of events; we all hope for brighter days ahead.

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