the Nearsighted Soprano

“Don’t move a muscle,” said the stage director. “Don’t even blink.”

I was standing on a rehearsal stage in Salzburg, staring lifelessly into the auditorium. Mechanically, I lifted one arm, jerking my fan away from face in a single robotic movement. Then I began to sing, “Les oiseux dans la charmille…” I was singing the role of Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, an opera by Jacques Offenbach, and my character was a life-sized doll.  It was my very first role at the Mozarteum and I wanted to prove myself. So I worked hard to control my muscle movements.  By the end of the rehearsal period, I could pop off high E’s without moving … or blinking.

But on the day of the Hauptprobe, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake.  I had never practiced my aria while standing in the spotlight. (I usually love to be in the spotlight. But that’s because I’m usually allowed to blink.) This time, as I gazed out into the auditorium, my vision suddenly went fuzzy.  The spotlight was drying out my contact lenses! But I said nothing and stoically sang my aria… until my right contact lens popped out and landed on my cheek. Now I was singing half-blind and with a piece of plastic stuck to my face.

Fortunately, the role of my ‘father’ and creator, Spalanzani, was sung by my talented colleague, Thorsten Büttner. Without dropping character for a second, Thorsten leaned towards me with all the gentleness of a genuine dollmaker and delicately removed the contact lens from my cheek. He then passed it on his fingertip to another amazing singer, Mathieu Abelli, who dunked the poor shriveled lens into a chalice of water. It was not until we were all safely off-stage that we dissolved into laughter.

After that, I resolved to blink just once, but at the dress rehearsal, the same thing happened again. It became a routine: Lindsay loses contact lens; Thorsten rescues lens from Lindsay’s face; Mathieu rehydrates lens in the nearest stage prop. It was now part of our blocking! But the stage director didn’t like it. So on the night of my first performance… READ MORE

Full post at iCadenza

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