8 September 2007
Somewhere over the Midwest
Above & Beyond

Sometimes it seems I have to climb on a plane to shut down the chaos of the world and pull my thoughts together. What just happened in the last 48 hours?!? Turandot is still coursing through my veins after opening the production in Louisville on Thursday, and a full round of auditions at Peabody yesterday. We're gliding above some mercifully good weather and I'm grateful for the extra leg-room in Row 21 on the Southwest Airlines fleet (there IS more room at the back of their 737s!).

Now I'm headed for Chicago to start Traviata rehearsals. There are design proposals for Turn of the Screw and Yellow Wallpaper in my bag (both operas are new to me), the score of and schedule of next month's Tosca, the dialogue edit of Zauberflöte to finish, Dr Atomic to learn and an imminent meeting about the Aida Ballet. Uh oh. I am alternately thrilled and overwhelmed at the projects ahead. Thrilled by the pieces, my casts and colleagues, the companies; overwhelmed at the sheer number of people involved in each one of the projects. It's when I start to be awed by the collective collaboration of our art. Sure, these are all unique mountains to climb, but I won't be doing it alone. Far from it!

I think most would agree the Louisville Turandot would not have been as successful without dedicated folks going above and beyond what was asked of them: our chorus, our supers, our crew. That a costume shop of 4 can handle, move, fit, alter and maintain nearly 200 costumes; that a make-up crew of 2 found a way to turn our robust cast into the "popolo di pekino" with only 2 rehearsals; that an army of supers and chorus managed to clear a month of nights and weekends to have almost spotless attendance—it is astonishing.

And fulfilling! The electricity of the cast's energy and adrenalin on Thursday night will propel me ahead. These are the times I am grateful to be in our business, to witness people putting aside competitive egos for the greater good. And it is that gift of time and goodwill that makes our business our art. We're so quick to assign a number, a dollar amount to every action, every request—especially in our larger opera house. And we need to step back and take a deep breath when we walk through the stage door and remember that it is all of us (E pluribus unum anyone?) that create success, and our opportunity to share in that combined goal becomes the great reward. I'm not saying we should work for free or have no limits or assurances to protect our time, but when those goals start taking more energy than the creative process, something is out of whack.

I witnessed an army of sopranos sing "Ach, ich fuls" yesterday. I was prepared to witness intense competition, yet they showed themselves to be excellent colleagues! Again and again, they stayed to hear one another, folks passed scores amongst each other, listened, learned, supported (perhaps admired?) the next audtionee. Whoever is cast in the role should be humbled by the insulation of support around them.

Whatever it takes to appeal to the better sides of our natures, we have to figure it out, maintain it, nurture it if we want our art to succeed. Unless the opera business starts raking in money like a Vegas casino, our currency will be goodwill. Thank you, Louisville, for demonstrating that to me; thank you, Peabody sopranos, for your collaborative spirit. We have to go above and beyond what makes us different, act for the one—and there's the magic of the opera for me.