12 June 2007
San Francisco
Discussion vs. Discovery

Phew. We made it. No doubt the general sentiment of exhaustion and euphoria after the opening night of a sublime, spectacular Rosenkavalier here at San Francisco Opera last weekend.

It had been a pressured, daunting rehearsal period as complex as you might imagine in a repertory house. It remains one of the trickiest scores in the repertoire. Even this morning, corners of the music are haunting me after repeating and repeating them to get them right. And then the cast changed slightly. Suddenly, we were having stage + orchestra rehearsals with folks who had never rehearsed together. Aaaaaaakk! Even among professionals, itís still a nerve-wracking improvisational nightmare, keeping your fingers crossed you donít get out of sync with the band, your colleagues, or slip in your new shoes!

But even on the most grueling day, you look around you and you witness one of the great joys of working here — the crew and staff and supers who put their heart, blood, sweat, and soul into delivering their best work. Everyone looked spectacular. The care and commitment to the artists and the art form is humbling and energizing, encouraging all of us to work towards the highest standards we know. Given the history of this company, its legacy, its place in the city across from City Hall, and the rare beauty of this city, being asked to work on a production here is an honor. I am glad to be back — especially assisting my friend and colleague Sandra Bernhard. San Francisco is only one of two companies in the USA producing Rosenkavalier this year. And itís even more rare when it is directed by a woman.

Lotfi Mansouriís original production is now in Sandyís hands — and she has the experience, the talent and the faith to trust her artists and her process. At times, we were all frustrated by the lack of time, but Sandy insisted we take the time to discover the emotional textures and layers of these scenes. Nothing else would be honest and the audience would know instantly. Sometime we had three, even four approaches to a moment, a climax, a continuation of thought. And no one was making a choice — the discussions went on longer than all of Act I. We would sing a little and then talk some more. As Soile Isokoski said one afternoon (she sings our Marschallin) "you know, la donna é mobile! Weíll change our minds as often as we need too!"

And thatís the gift, isnít it? Not trapping an artistic process to a stopwatch. Sharing the ideas with your colleagues, sometimes to let them marinate until you do the scene again. Sure, we all want to have a plan, a structure in place by the end of the day, but the willingness, the trust, and the respect that builds to the finest performances canít be measured or evaluated. It is evolved, as much through discussion as anything else. So, in many ways, Rosenkavalier is the ultimate "company" piece Ė the sum far greater than any of its parts — and hopefully a catalyst for future evaluations and discussions as the corners of this opera find their way into our permanent memories.


A night off at AT&T Park with Octavian, June 2007