Ben and I are preparing for an actual performance next week for The Ladies, God bles them, well to do matrons who have supported the local symphony-indeed, founded it, for fifty years. There'll be a lovely suburban living room filled with spring suits,
VO-5 hairspry and great grandmother's cocktail time jewlry. There'll be plnenty of smiles, a few naps and a table filled with lime gren jello molds, french water biscuits and fresh fruit. Not a chocolate cake or pastrami sandwich in sight.
(Years ago I spoke to some such gruop and was offered a sherbert vegetable concoction and The Head Lady said, "For God's sake Helen, you can't give that to a MAN!" And out came a large greasy roast beef sandwich. I tried to demure, but no, the roomful gasped in delight as I wolfed down every bit of the thing ("God love him, they don't pay him mch and he probably never gets a real meal"...I weighed 220 lbs at the time!)
(And if you think I'm making fun of The Ladies I'm the first to tell you that without Ladies anywhere in this country there would be no performing atrs. Local societies always start there, and grow because of their generoisty and devotion and because wisely the husbands do as they're told)
Back to Dichterliebe: Ben and I have been preparing for this since last fall.
I never wanted to do an actual performance because I don't want to judged as a singer. As an amatuer in the best sense of that word: for love, yes-okay. The rehearsal process has been lively and instructive. It's been a special oasis for me in the midst of writing scripts, ducking managment, school work and watching too much TV. And again, the cycle is a gift as is all music. The more you hear the newer it all gets. Small things were not obvious to me. Holding notes for their full value, especially when they are set against dissonant chords. Making the words "shmerz" "Engel" "Rhein" "Blumen" "Herz"-words used so often by Heine- have a different meaning that matches the musical setting. Expressing the WHY even when there's nothing to sing, especially in the pauses between songs. Patrick Woliver, my patient and fantastic teacher reminds me: Remember you are the face of this work even when you have nothing to sing. There's no time off here until the cycle ends."
I don't regret not being a singer. I don't regret that finding an instrument to express what I know to be true of Dichterliebe, based on music and text-has taken so long. Music at its best is always a journey.
Onto The Ladies, then.