Tonight I had the distinct honor of being invited to the World Premiere Invited Dress Rehearsal of Appomatix at the Opera House in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, by non-other than my good friend Leah Hawkins, who is one of the lead cast members in the opera.
First: my small unimportant review.
Act 1: Far too lengthy with only about 35 - 40 minutes actually being necessary information. Although beautiful in its design and performance!
Act 2: BRILLIANT, I wished that Act 1 had been more like Act 2. Here's why: 100 years after we see the end of the Civil War, we are in 1965 D.C., the White House, and seeing not only the struggle LBJ was facing, but truly focusing on the core of the whole show, which was the Civil Rights movement, the equal voting movement, the equality divide, and so many other components. There was an electricity in Act 2 that just did not exist in Act 1, and I was so removed from it. Act 2 brought me right into the story immediately, I felt for all of the characters, I felt challenged by an opera which is what I had wanted in Act 1.
Act 3: Short, direct, and full of an almost unbearable tension, that made my blood boil but also brought tears to my eyes.
The Finale: God if only the whole show could have been that on repeat, absolutely STUNNING cohesion of all the design elements, the singers, the musicians, the management, everything was flawless. I could have listened to that until I died and been happy all the days of my life. More about this below! :)
Now- the fun part.
Phillip Glass was in the audience. Why? Because he wrote the music and created this production with libretto by Christopher Hampton. First off, let me start by saying how much I admire Glass's work. I have used it as inspiration for my job in the theatre industry, and have turned to it when I needed to have an emotional purge. My favorite piece of his is still Dead Things.
That said, I sort of had an inkling he might be there tonight because there was an extra tech table in the audience not near any other table, and with two lights on it, I sort of did the math and thought, well, maybe, just maybe by some happenstance it'll be him. Sure enough, 2 minutes before curtain, I spot him taking his place at this table.... 4 rows in front of me. Yes, a mere 10 feet separated me and one of my composer idols.
Now, let's be honest, I'm not ashamed of fan-girling when appropriate, behind closed doors, and with close friends, but I had all I could do not to rush down to him and thank him for everything. Luckily, instinct kicks in after about a split second and you suddenly realize how uncool that would be to do that sort of thing, and not to mention how deranged I would look just bursting over 4 perfectly good rows of seats filled with no one. So, I sat back, thought, well, I have one of the most unique perspectives tonight. Not only did I get to watch this world premiere as a first audience, but I also got to watch it through Phillip Glass's perspective. I literally sat directly behind him, and although I was not seeing it through his direct eyes, the vision was still there, listening and riding every single melisma of music, every nuance played so accurately by the extremely talented orchestra at the Opera House. Watching the conductor's baton rise and fall, arms outstretched cueing the singers, watching Leah ride the waves of sound in her big debut on the Opera House stage, it was surreal.
The most exciting moment for me was the end. A group of 30 or so women stand in a collective clump and have an absolutely haunting melodic and harmonious phrasing structure while the 5 lead women press on with another Glass specialty in counterpoint. It suddenly fades into the 5 women only singing, and then we are left with one sole singer, center stage, holding a 10 bar high note, delicately placed with the orchestra completely cut out. She releases the note, the orchestra provides the resolution to the music, everyone starts clapping, and Phillip Glass without a break in the moment puts his hands in the air as if to silence a room, and by God did everyone immediately stop their cheer, as the entire collective group of women RE-RESOLVED the counter point that was previously going. Mind. Blown. I could not keep sitting and as soon as the lights hit their black out I was on my feet feverishly applauding the gorgeous work I had seen.
It still does not occur to me the number of people that I will meet and watch do their craft who I so greatly admire, it is a bewildering labor of love and also excitement to be in this industry, to sit mere feet away from names I had only ever known by hearing their voice or listening to their brilliance in composition. I continually pinch myself when I walk in those hallowed halls at the Kennedy Center, one of the largest and most prestigious venues in the world, undoubtedly perfect for so many reasons, most of all, to me, because I get to call it my job, at least for now while on this fellowship. I am blessed. I am honored and humbled daily in my work.
More postings coming soon!
Remember to be kind, be humble, and be the you inside that wants to live on the outside of you.