For the last few days, I’ve been in Lancaster, PA rehearsing for Verdi’s Requiem with the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. It has been quite an exciting experience, performing a such a substantial solo in such a touchstone piece. I’m enjoying every minute of my time here, not just because I get to sing my heart out every single day, but also because I’m not very used to being on the soloist side of the stage; usually in concerts like this, I’m behind the orchestra, singing with the chorus.
Suffice to say, the soloist experience is more heady and exciting. Not to say that I don’t enjoy singing in choruses — I do!! — but it certainly is nice to be put up in a hotel room, given your own dressing room with flowers (and chocolate), and treated with respect. (Choruses are the Rodney Dangerfield of the classical music world, unfortunately).
The conductor, Maestro Francesco La Vecchia, is a fantastic conductor who knows Verdi inside and out, but his English is not very strong. So he speaks in half English, half Italian phrases, which makes me work overtime trying to translate everything. Of course, when I try to speak Italian to him, my brain freezes, and all I can get out is “sì,” or “va bene.” Last night, I stammered out a phrase in Italian that I had carefully crafted in my head before speaking, and he finished my sentence for me and rattled off several rapid-fire questions, which I answered with a blank stare while I inwardly did a face-palm.
I did apologize for my poor Italian, and he apologized for his poor English. One of the difficulties of having an international career, he explained, is that one has to learn many different languages in order to communicate to the orchestras. He has conducted orchestras that speak Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, German, Russian, and English…and he only ever studied French in school. I guess I have it easy!
So tonight is the first performance of the Requiem, and I’m very excited. I have my outfit all picked out, and I’m determined to rest as much as I can today. It should be a good show!