A Week on the Fringe

Take note of the name: Wolf Trap Opera Company.

In spite of recent evidence to the contrary, we are neither the Wolf Trap Song Company nor the Wolf Trap Comedy Improv Company. We did close one opera this week and begin rehearsals for another, but these last few days have been dominated by some wonderful things on the fringe.

This is not to diminish them. Rather, it is to take note of what an achievement it is to embrace them to such an extent that they feel vital, relevant, and essential to our creative lives.

This is the absolute mainstream of what opera singers do: Spend a lifetime optimizing the vocal mechanism; learn to communicate through sound, words, and physicality; don a costume and convincingly portray another being on the stage. Shamelessly generalized and summarized, but there you have it.

15 years ago at Wolf Trap, this is essentially what we did. But now we have the opportunity to stretch. Sometimes it feels great, sometimes it hurts a little, but we always walk taller when we’re done.

The Wolf Trap Song Company

Five days digging into songs. Entire other worlds in mere minutes at a time. With no costumes or props, and in a foreign language. These people did it, and made us feel as if we would’ve been poorer for not having witnessed it.

We were lucky to have a peerless tour guide. I’ve always been in awe of Steve’s encyclopedic knowledge of music, art, literature, culture… and I know that I could live several lifetimes and never know half as much. But his way of speaking to an audience – with humour, affection, clarity, and intelligence – is something to which we can all aspire.

The Wolf Trap Comedy Improv Company

We also spent the last 5 days performing wacky improvised comedy for children of all ages. Outside in the 90+ degree weather. At 11:00 in the morning. These people did it, and made it seem like the easiest, most enjoyable and natural thing in the world.

Because of them, over 2,000 children and adults know how to yell “Bravi!”, order a sandwich in recitative, and cross the bridge over the creek singing “Mickey Mouse” to the tune of “Figaro!” from Barber of Seville.

Life on the Fringe

These things probably aren’t what will constitute the bulk of our singers’ professional lives. Nor will they reflect the gigs that will pay the bills in their careers. But the ability to breathe life into an exquisite song and the skill of always landing on their feet will serve them well – providing ballast and context to everything else they do.

Next week: Back to opera!

One Comment


Even though I’ve never seen it, I really adore that you do Instant Opera – I love the concept and practice of it!

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