Toreador-ah, don't spit on the floor
Use the cuspidor!
Whaddya think it's for?
I've started a new season in the chorus of the non-professional Toronto Opera Repertoire. This year we're putting on Bizet's CARMEN and Rossini's LA CENERENTOLA. (In earlier seasons I've performed in LUCIA DI LAMERMOOR, DON GIOVANNI, THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, LA TRAVIATA and RIGOLETTO. I skipped the seasons where we did THE BARBER OF SEVILLE and UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. Not that they're bad operas, but I wasn't quite motivated enough by them.)
We learn to sing the choruses on Tuesdays in the fall, then in January we work out the staging on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, leading to 12 performances over three weeks in February. (At the beginning we do two dress rehearsals and four performances on six consecutive days!) The artistic director is Giuseppe Macina, who's been with the company for 40 years! As the performances get closer, you can see him getting more exercised. His favorite expression is "Jesus Murphy!"
In the early months, to save time, the men go downstairs to learn their notes while the women learn upstairs. It's embarrassing that they always learn faster than we do. It's because we only have half a dozen tenors. (I'm a bass myself.) That means that when there are first-tenor and second-tenor parts, there are only three singers each, and it takes a while for them to achieve critical mass.
Last week we had an acting class to prepare us for being onstage. As an exercise, we all imagined the individual character we were going to play in CARMEN. I became Ferdinand Gonzalez, a Valencia peasant who joined the army for excitement but is bored by army life and preparing to desert and join a smuggling ring, which means I can be a soldier in the first scene and a smuggler in the later ones without being two different characters! (When we put on LUCIA DI LAMERMOOR, I imagined myself as a Scottish clansman who really didn't want to fight, but was afraid of looking like a coward in front of his relatives.)
Those acting classes are enjoyable. When we put on LA TRAVIATA, we were given a sheet suggesting motivations for our character being at Violetta's party. ("You come to steal knick-knacks, either to sell them or out of spite.... You're homosexual, and they understand these things here.... You're Violetta's doctor's apprentice who's spent all day treating poor people at the Hotel Dieu, and now you get to see how the other half lives.")
These productions are also the first time I've got to know uncloseted gay men.