Right now I’m finding that my brain is moving three times faster than the rest of me.
I’m tired, blogosphere. I’m tired and I’m congested and you’d think that learning Susanna and Barbarina and brushing up on The Sorcerer would be satisfactorily productive–but my brain has other ideas. It’s compiling lists of other roles that I should be learning, since I’m finding Susanna so rewarding. It’s looking up arias and roles that it would be helpful to have in my back pocket. It’s translating Strauss lieder (with the help of the old Wörterbuch) that I’m going to sing at some point, maybe. It’s worrying that without some kind of extended top, I won’t be competitive against other sopranos who have more secure range than I do.
So basically, I’m lethargic and sluggish (and marathoning The Good Wife), while my brain is going crazy.
But my brain also sometimes comes through for me in a big way.
This morning was my final Italian class, which involved a final exam for which I did not study, despite being awake at 5:30 AM and not managing to go back to sleep (SPOILER ALERT: I had to watch the next episode of The Good Wife to see if Will and Alicia were going to make out again!). I had to write a composition about my “job,” so I quickly threw that together and glanced over my notes. As it turned out, the test involved a mere fraction of what we had learned in the last eight weeks or so, and I finished in half of the allotted 40 minutes. Maybe a little less than that.
So I decided to rip a page out of my notebook and test myself on Susanna recitative, specifically, the ones right before and right after “Crudel, perche finora,” which is one of my favorite bits of the opera.
(D’awwww, baby Dawn Upshaw!)
Anyway. This role makes me incredibly nervous, because it is colossal, and I’ve never had to learn Italian recitative before. I was told a story once about a famous singer, can’t remember who, who was directing a Nozze at the university where she was teaching, and one day the Susanna was ill and didn’t come to rehearsal. The singer, who had sung the Countess in her heyday, stepped in and did Susanna’s lines, so that the other singers would have something to work with. The point of the story is that you have to know everybody’s lines.
And usually I do. I tend to internalize the whole structure of a show, so by the end of a run I can often recite whole scenes or songs that I wasn’t in, and certainly scenes that I was onstage listening to. But this is different. It’s in Italian, for a start, and there is so much of it that I actually have to be able to sing that I can’t see my way to learning everybody else’s lines at the same time.
But what I discovered today is that while I haven’t memorized the lines in between my lines, I have memorized the translations. Inadvertently. Here’s what my notes looked like (scusatemi, anybody who knows this role–I’m not going to look at my score, so there may be mistakes):
COUNT: What do you want?
SUSANNA: Mi par che siete in collera. (It seems to me that you are angry.)
COUNT: What do you want?
SUSANNA: Signor, la vostra sposa ha i soliti vapori, e vi chiede il vasetto degli odori. (My lord, your wife has the vapors and requests the bottle of smelling salts.)
COUNT: Take it.
SUSANNA: Or vel riporto. (I’ll bring it back.)
COUNT: No, keep it for yourself.
SUSANNA: Per me? Questi non son male da donne triviali! (For myself? Unimportant women don’t get the vapors.)
COUNT: But a woman who loses her husband on the very point of obtaining him…
SUSANNA: Pagando Marcellina colla dote che voi mi prometteste. (We’ll pay Marcellina with the dowry that you promised me.)
COUNT: I promised? When?
SUSANNA: Credea d’averlo inteso. (I believed it to be understood.)
COUNT: Ah, you could have understood me if you had wanted to.
SUSANNA: È mio dovere, e quel di sua Eccellenza è mio volere. (It’s my duty, and your Lordship’s desire is mine.)
Isn’t that cool? I did the scene after the duet as well, and it didn’t go quite as well, but I was pleased as punch anyway.
My college voice teacher once told me not to undervalue my brain when considering pursuing a singing career. I don’t think I ever will again. My brain is awesome!