"If Verdi Had This Cast…

…. things might have turned out differently.”

So said a member of our music staff after one of the first King for a Day rehearsals. And so have remarked a few other random folks during the course of this last week.

Meaning, first and foremost, that we are lucky to have a fabulous group of singers for this piece. So how is that different than any other WTOC production, you say? :) We get lucky pretty often. That’s what happens when you get to match your best singers to your rep.

But we’re starting off this season particularly strong, with a cast that feels just right for this quirky gem of a piece that is Verdi seen through a Rossini lens with a brushing of Donizetti.

But how would things have turned out differently?

Well, the premiere of Un giorno di regno was a disaster, and a large part of the blame (or so musicologists tell us) lay at the feet of the cast. The singers were engaged to open the season at La Scala with a serious opera by another composer. Either their gifts were ill-suited to comedy, and/or they were none too happy with also having to sing an opera by a 27-year-old upstart named Giuseppe Verdi… Well, sabotage is probably too strong a word, but the cast didn’t exactly give it their best effort. The soprano and the tenor barely phonated all night, and (reportedly) just marked through their parts. The piece fell on its face and closed after a single performance.

A few years later, given a decent chance by a different cast in another town, Giorno was a success. But Verdi had been soured on comedy, and it took him 53 years to return to it. However, had he been privileged to work with our group of singing actors, well, he might’ve gotten right back on that horse.

If you’re in the DC area, come to my talk before one of the performances. For those who are reading this from afar, I’m going to do my best to record these talks this year and post them here… we’ll see if I succeed.


If you’re a blogger, you know what a meme is – a kind of personal quiz/chain letter that travels the blogosphere. You answer questions, then you tag someone else. I’ve been tagged quite a few times with these recent memes, and if I don’t take my turn I’ll be accused of not playing well with the other children. This is where today’s opera post ends and the randomness begins. Read on at your peril.

The Rules of Meme #1

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

It’s either sad or reassuring that the nearest book is Nico Castel’s Handel Opera Libretti Volume 1. (OK, it’s sad.) I’m supposed to be working on Alcina supertitles, but I’m blogging instead.

I’ve run into trouble with instruction #3, for there are only 5 sentences on the page… So I’ll count clauses instead, and end up with:

All’alma fedel amore placato, il fato ed il ciel promette pieta. In mezzo ai martiri la gioia ravviso… (Fate and the gods promise compassion to a faithful heart whose love endures. In the midst of adversity, I can see joy again.)

And since I’ve already broken the some of rules, I’ll go for broke. I can’t remember who tagged me, and I can’t think of anyone I know who hasn’t already been tagged, so I’m breaking the chain. (If the fortune cookie message in my sentences above holds true, I have nothing to fear.)

The Rules of Meme #2

Each player answers the questions about himself or herself. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. I’m going to break this chain, too. (Maybe I don’t play well with others after all…) But I will answer the questions.

What was I doing ten years ago today?
May 28, 1998. Hmmm… I was overseeing the start of a Wolf Trap Opera Company season. Wow. What does that mean??

Five things on today’s “to do” list:
Finish Act I of Alcina supertitles.
Mock up Candide program.
Establish track ID lengths for Volpone recording.
Send email to this year’s company members to opt out of any mention on the blog.
Answer the damn memes.
(I did 3 out of 5…)

Things I’d do if I was a billionaire:
Starting worrying right then and there about what to do with the money.

Three bad habits:

Five places I’ve lived:
East Haddam, CT
Greencastle, PA
Elizabethtown, PA
Hyattsville, MD
Vienna, VA
(Pretty boring…)

Five jobs I’ve had:
Music therapist
Church organist
Piano bar singer
Opera coach

That’s quite enough meming for now. Back in a couple of days with a report on this weekend’s concert with Steve Blier – Bernstein & Bolcom.



Ah, but you don’t mention an important point–1998 was your FIRST season as director of WTOC!! Congratulations!!


Well, someone’s keeping track! Thanks for your kind words.

And as I was starting my first season behind a desk instead of a piano, I was wondering if I had lost my mind. I made the change so I could be at home with my kids in the evenings during the winter months, but I wasn’t sure that I could survive being a paper-pusher. The 10-years-later verdict?

I’ve watched my kids grow up, kept my marriage together, and stayed in one place while still being around fabulous music 4 months a year. Not bad.

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