This week marks the end of perhaps one of the longest musical gestations of my career.
When I was in high school, just discovering opera and just how cool it can be, the very second opera that I fell in love with was Rossini's telling of Cinderella. It was hearing Cinderella's final aria, Non piú mesta, on an aria disc that I had pilfered from my father's extensive collection that drew me in. I was entranced with the vocal acrobatics and the fun, champagne-like music that radiates joy with every note. I searched harder through my father's recording collection and discovered that he owned the complete opera, and I devoured it as fast as I could. I tried to learn the Prince's aria as best as I could from listening to the cd, not even thinking to look for a score, and sang along as best I could with the recording for days.
My fascination with La Cenerentola fell by the wayside as I started to study voice formally, and I became engrossed in the assignments given to me by my teacher – Handel airs, lieder by Schubert, art songs by Fauré, Finzi, and Vaughan Williams. I didn't think about La Cenerentola until I arrived to begin my interrupted Master's studies at Manhattan School of Music, where Tom Muraco immediately instructed me to learn the Prince's aria after our first coaching together. For my first months in New York, I worked diligently at getting the piece into my voice and used it at my audition for the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Shortly after arriving in Houston, I was offered the opportunity to cover the Prince at the Lyric Opera of Chicago – an opportunity that I would have a little over two years to prepare for. For the next two years, I slowly learned the rest of the score in my spare moments between my assignments at HGO, nervously preparing for a chance that seemed like a dream come true.
My first days at the Lyric, I walked around in a nervous, overwhelmed fog. My colleague who I was understudying fell ill for the first days of rehearsal, and I had the chance to rehearse for those first few days. He recovered, and I enjoyed the rest of my time in Chicago stress-free. A year later, I was offered my first actual performances here in Atlanta. Since then, I have periodically pulled out the aria and sections of the duet to keep it somewhere in my voice, knowing these performances were approaching. My preparation intensified over the summer as I gradually shifted more and more of my focus back to the Prince, and then for last six weeks before rehearsals began, I focused solely on the piece again.
Having studied, practiced, listened to, and thought about this opera for over ten years, Rossini's Prince Charming feels like an old friend even though I am only getting to take him out in front of an audience for the first time this week. The highest compliment my colleagues have given me throughout the rehearsal process is asking me at different times if I've performed this role a lot before. After so much time living with this music, it seems hard to believe that this is a role debut for me. The best part of it is, I've never been able to enjoy taking something so challenging out into public for the first time so much.