Friday, May 13, 2011

The Long and the Short Of It

I'm quickly closing in on the end of my longest uninterrupted streak of calls ever, and I've gotta say, it feels nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.   Of course it's my own fault that I've had so much work to do in the last couple months.  I'm the one taking off three weeks early in June to prepare for my upcoming performance at the International Trombone Festival (more on that later).   But it's still been a feat of some magnitude to play virtually every concert, opera, and rehearsal since March 16th.   That's 8 weeks!   

There's lots of specific operas and concerts to tell you about at some point, but something has really struck me as odd in the 'big picture' of it all.   It seems that in the State Opera (where I've played the vast majority the 8 week streak) a definite pattern has emerged that is somewhat interesting.  Not very interesting... just somewhat.   But it gives me an opportunity to talk about an aspect of having an opera job that I often get asked about: the length of the performances.

It seems that in the first half of my streak, the opera house was staging almost exclusively really LONG works.   We're talking about 6 performances of Anna Bolena ( 3 hours, 30 minutes), Wagner's Ring Cycle (around 18 total hours of opera over 4 evenings), and a run of another Wagner staple, Parsifal (clocking in at a little over 5 hours)!  The month of April was... long......... very................. long.   Again, I brought this on myself.  I'm fully aware.  Just sayin', that's all.

But the last couple weeks in the opera have been a stark contrast and welcome relief.   First of all, there's a run of Don Giovanni, which is easily one of the most coveted services to play because Mozart doesn't write a single note for the trombones until about 10 minutes from the end of the opera.   If the performance begins at 7PM, I don't actually enter the opera house until about 9:30.   I have a warm-up, change into my black suit, and enter the pit around 10 o'clock just in time to play the final scene.   There's a big soprano aria just before our entrance, so we usually stand just outside the pit entrance until we hear applause from the aria and then enter and take our seats.   We do it that way so as not to visually disturb the performance.    The Vienna State Opera has a completely uncovered orchestra pit, so virtually every audience member can see us when we go in.   But once we've made it in, we get to play some of my favorite Mozart music ever.   

Sometimes I get really nervous on Giovanni evenings, because when 8PM rolls around and I'm not even close to leaving the house I start to instinctively get a but twitchy and feel that something's not right.   It's a weird feeling to be at home watching TV with Kristi when the performance downtown has been going on for a couple hours already!

There's also been a ballet running recently called "A Tribute to Jerome Robbins" where the trombones play only the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes with an hour break in the middle.   Again, a very pleasant call to play because I usually go over to Starbucks and have a treat and then head down to the trombone room and practice till it's time to re-enter. 

Add to that Nabucco and Jenufa, both at 2-and-a-half hours, and it's been a much less stressful and tiring couple of weeks.  I'm very thankful for it, but I often wonder why they don't schedule the long and short operas more interspersed instead of in runs or streaks like this.   The current way means that the orchestra is dead tired during the long opera months and could honestly probably work a bit more in the short opera months.  Hmmm.  Dunno.

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