The Life Operatic

by kattiewampus

I’m on a sort of stream-of-consciousness kick right now with blogging. I actually have been feeling rather uninspired lately, hence resorting to highly random posts such as yesterday’s photo series. This got me thinking about what other random photo series I could post. And then I remembered about these gems of pictures that I’ve had in my possession for several years but never shared, and for no good reason.

These pictures are special because they constitute pretty much the only photographic evidence of my very brief explorations in opera. During my junior year at the conservatory, I participated in two Puccini opera scenes: one from “Suor Angelica” and the other from “Gianni Schicchi.” I was a lay sister in the first and La Ciesca in the second.

I was recruited to be in “Suor Angelica” at the last minute, as an “extra”. This turned into being a lay sister, and for some reason, the director targeted me for several random, attention-grabbing moments. I had to break down crying and run off stage at one point. Later, from off-stage, I had to scream bloody murder and run across the stage and off again, covering my face, to imply that I had been stung by bees.

I used to love acting when I was a kid – I was actually quite theatrical once upon a time. But I’ve always preferred comedy over tragedy, so fake crying on stage and hysterical screams aren’t really my forte. I suppose it was a good learning experience, but I would have been just as happy if someone else had to do it. However, I did get very good at emitting bloodcurdling screams on cue.

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My fellow lay sister and I fake talking.

Who knows what we’re actually saying to each other.

Probably something along the lines of “I am so tired right now.” “Me too. I have so much homework to do.”

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We were late for morning prayers. Got busted!

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So then we sang a pretty duet and all was right in the world.

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Plot twist: the tourieres have arrived with supplies – and news!

I had a sort of complicated relationship with the opera program that year. I auditioned, then backed out right before the results were posted, then changed my mind. It’s a long side-story and I still have mixed feelings about how it all played out. The bottom line is that the director ended up needing someone to fill the role of La Ciesca in “Gianni Schicchi,” so she was still able to give me a part – albeit not the role for which I had originally been cast. Then, a little while later, she recruited me to be a Lay Sister as well. So, in the end, I was still plenty involved.

“Gianni Schicchi” was the dark horse opera scene. It started out pretty rocky with the usual woes of vocalists: people not knowing their music, difficult rhythms, confusing entrances, etc., etc., etc. I remember an afternoon in a practice room, working with a fellow cast member who was also a violist and had very solid rhythm, drilling some of the difficult spots. I couldn’t imagine how the scene was going to come together and not be a disaster. In the end, it was one of two comedy scenes interspersed in a largely tragically-themed program. I might be biased, but based on audience response, it was one of the most well-received scenes. As we got comfortable with the music and the blocking, we were able to ham it up and play up the comedic aspect of the scene. It ended up being my favorite memory of my entire opera experience.

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There is a moment in the libretto when Betto is spreading the rumor that the recently-deceased Buoso has left everything in his will to the monastery.

What “Betto” actually whispered in my ear was usually incomprehensible and often inappropriate.

But I never broke character.

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The rumor has been circulated! Now we must ransack the dead man’s room for his will.

After all, as his greedy relatives, we want to make sure that he has remembered us. 

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The hunt is on!

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Rinuccio has found the will!

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Everyone’s expressions are hilarious. And I look super creepy.

Rinuccio is waxing romantic about marrying his sweetheart.

So naive. 

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We’re getting impatient, Rinuccio!

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Scheming about what I’ll do with my share of the money

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The rumors are true! He left everything to the monastery! 

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We are not pleased.

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“Must we see the money that he collected released to a pack of good-for-nothing friars?”

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The reading of the will. This is one of my favorite pictures: it totally captures the scene. 

Opera Scenes: crazy, stupid fun. Totally exhausting, sometimes traumatic, absolutely worth it.

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