Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Education Intern at TRISTAN Rehearsal

Thoughts on yesterday’s Orchestral Dress Rehearsal of Tristan und Isolde, from Education Department Intern Rachel Lyda

(Left, Annalena Persson in a staging rehearsal, with Stephen Milling and Margaret Jane Wray; Rozarii Lynch photo)

A year ago, I never thought I’d be here. Of course, I’ve been to McCaw Hall before; but this time it’s different. This time, I am no longer just a ticket holder but an Education Intern, and I’m eager to discover what that entails.

I thought having this opportunity today to see a rehearsal of Tristan und Isolde would be enough excitement. But walking backstage and breathing in the energy from all the different departments scurrying about in preparation for the orchestra and tech rehearsal I was about to watch, was, in a word, invigorating. Sitting in the audience, perhaps you imagine all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, the extensive rehearsals, all the preparation and all the people that make it happen, but it’s definitely hard to grasp if you’re not there. Lurking around corners, trying to soak everything in and not get in anybody’s way, I stood in awe admiring the staff bustling about and began to understand that this was in fact real.

As the time began to draw closer for the rehearsal to start, I began to head back to the hall with my tour guide, Justina [Schwarz, Education Programs Manager]. Walking through the corridors, I noticed one of the singers helping himself to a cup of tea in one of the back rooms. Justina enthusiastically brought me over to meet him. “Rachel, this is Greer Grimsley.” I couldn’t believe it. When I heard Greer in last year’s Ring cycle, I absolutely fell in love with his voice and have looked up to him ever since. Now, I was standing RIGHT next to him. Chatting with him for just the few moments we had was fantastic. I even was able to take a photo.

Rachel Lyda backstage with Greer Grimsley

With the rehearsal about to begin, I entered the sparsely populated hall. Bows meet strings, other instruments join in, and the orchestra warms up. The lights dim; I’m sitting on the main floor, anxious for it all to start. Being seated among only maybe a couple dozen people or so might feel lonely to some, but it didn't to me. I look around and see Speight Jenkins to my right, Maestro Asher Fisch in the pit, and Robert Israel chatting with the design team. These aren’t audience members attending performances, but artists who have repeatedly demonstrated Seattle Opera’s commitment to artistic excellence. In the dark hall, I see Maestro’s hand rise, and we’re off.

The dissonant “Tristan chord” echoes throughout the hall and the orchestra continues to weave the spine-tingling harmonies that make the overture so beautiful. As the rehearsal gets underway, Maestro Fisch makes frequent stops to correct things: to sharpen singers’ entrances, or fix issues of balance with the orchestra. It was interesting to observe the musicians’ reactions to being corrected: I didn’t see much frustration; in fact, there was lots of laughing onstage during these pauses. Having trained as a soprano for the past five years, I couldn’t wait to hear Annalena Persson and Margaret Jane Wray. Needless to say, I was astounded. Both women are absolute powerhouses, and even though they weren’t singing out (to save their voices), I was enthralled by both their flawless production and captivating stage presence.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed these singers in this raw state, seeing glimpses of their personalities during the rehearsal. But most importantly, after today I saw a tangible glimpse of the possibilities my future can hold: of the artistry I can strive for and the wealth of knowledge that’s at my fingertips here at Seattle Opera. I know I will come away from this experience not just a 20 year-old girl, but an individual with defined goals and vivid dreams, shaped further into the person I hope to become. Now, that’s something.