23 August 2006

Lend Me a Tenor

Singers have rough lives. They work and study and struggle and sometimes when they get to sing Siegmund on the stage of Bayreuth itself they fall sick. There were discreet notices up saying our scheduled singer was indisposed and kindly asked our indulgence, etc., at least I assume the German had words to that effect. He just lost it in the first act and due to the discretion of the signs they had been overlooked by quite a few in the audience, who booed him vociferously. For the second act our wonderful Tristan, Robert Dean Smith (I'll have to doublecheck the name later) stepped in and saved the day. Den hehrsten Helden der Welt! He kept his poise and gave a powerful performance even though Notung broke prematurely, which has got to be one of the more awkward stage mishaps.
Even if I hadn't seen the notices I would have figured something was wrong with our man. All the voices are so clear and carry so well that there had to be something seriously wrong with him. He couldn't have been hired if his voice always sounded like that.
I was in the second row from the back before the boxes tonight, right in the center. The sound is different there. Oddly enough, I could hear many individual wind instruments (chiefly the oboe, I'm guessing) with remarkable clarity, almost as if they were playing a concerto with the ensemble.
I've grown to recognize quite a few of the crowd by now. Many are staying at the Arvena Congress with me. There's the man with a neck brace who always has an obnoxious pipe clenched between his teeth, and the short, balding old French woman who always fills her breakfast plate with sausages and belches audibly. Tonight I also saw the wart-nosed woman again, in the same brocaded top, and this time saw that she only had one leg.
There's an attendant in the men's room who stands there night after night. He's dressed informally in jeans and a short sleeve shirt even though he's official. I'm not sure what he does, besides be quietly polite and check occasionally to make sure the towel rollers are working, but there is a table for his tips. I tip on the grounds that tipping is always good karma. But what a way to spend summer: I stood in the men's room in Bayreuth and said danke shoen.
There's a line forming for the computer and some smokers have arrived so I'll continue later.

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