Artistic Director of Schwab Vocal Rising Stars and New York Festival of Song, Steven Blier gives insight into the week of rehearsals at Caramoor.
March 7, 2016 – This year’s residency at Caramoor was scheduled so close to my concert at San Francisco Opera that I simply collided into the first day of rehearsal today. I’d done as much as I could to get ready but I had to break one of my recent rules: to leave a minimum of three weeks in the clear before starting a rehearsal period. Thus my excitement about the eighth Vocal Rising Stars project, always a high point of the year, was mixed with a bit of trepidation.
We got off to a great start in many ways. The program is fantastic, the cast is superb (four aces) and everyone was pretty much on top of their music. There were the predictable snafus that I could have scripted in advance (“Oh, I didn’t know I was in this number!” etc.) A couple of the singers were just coming off being sick, and this had thrown a monkey wrench in their preparation. But this is an extremely bright group of people, and they are amazingly fast.
You can add to patina, but I want it back.”
There was a slightly sober quality to the day that I couldn’t quick diagnose at the time. I think it was caused by a few things: the vocal “Rip Van Winkle effect” (in half the cast) of not having been able to sing for the past week; the fact that our usual space, Caramoor’s majestic Music Room, is undergoing renovation (we start there tomorrow afternoon) and today we had to work in the rather plebeian Education Center; and the fact that our tenor, Galeano Salas, had to leave mid-afternoon to sing his first Rigoletto (the Duke, of course) at Merkin Hall. (Yes, I had given him the release, but I thought the show was Sunday….) I felt protective of him—we all did. But Galeano is an amazingly confident young man, happily belting out Balfe and Bucchino before zooming out to tackle Verdi. We all helped him choose his shirt (the red one) and the tie (none), and Michael lent him his bright red pocket square. “Now, bring that back to me, Galeano—it’s a loan! Julia Bullock wiped her brow on it. So it’s precious. You can add to patina, but I want it back. Julia Bullock wiped her brow on it. So it’s precious. You can add to patina, but I want it back.”
In truth we started at a very high level of artistry, combined with a slightly low energy level. I think the singers were feeling their way in, seemingly unaware that they were already creating a startling amount of beauty. Liv Redpath sings the bravura “Sevillanas” by Massenet so easily that we actually had to ask her to make it seem a little more difficult. And my hands survived the shock of getting thrown at the piano at highway speeds.
I look forward to tomorrow.