Vocal Rising Stars, Sixth Season: Day 5

by Steven Blier

As Sondheim wrote in Company, “Today is for Amy.” At Caramoor, that meant giving Amy Burton time to have leisurely one-on-one sessions with each cast member. After lunch we worked on the spoken continuity and then we “hit the low spots”—i.e., rehearsed all the numbers that needed special review. The day started at 10:30 and wound down at 7 PM—time well spent.

It is a little bit of an adjustment—and an act of trust—to let someone else come into the rehearsal process at the end of the week and make adjustments to the work you’ve begun. But Amy is family, and she made a tremendous contribution. She has an eagle eye for gesture and stage space, she respects and loves the voice, she hears poetry equally as sound and meaning, and she’s so cultured and experienced that her soul seemed to resonate with every song on this crazy program. As the day went on, Michael and Amy and I started to function as one entity, and by the time everyone limped out of the hall I felt we were simply a community of eight artists—five singer and three pianists—working the material like a team of jewelers.

Theo and Miles have been reveling in good health and good spirits, and the music has been like an artistic aphrodisiac for them. But Annie and Olivia have been fighting various ailments all week—the tail end of colds and flus that seem to have taken up squatter’s rights in their bodies. I too was sick last week and am puzzled to find that I’m still coughing as if I were overplaying the role of Mimí in some regional production of La bohème. Coughing doesn’t affect my piano playing all that much, but it has challenged both of the women in the program. Today we had to change one of Olivia’s numbers. Truth to tell, necessity was the mother of invention: I much prefer the song we’re going to do (by Granados) to the one originally planned (by Turina). It’s far more appropriate to the theme of the program, and it plays into Olivia’s strength. She studied Granados’s songs with the great Spanish mezzo Teresa Berganza a few years ago, and brings a patrician authority to the material—or will, once she sings it for a couple of days!

Annie’s been husbanding her resources with wisdom and calm. When she sings, she gives everything she’s got (and it’s stunning); she also is one of the few singers I’ve known who can have a really useful rehearsal without singing at all. She’s been a great scene partner in all the group numbers, and her oversexed British dowager in Coward’s “A Bar on the Piccola Marina” has only gotten drunker, dirtier, and (somehow) more subtle as the week has progressed.

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