A Night of Débuts!! David Geffen Hall, Verdi Requiem, National Chorale!
Last night was my David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall) debut !!! It was also my debut with the National Chorale under the direction of Maestro Dr. Everett McCorvey. AND, it was my debut as the Soprano Soloist in Verdi's Requiem ! It was truly one of the most musically fulfilling nights of my life, thus far! I am so happy to have been able to share this experience with such incredible musicians on stage and friends in the audience!
Our first rehearsal was on Monday, May 2nd. We spent the week rehearsing at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in East Harlem on 138th Street. It provided a beautiful setting and acoustic in which to work. Here are some pictures from our first orchestra and chorus rehearsal!
Above you will see members of the US Army Field Band Soldiers Chorus and National Chorale. Our STELLAR chorus was comprised of members of both groups!
To you right, you will see my fabulous colleagues, Krysty Swann (Mezzo-Soprano), Staff Sergeant Jeremy Cady (Tenor), and on the end (couldn't quite get him in the picture), is Kevin Thompson (Bass). Choristers are in the background.
As is increasingly popular these days, our orchestra dress rehearsal at David Geffen Hall was held on the afternoon of our performance. What I love about the opera world is that, wherever you are, you run into people you know! We were fortunate to have the wonderful Joel Martin in our dress rehearsal audience. He is a friend of Maestro McCorvey and is the pianist for the incomparable and legendary Kathleen Battle! I had the pleasure of meeting Joel back in 2012 in Savannah, GA while doing some concerts there and got to hear his exquisite talent! Thanks to the power of Facebook, he saw that I was singing in this Requiem and he had mentioned he'd be there. He was able to take this awesome picture of us all during our rehearsal! Thank you, Joel!
After our dress rehearsal, we had about six hours to relax and prepare for the big night! I retreated to my dressing room- Dressing Room B.
Soon, it was almost time to perform! The Requiem wasn't starting until about 9pm. The first half of the evening included some very fine choral singing. I enjoyed listening to the US Army Field Band Soldier's Chorus over the speaker in my dressing room as I got ready! Being a former choir kid (in high school), I knew several of their songs, including Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal (arr. Alice Parker) - I even sang the solo in it during high school! I especially enjoyed their arrangement of Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was really powerful to hear a choir of SOLDIERS singing it!
Now it was our turn! As we gathered backstage and discussed the usual bows and entrance/exit order, it was getting crowded back there. A giant cup of iced coffee was placed on a table near the elevator and it spilled and narrowly missed our beautiful Mezzo-Soprano's WHITE gown by only a few inches! It was true a miracle of God that not one ounce of it splattered on her dress! Leave it to those amazing women in the Soldier's Chorus- they quickly found towels and wiped it up for us without wasting a second! Wow! I think all of this happened within a 15 second timespan WHILE the chorus was already entering the stage! We then jumped over the remaining splatter, and made our grand entrance! There was a thrill of excitement in the air and we were ready to go!
This being my first Verdi Requiem, there were several moments when I was nearly moved to tears. I also couldn't stop smiling because of the amazing feeling of being "immersed" within that enormous orchestra and chorus! The brass was simply thrilling! The members of the National Chorale Orchestra are simply SUPERB in EVERY way! It was truly an honor!
While I had some jitters at the very beginning, it was so comforting to have Dr. McCorvey on the Podium. He is truly a singer's conductor and is so clear in his movements and leadership. It put me at ease having him there to guide us along this very intense musical journey!
For the Soprano soloist, the most work of the night is in the final movement of the Requiem in the Libera me. Luckily, Verdi the genius gives you a LOT of time to warm up before that big moment. By the time I got there, I was ready for it and I was very happy with my performance of it. I had two older gentlemen come up to me afterwards who told me they LITERALLY come to hear the high pianissimo B flat at the end of the Requiem section of the Libera me- and that I exceeded their hopes with that note! Hooray! (You know, no pressure or anything haha!)
Anyway, JUST LIKE THAT- we were finished! I think of this every time I perform, but it's amazing to know just how much work goes into a performance like this- and then, just like that- it's over! Luckily, this performance has given me a high that will last for several days, if not weeks!
Thank you, Laura Virella, for this amazing picture of us taking our bows!
As always, it is so much fun to greet my guests post-performance! This performance had me with a 30+ person backstage list! Luckily, the green room, which was adjacent to my dressing room, was opened for all of them and any other audience members who wanted to greet the artists! Here is a picture of the room before the guests arrived.
I had so many wonderful friends and colleagues in the audience that it is impossible to mention them all here. I would like to include a few photos of some of them, however!
Here I am with Michael Fennelly, a superb pianist and my good friend. He and I have been working together for many years and he actually helped me learn this difficult role last summer before I auditioned for it! Fortunately, he was also our rehearsal pianist. It was a true luxury to have him at rehearsals to give me notes! Thank you, Michael!
Here I am with my good friend and colleague, Virtuoso Violinist Eric Silberger. Eric and I met a few years back out on Fire Island for a festival there. We really "clicked" and currently, he and I are working on collaborative project together which we will be announcing soon. He is a very supportive person and I consider him a very dear friend. He has an album coming out this fall which everyone should buy! He is a brilliant composer and violinist! Thanks so much for coming, Eric!
This beautiful woman is the LEGENDARY Diana Soviero! She also happens to be my voice teacher! I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this woman in my life! She is an absolute genius of a technician and singer. It is always an honor to be in her presence and I am honored the she came to see me! I love you, Diana!
This is Suzanne Halasz. We met years ago and even though she has since moved out of the NY area, we find ways to see each other. While living in NYC, Sue was extremely active with the former New York City Opera as a volunteer. Her father, Maestro Laszlo Halasz, was the founder of NYCO. Sue is a cellist and currently resides in the
south. I am so honored she came to see me in this performance! She also traveled to Savannah, GA to hear me in recital there last summer as well!
THIS WOMAN is Lauren Voight, my former High School Choir Teacher! She was CRUCIAL to my early musical development- I owe her so much! A truly gifted teacher and incredible person, she taught me how to sight-sing so well that I was able to pass out of all of my collegiate sight-singing classes! She has been with me, supporting me, since I was about 13 years old. I am so lucky to know her and still keep in touch! She was also able to make it to my Met Debut back in 2014!
Here I am with Dr. Everett McCorvey, the fearless leader of the National Chorale and our Maestro! What a sheer honor to work with him! He is a fantastic musician and conductor and an equally fantastic human being! I look forward to working with him again in the future! I am so thankful he hired me for this Requiem!
Here are some group shots. It was a sheer pleasure working with such fine colleagues and musicians! Here's to Verdi's Requiem!
And last but not least, a nice photo of my husband, Rusty Obra, and me!
Thank you to everyone who attended. Again, I was so fortunate to have so many friends and colleagues there! Please know that even if you were not mentioned here or we did not get a photo together, that I am so grateful for your presence and support! :)