Conducting any opera is always a very unique experience. And, it is never boring. Now, one would think that in such a small venue as this - the Greenpoint Dutch Reformed Church - with such a minimalistic approach to our performance - that all things would be rather simple and straightforward. Moreover, with the great cast I had the privilege of working with, Michael McAvoy and Anita Lyons as the Father and Mother respectively, what could go wrong?
Well! Now. One of the things that we stressed and I have to admit I did drive them a bit crazy over, was emotional authenticity. And, of course, as these wonderful singers truly dug into their roles and their work seated these roles into their voices the emotional truth of their efforts was very often obvious to all of us. However, we were all about to get a true dose of the effect of such a high performance standard.
As you can see the lovely child who was sitting with her mother in the front pew to my left, took what the mother and father were singing about very personally. They were expressing the fact that they were very hungry. And, the mother kept going on and on about how hungry she was. The little girl, who had some cookies, decided that she would remedy the situation and slipped by me - to my amazement - there she was arriving at the Mother's side to bring her a cookie.
I can assure you there was no training for such events. And, I can equally assure you that since I played in bars and restaurants and clubs, it all taught you how to be prepared for anything and to think on your feet. So, as you can see - she was just about to make it to her desired destination when the wicked conductor...
...swooped in, scooped her up -
- and returned her to her place beside her mother. All, I might add, without missing a beat. :-)!
What I couldn't understand at that moment was - WHAT WAS THE MOTHER THINKING? Stunning to me how so many modern parents don't have a clue of what their children's public behavior is like and further, how it effects others. This woman made absolutely no effort to stop what was happening - and simply just let her very cute child do what ever she wanted. The curious and interesting thing of it all was that the child was completely unfazed by the experience and I was glad. It all happened rather naturally and frankly, was a very powerful reminder of just how real opera performance can be. And, when a child gets it - and reacts immediately and generously to it all - she brought the hungry mommy cookies!!!! - it's a tribute to what the wonderful performers together had accomplished. I was proud of us all. And recall this lovely vignette with a great deal of glee. I hope you've enjoyed this story from my past.
Thank you all for being with me here today. Thomas