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Show MUST Go On!

Dimitri Pittas as Rudolfo in his 4th performance in 2 days and soprano Katie Van Kooten as Mimi
(Photo courtesy of Houston Grand Opera)

La Boehme, Houston Grand Opera. We just got comfortable in our red velvet seats when a non-costumed individual made his way to the middle of the stage with a mike in his hand. With a very heavily identifiable British accent he said… “Do not worry, I do not have terrible news! I am the Director of HGO and I want to let you know that tenor Dimitri Pittas, in the role of Rodolfo, will be singing his fourth performance in the past 48 hours due to the sudden illness of his understudy. He presented exemplary professionalism and everything will be great!” After these words I prepared myself for squeaking high notes of the overused tenor and mentally fastened my seat belts. Rodolfo was great and there were no wrong or otherwise unwholesome notes, high or low and at the end the show he got a standing ovation.

This little episode brought some memories of my life in show business. Here are some of them for your enjoyment…

May 2005, final concert of our 8th season – The program Russian romances and Russian folk, surprised?  We are experiencing one of those rain storms that destroy everything on their way.  Russian Bass Nikita Storojev and Tatyana his pianist and wife arrived from Austin on time and are waiting to start the show. Sergei – the balalaika player from Austin is not here and we have about 20 min left. I am worried and suddenly there is a call… “Anya,,, please do not worry… my wife just went into labor. I will be on my way as soon as we get the baby out”. Guess what? Do you think we cancel concerts because of the call of nature? Or babies get in our way? Nikita and Tatyana stalled the program until Sergei arrived by the second half of the concert. Now, all of us remember his son’s birthday and he knows the show must go on!

October 2008, McAllister Auditorium, “Bach in a Style of Jazz.”  The program included classical pieces as well as their jazz reinterpretations. On stage -Mark Cheikhet violin, Valéry Grokhovski piano, Boris Andrianov cello, Darren Cupper drums and Adam Booker double bass; all of them are brilliant musicians who freely navigate in both styles. It turned out McAllister auditorium has computers that run the lights. The concert took a little longer than the light-computers were programmed for and by the last number on the program, the musicians found themselves performing in pitch darkness. The  audience did not know how to react. “Is it a part of the show? Is it circus?” Do you think the musicians stopped, do you think they asked for light? No way! They pretended that nothing happened because everyone knows – no matter what, the show MUST go on!

Carolyn Sproule in The Italian Girl in Algiers in her green hat with bass Patrick Carfizzi as MUSTAFA (Photo courtesy of Housotn Grand Opera)

Next weekend we are hosting Carolyn Sproule, mezzosoprano from Montreal who now is a member of the HGO studio. I was very excited to hear her sing and meet her backstage in person while I was there. I emailed her the day before and was hoping to get a response the same day. She did not respond on Saturday. Sunday morning I got an email …”sorry to respond this late, yesterday I spent all day driving to Dallas and back for an audition.” She was wearing a fabulous silly bright green outfit with a large Moroccan hat as a part of the Italian Girl in Algiers cast. We met her backstage after the show, young, beautiful with a bright future ahead of her. After spending all day in the car and auditioning for the Dallas opera she went on stage and was brilliant in her feisty, flirtatious role. Because we all know- the show must go on!

I am looking forward to our French Impressions program next weekend. An old friend of mine, French pianist Hugues Leclère, is flying from Europe and will perform this concert as part of his world tour promoting French Impressionists. The project is sponsored by many French governmental agencies and large private corporations. Carolyn Sproule (without her green hat) accompanied by another member of HGO studios, pianist Elena Lacheva from Bulgaria, will offer a beautiful selection of Debussy’s songs and add to Hugues’s Debussy program a feminine touch. I hope nothing will go wrong, all the planes will land on time, nobody will get sick (God forbid) and pianos, both at my house and at San Fernando Cathedral will be to everyone’s liking. I am looking forward to another fabulous weekend of sophisticated music.

The show must go on!

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