Orphée is over now; we closed on Saturday. We are all, I think, grateful to be back to a standard work schedule, and yet the transition is always hard. This show was, for me, the most exciting and satisfying show in four and a half seasons, so its ending been especially bittersweet.
I want to tell you one last thing. Orphée did something very important for me. It proved something that I have long suspected. Let me tell you a brief story. For several years in college I had a very close mentor/student relationship with a professor. We were both musicians and also writers. We spent the vast majority of our friendship engaging in increasingly heated debates about books. If he recommended something to me, I nearly always liked it; but if I recommended something to him, unfailingly he would dismiss it. And it's how he dismissed the things he did not enjoy that so frustrated me. Rather than saying, "It just didn't speak to me," he would say, "The author is an incredible egotist," or "The premise of the book is far too gimmicky," or "It's sloppy and imprecise." The fault always lay in the work itself. The result of this tactic was -- unintentionally, I think -- to make me feel as though the flaw transcended the work and was attributable to me personally. After all, if the book that speaks to you is written by an author who's a complete egotist, then you must be one yourself, right?
Conversely, I always believed that if I didn't like something -- especially a thing which many others enjoyed; take On The Road as an example -- then I must be missing something. It was my problem. Maybe On The Road didn't speak to me because I just like a book with more plot; or maybe I just don't have the right life experience to be able to immerse myself in Sal's life. Somehow, I didn't have the right key to get inside that particular story at the particular moment I read it. But I don't blame Jack Kerouac.
So, Orphée. Because I tend to favor modern opera over Verdi and Puccini, I was excited for the work, and yet I also knew that I had not particularly liked Glass's music on previous hearings. I was desperate to get the most from the experience, since it's not every day that one gets to meet as big and important a name as Philip Glass. I knew I was approaching the opera from a disadvantage, which is why I started so early and worked so hard to find something to appreciate. When I realized I loved it, I was delighted to discover that, in fact, I was right -- I had been missing something! There was nothing wrong with the opera; I just had to find a way in.
This is what I've learned: sometimes appreciation comes in a flash, but other times it's a long, meandering, and occasionally exhausting road. It might seem like a stupid thing to say, but liking the things we already like is easy. Liking the things that don't automatically strike us is much harder. And yet, as I've discovered, when you're successful the end result is much more enjoyable. The reason I am so reluctant to let go of Orphée is that it's been such a wonderful process. Of course I do truly love the opera, but what I am loathe to give up is so much more: it's all the exploring that I (and others like me) have done, the discussions we've had, the endless nights we have spent swapping impressions with one another. Let's just say we didn't do anything like this for Rigoletto.
I wish it were possible for me to devote as much time and love into appreciating all the other operas I prepare for the company. But operas like Boheme and Cosi don't need me; there are thousands of other people to hold them up. No one knew Orphée when we began. It seemed to need an advocate. I'm sad to give the job up for awhile. So, do me a favor. The next time you hear a piece of music and think bleck, I don't like this at all, think of me. And listen to it again.