My heart actually pounded a little in anticipation of the Doctor’s entrance, and I felt this odd, warm sensation begin in my face. Good grief! Was I blushing?? A middle-aged Midwestern lady, 25 year veteran of the opera biz, mother of an 11 year old boy fercryinoutloud, blushing? Did I blush when our Peerless Leader compared one of Mozart’s Cosi duets to worm copulation? No. Did I blush the next day at my costume fitting when the stitcher asked me to please hoist my breasts up as high as possible so she could make the right markings on the corset mock-up? or when John Conklin pointed to my shoes, and, thinking they had been pulled from wardrobe stock, said, “Well those would be perfect, since they’re so unfashionable”? No. Man, you just never know where you might still have buttons. I love comedy! I work hard at comedy! But trying to make people laugh can make you look really, really stupid, and there‘s no bigger anxiety-trigger than that for me. You know what? I’ll probably get nervous singing in front of the chorus for the first time, too. Always have.
David Angus is the Diction Police, with a special affection for punctuation. He intentionally avoided writing the translation into his orchestra score so that he could discover whether or not he could understand the singers, who all have different regional dialects and different preferences when it comes to sung English diction (wish I had audio to share from the great “tooter” vs. “tyewtah” debate) and who are, by the way, mostly from a different country than he is. Paul Appleby and I are both inclined to be the Grammar Police (“Ah, the subjunctive!” “It makes no sense to combine the mechanical with the abstract.” “How did they get away with a subject-free sentence?”) and quake whenever the translator finds the wrong spot to put a preposition in (sic). Then there are the changes we’re all making in the interest of singability: e.g. maybe a sweet young soprano could sing the suffix -ing on a high G, but this well-worn mezzo can’t!
Nicole Tongue, our assistant director, Karen Oberthal, our stage manager, and Brett Hodgdon, our coach/accompanist are madly scribbling the alterations we’re making in rehearsals, while making good suggestions of their own. Mr. Allen will eventually have to pull the plug on all our, um, contributions, so that timing, diction, and surtitles (never mind memorization) may be finalized. At that point, since we‘ve all grown rather precious about our language of origin, we’ll each have to swallow hard about some final text decision that makes us cringe or worry. But for now, our job is to argue about every single tree, so that our audience will be able to see the lush and complex forest that results.