This Fall once again found me spending once a week with the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus. We had six weeks in which to prepare for La Traviata, an opera written by Guiseppe Verdi. Of course we had to perform it in Italian. Not an easy feat for those who are not used to singing in Italian, let alone at lighting speed. Our performance was on October 24th.
To give a background, Verdi wasn’t exactly a fan of upright moral living, nor was he a “fan” of the Church, but he was an extraordinary composer. In La Traviata, one will find him/herself in 1850 Parisian society. Violetta, the main character, has several male “interests”. Basically, she’s a high-paid prostitute. Violetta has been told she’s sick and dying from Consumption. One can choose either tuberculosis or venereal disease…either way, Violetta is dying. Alfredo, who has been admiring Violetta for some time, even in her illness, is presented to her. She falls in love with Alfredo, repents of her past, and they go off to the country to live together. Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, shows up and tells Violetta she needs to renounce her love for Alfredo. By doing so, Giorgio’s daughter will be able to marry because the family name and honor will have been restored. Violetta does so, begrudgingly; Alfredo, out of hurt, dishonors Violetta at a public party. They part. In the end, Violetta, on her death-bed, reads a letter from Giorgio who tells her that Alfredo is returning to her, and he approves. They have a tearful reunion and decide to marry. Violetta dies and is seen happy to be freed of her pain.
Performance week always lends itself to extra AND longer rehearsals. The Chorus, which I’m a part of, was cast as party-goers for Act I. In Act II, we become Gypsies and Matadors. Act II finds Violetta and Alfredo apart, but both attend a party of mutual friends. During the party, there are all sorts of entertainment suitable for the day, including palm-reading gypsies, etc. So, on Wednesday evening, Paul Phillips, the director of the Symphony decided he wanted 2 sopranos and 2 altos to be the “head” gypsy palm-readers. I was one of them. During the scene, two of the other characters, Flora and her escort–the Baron Dauphol–were to have their palms read. Flora was to approach me and Evie, and the Baron was to approach the 2 altos. We were told that we were not to use our books during the “bit part”. YIKES!! That left me only Thursday to learn the words and sequencing for Friday night’s dress rehearsal and Saturday night’s performance. Not easy considering my long work days. By Saturday afternoon I had it! Hooray!!
My gypsy palm-reading went great, along with my “Voi, Signora! Rivali al quante vete!”. However the rest, well…At the beginning of the scene I remembered the “Noi siamo zingarelle” and “se cunsultiamo stelle, nul l’avia noi d’oscuro ei casi del futuro.” Then came the bit-part. After that my mind went blank. Then it picked back up again with “gia chel que stato e’ stato, baddato l’avenir” and then it blanked out again. Oh brother! At least other sopranos were singing. Either way, it was in Italian, and the English supertitles were being projected above the stage, so hopefully my blunders and gibberish mouthing weren’t overly obvious…on second thought…I was in the front row during that scene…I guess that’s what a 2-day notice and very little private time to learn the lines will yield…LOL!!! 😉
So…To Be or Not to Be…a Gypsy Palm-Reader. That is the question.