And So the Fall Travel Begins…
There is a certain amount of travel that comes with this job. Under the General Ledger it is called “Artistic Research” but it takes several guises. This weekend, the days just before we begin rehearsals in earnest for Salome, it is a mixed bag. Some of you may know that I “work” for the Metropolitan Opera a handful of times yearly as an adjudicator for the Metropolitan National Council Auditions (MONCA), more affectionately known by singers as…The Met Auditions. When I accept this assignment, I try to maximize my time in the location. As this weekend is San Francisco…it was easy to do. I’ve been here only 24 hours but have already had a meeting with a counterpart at the San Francisco Opera to talk shop, seen a world premiere at the SFO, met with two artists with which we work at Utah Opera and heard a number of the finest young singers – the SFO Adler Fellows – in audition; all before getting to the work that brought me here in the first place.
Of note, the world premiere of Tobia Picker’s opera, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, was a major treat. It was a gripping night in the theater…the music is highly evocative…while attractive in moments…he doesn’t apologize for depicting the challenging/ugliness of the story. In many ways, it feels a bit like a film score while still giving the audience the usual arias, duets, and ensembles characteristic of the art form. The physical production was quite amazing. In addition to Moyer’s usual representative sets, there was great use of projected video to move the story along in a way that would have been difficult without. The story is gritty, ugly, all too real in the area of spousal abuse and child molestation (a new bar has been set in making an audience justifiably uncomfortable with the last scene of the first act ) and language is modern. I don’t see this playing in SLC in the near future but still expect it to have a future.
The “young artists” at the San Francisco Opera have long been considered some of the brightest in the business. Many of today’s stars…singers, conductors, directors…have come through this program. When it was learned I would be in town, the director of the program reached out to me to see if I would be interested in hearing these artists in an audition setting. Eight of the ten sang for me today (sickness exists everywhere) and I am happy to share that the future continues to be bright for opera singers. Happily, one of the eight is an alum of the Utah Opera Resident Artist program. A.J. Glueckert sang beautifully and I am impressed with his continued growth. I look forward to finding the right role for him in Salt Lake City again. I will also tease with the following: I heard a baritone today that completely blew me away. In a typical audition, the artist picks his or her first aria and I pick the next one or two. This artist began with a wonderful declaratory piece and sang it well. I specifically picked a sustained, lyric piece…fully expecting it wouldn’t be as good. I was stunned when it was even better than the first. I will be looking for a chance to share this artist with you at the earliest opportunity.
Tomorrow I hear twenty some young singers for the Met Auditions and then fly home…I am excited to get home and see Salome begin to take shape!