June 30, 2010

orphée, revisited

Tonight is the CD release party for our recording of Philip Glass's Orphée, which was recorded during our live performances back in November. It's Portland Opera's first commercial recording, and the first ever recording of the work, which (if you don't recall from my posts on the subject) has had only a handful of performances in its 17 years of life. It's a big honor for us.

(The CDs are downstairs. You can't even buy them yet -- but I can touch them! What a thrill!)

It's exciting for me personally because I will finally be able to listen to the recording in public, with others, out of my secret librarian cave, rather than listening to a bootleg version of the show from one of its previous iterations. On the list of operas I am most likely to be listening to at any given moment, Orphée is second in my heart only to Nixon in China. And it's a very close second. I know a majority of the libretto by heart.

As I wrote in the fall, Orphée taught me a great deal about how to learn to like a piece of music. It's heartening to discover that your tastes can be so easily altered. Before last fall, I often thought of how nice it would be if I could sit down and study the score of each work I was preparing, so that I might have a better foundation in my ear when rehearsals begin. I was never sure how much it mattered, though, and my time was often better spent elsewhere. Now I know the vast rewards I can reap -- emotionally and intellectually -- from a better understanding of the score, and listening along with the music has become a part of my pre-show repertoire. Because I'm still new to this art form, every opera we produce is new to me; it helps immensely to have them in my head before the orchestra ever touches bow to string.

I might be one of the biggest cheerleaders for this particular opera in the world -- seriously. It's still a thrill to read comments on Glass Notes that say, "I've never heard this opera, is it good?" and know that I'm one of only a tiny cluster of people who truly know the show. I'll admit, sheepishly, to a teeny tiny sense of loss at the notion that now every other Glass-phile in the world will be able to memorize the score too. But much larger than my teensy sense of losing 'expert' status is my hope that the recording of this work will give the opera some way of wiggling into the repertoire. I'd like to see it live on.

[ETA: I just spent the time I would otherwise have been running on my lunch break listening to the whole recording in our general director's office. It! Is! So! Exciting! I can't get over it! And I have my own copy now!]

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