Bravi Tutti

Carmen went off without a hitch! The show was great and the performances went smoothly. I sang. I danced. I seduced. Mission accomplished. Man it was fun. Every moment that I was on stage as Carmen, was a moment I enjoyed. I loved the music, I loved where it sat in my voice, I loved the character, I love my colleagues, I loved the costume… shall I continue?

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Cassandra McNally as Carmen in La Tragedie de Carmen

There are moments during a production when you can let a little bit of the over-planned, micro-management go… just enough… and let the character start to really feel things and make organic choices. You can’t do that unless you really get to a point, with all the rest of the things (music, words, staging), where they become like second nature. I finally got let that happen on opening day of Carmen. Where I wasn’t thinking “Make sure you are down stage left by this note in the orchestral part,” or “Listen hard for the key change here”, “Make sure you hold this prop in your left hand so Jose can grab your right one” etc. When these moments happen… ugh!!!… it is so awesome! It’s almost as if one has an out-of-body experience, where everything just clicks- and you are taken out of your head for a while, almost as if you are watching from outside yourself. It is almost euphoric. THAT is what I sing opera for. Those moments when you can really let go and become someone else for a couple of hours, when your presentation of a character is so organically captivating that the audience cannot help but watch. They don’t want to look away. They can’t look away.

There are also moments in a show where you have to be able to snap back to reality and think “here comes THAT part… get ready!”. These are moments where you have to be on point, you have to focus… you need to prepare. I had a few specific vocal phrases in Carmen that were exceptionally tricky that I needed to navigate very specifically. I needed every ounce of focus for those; Carmen had to take a back-burner to Cassandra in those moments. There were a couple of staging things, and memory spots in the music, that if I let go a little too much, would fly out the window, less than ideally. At these moments, it’s like your senses are heightened in some way. You can hear even the smallest of changes in the orchestra or in your cast mates. You can feel every part of your costume on your body move. As Carmen, barefoot, I could the floor touching every part of the bottom of my foot. You feel the subtle changes in your voice as it moves in and out of passages. Are you out of breath? It is as if your body becomes awake again in a new way.

As a performer you have to be able to identify when you can go in either direction. You have to be able to choose which way you turn, on a dime. Maybe that means you have already mapped out all the choices before a performance- when you can let go and when “auto-pilot” is too dangerous. The key is to make sure that auto-pilot never goes too far, where you can’t snap back should the unexpected happen- your colleague misses a cue, your costume gets stuck on the tambourine (over and over), the orchestra is slower than they were at this part yesterday. You have to be able to maneuver between the two seamlessly, where character is not dropped, captivation is never released and the moment is never interrupted. Did I mention that this is all easier said than done?

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Dame Joan Sutherland on the excitement of performing.

Job well done, to all those involved in La Tragedie de Carmen! The show was a success! What a joy it was to work with you all!!!

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