“Take the time to learn Cyrillic. It’ll be worth it in the long run.”
Those are the words that my coach, Eric Trudel, said to me as I approached this score. I’d sung roles in Russian before, but always from a roman-letter transliteration. So, we began what felt like a major uphill grind that meant lots of stressful nights on Zoom coaching how to read Cyrillic, with a drink in hand.
Little by little the language started to descend into my often dense brain! I’m so grateful for coaches like Eric that seem to have the patience of Job.
As always happens (knock on wood) the role preparation came together. Discovering this character proved to be a wildly intense task on a couple of different levels.
1. The VAST range, particularly in the aria. King René is most definitely a bass role (ie: low F’s), yet the aria continues to approach the top of the bass range from beginning to end, culminating in sustained F’s both top and bottom, making the last page two octaves. While it’s not uncommon to find an aria that touches two octaves, this is one of the rare ones that you’ll find sustained pitches on both ends. Learning the pacing and stamina for this was crucial, and there were some VERY unartistic sounds made in the rehearsal process! Ha!
2. The heart of a broken father that has made copious mistakes with good intentions. BOY do I have the t-shirt on that one. Being a dad myself, I knew that I’d be able to relate to the King. But, I’d be lying if I told you that I’d be emotionally smashed at the end of every show watching “my little girl” grow into a woman – and in this iteration, realize that she was “whole” the entire time and never needed her sight for that to be the case.
In the end, we ALL lived happily ever after. I got to share this beautiful production with so many of my wonderful friends, and got to make some new ones.
This was the first show back indoors post-pandemic at Pacific Opera Project, and the crowds duly showed their appreciation. It was my first time discovering King René, and very hopefully, it won’t be the last.
Have a look at some other images below and the amazing work by Maggie Green on the costuming.
Conductor: Isaac Selya
Director: Josh Shaw
Costumes: Maggie Greem
Pacific Opera Project