There’s a quote by Bishop Desmond Tutu that keeps floating to the top of my consciousness this spring. “The only way to eat an elephant is a bite at a time.” As someone whose mental processes tend to conflate and connect thoughts and issues and ideas into one large vat of mental stew? Well, it’s no wonder that this phrase is a low-key lifesaver for me. Breaking things down into small – sometimes truly tiny – steps allows both for thoughtful progress, and oftentimes clarity as to what comes next.
I could say truthfully that every Wolf Trap Opera summer is made of thousands of bites: the number of steps it takes to create WTO out of whole cloth each year is dizzying, and keeps us quite busy. This year the sheer number of details are equal to those of past summers, but their content is quite, quite different. The challenges of conceiving of and conducting a residency program for singers during a pandemic are numerous and varied, and certainly not in our customary wheelhouse. We’ve scrutinized our HVAC systems with our Operations team, written and rewritten our internal processes and protocols, and scoured reports from the CDC, the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as reports from our colleagues in the field, domestically and internationally.
We’ve also been in touch with our artists on a regular basis: their commitment and safety has never been more essential than in today’s Covidian landscape. The Wolf Trap Opera community has always been a cohesive one, but this summer it will be even moreso, by both proximity and necessity. The good news? Our artists already have the skills to optimize this unprecedented process; they create new realities from scratch with every project, every performance; what better group could help us discover the way forward?
As we plan for this summer’s residency – the best case scenario, the worst case scenarios, and all of the permutations in between – well, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to some anxiety. But when I break it into smaller bites, answering “Why?” “What?” and “How?” I am heartened by the plans we have in place, overwhelmed by the trust and confidence I have in our singers, and positively giddy to see the world that we create together.