This afternoon in Zellerbach Rehearsal hall I watched Albert be a friar in the third act "begging for soup" scene of "La Forza del Destino." I'm the alternate, which means that in case Albert doesn't show up for a performance, I get to become Miss America.
The rehearsal was enlivened tremendously by the young Italian conductor Nicola Luisotti (pictured above), who is making his San Francisco Opera debut. The director, Ron Daniels, at one point last summer made the remark that "the conductor for this is really good, he's going to be great with this music." And I think he's right, though the tempos are so much faster than what was rehearsed earlier that the chorus and the principal singers were thrown way off balance today. Still, it's going to be exciting sounding Verdi, which is about as good as it gets.
After the rehearsal, I went for a couple of beers at the Lone Star saloon.
It was fairly empty, warm and charming.
Avis the Tarot Reader, looking operatic and colorful, presided over the backyard.
In the evening, there was an orchestral run-through of "Norma" on the opera house stage.
Two nights ago, we had the first dress rehearsal with loincloths and mud smearing and diva blood swapping, and it turned out to be completely fun. Here's a bit of what I wrote to our "captain" later that evening:
"Tonight was one of the most fun evenings of my entire life, possibly because I'm old enough to appreciate it. Sitting around virtually naked smearing stage mud on another dude's body in slo-mo, Burning Man stoned style, on the very front of the opera house stage, in silhouette, with a symphony orchestra playing Bellini and a male chorus singing in legato Italian about going to war with the Romans, well, it just doesn't get better than that, period.
Probably the greatest bonding moment was when the youngest and cutest of our group, an 18-year-old from Lafayette named Kurt Krikorian, painted a happy face with mud on his own butt and you could see it through the whole opera house. I haven't laughed as much in a long time."
Unfortunately, tonight we had the first orchestral run-through of "Norma" (where we weren't running around in our loincloths), and we almost died of boredom. The conductor, an old Italian named Oleg Caetani (sounds like a shoe designer), paced the music at truly slow, lugubrious tempos, which is the quickest way to kill a Bel Canto opera imaginable. Yikes.