Events like this – put together in 36 hours or less, with lots of moving parts – are full of electricity and excitement. But there are the inevitable surprises. (Like the earthquake that disrupted rehearsal this afternoon for an hour…) One of this week’s surprises was an artist cancellation. We just learned that mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is going to be unable to perform on tomorrow night’s alumni gala due to illness. Nothing calamitous – but enough to keep her from being able to sing with us. There’s an abundance of riches on this program, but we will miss her. (And she hates that she’s going to miss all of the fun:))
Stephanie sent this note, and I’m happy to share it with you here.
All of us, at one time or another, have had to write an essay for school that began like this: How I spent my summer vacation…
Following the summer of 1995, I would have written this: I spent my summer in Vienna, Virginia singing with the Wolf Trap Opera Company. It was there that I started to develop my voice in ways I had never thought possible. I began to discover who I was as an artist, and how to create a character on stage. It was at Wolf Trap that I learned to sing recitative, where I began to adore Handel and realized that yes, even I could sing Rossini. Much to my surprise I stumbled upon the idea that I LOVED to sing Rossini. Though I had already completed one year as a Young Artist at the MET, I had not yet rehearsed and performed a complete role in a professional setting, so it was at Wolf Trap that I learned how to work with a director and conductor. A lot of important firsts, all done in a place that provided all the support necessary to succeed in whatever musical endeavor that lay before us.
Wolf Trap introduced me to Peter Russell, a man who became a touchstone for me over the next several years. Whenever I needed solid advice from a loving place, there was always a phone call to Peter. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having just such a mentor, and that was another important lesson learned from my time at Wolf Trap. It was here that I met my host family, soon to become an extended family, Stephanie and Fernando VanReigersberg. We have never lost touch, as they have been a constant presence in my life- attending performances whenever possible, and when my own parents could not come to a show that the VanReigersbergs had attended, Stephie would call my mother and give her the play by play.
I spent the summers of 95′ and 96′ laughing, singing, playing cards until 3:00 in the morning, and sweating the day away in the Filene Center. I knew the intense happiness that comes from sharing an experience that was devoid of the intrigues and issues that are often a part of the “professional” singing world. We just sang in wonderful shows, with clever and meaningful productions- we had fun singing and performing with colleagues that became friends, and by the end of the summer, family. I would live it all over again if I could, but since time travel isn’t possible, I choose to bring a little of the Wolf Trap experience with me everywhere I go, reminding me that opera by nature, is a joyful experience, and that joy cannot be denied.