The Long View

I sat for an interview last week, and a typical question came up: “What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your career?”

How coincidental that this interview came right after our recent oh-so-sweet GRAMMY news. For the fight for this Volpone recording was probably the biggest hurdle I’ve had to clear, at least in recent memory.

I tend to live a lot in the future, not so much in the past. (And not nearly enough in the present, but that’s another st0ry.) So I took a walk down memory lane, breaking open the huge files that documented the road to this project. And it was amazing exactly how much of the trauma I had suppressed. :)

So very much of it was, as my social networking friends will say, unbloggable. But here’s a little bit of it that wasn’t (you can link to the posts or just read the excerpts):


Disappointment
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mixed with the excitement of company arrivals are notes of frustration and regret.

Our much-anticipated upcoming recording of Volpone is not to be. This is not the place to spin out all of the confusing and irritating details, but… there’s no nationally approved recording agreement whose conditions our company meets, and the local doesn’t have the ability to negotiate individual agreements with organizations….

The bottom line is that we’ve run out of time. We had so wanted to get this terrific piece out there in circulation, and it’s tough to walk away from it. For now, the goal is to sort all of this out after the season so that when our next new fabulous operatic comedy hits the stage, we’ll be ready to capture and share it.


In the Can
Sunday, July 1, 2007

As of 4 hours ago, we now have the raw material for a commercial live recording of Volpone. And this has been possibly the most frustrating and confounding journey of my professional life thus far.

The recording project was launched and canceled more times than I can count. The path to today was littered with obstacles, aborted attempts, misinformation and misunderstandings. But it also included generous colleagues, helpful advice, supportive coworkers and bosses, and a learning curve that was so fierce that it demanded to be conquered.

I intend to articulate that process here in the blog. It’s critical that other small organizations have the chance to learn from our mistakes and our successes. Very little of this journey is private or confidential, and there are no real villains.


Well, I never returned to “articulate that process,” even though I knew I should’ve. The industry has changed so quickly over these last few years, but we still have a distance to go.

Since that time, we also worked through the difficult decision about whether to use a large label for distribution, or to release it ourselves. It took a lot of internal effort to get this opera out on the Wolf Trap Recordings label, but we’re so glad we did. It was a labor of love, and as is usually the case in our industry, not one that anyone will ever make money on.

I’m normally not all about external validation. As a matter of fact, the same week that this recording was issued, we had some useful discussions about how artists must learn to handle criticism of all types. If you take this advice to heart, though, you must also learn not to immerse yourself too deeply in favorable reviews. Therefore, I usually blow off good notices as well as bad.

But this time, I’ll take it. The fight was too hard, and the implications for the future are too positive. For these fifteen minutes of what passes for fame in the opera world, we’re going to enjoy ourselves.

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