Putting on a cape, a crown and dramatic eye makeup to transform into a wicked super villain is no easy task.
But I suppose someone’s got to do it.
The unique challenge is one I took on last month when I stepped into the role of the Queen of the Night for the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra’s production of “The Magic Flute.” The whimsical Mozart opera marked the DSO’s sixth fully staged undertaking in the past two decades and my third “Flute,” having performed it two years earlier with Madison (Wis.) Opera.
Long a beloved role of mine, the Queen of the Night is, in a word, iconic with her insanely high staccato notes and her feminist hints. She’s also a frightening force to behold, singing some of the most challenging, yet familiar, music in the score, albeit in the operatic canon.
So, you know, no pressure or anything — especially when you are representing the homefront among a cast primarily made up of tremendously talented out-of-towners, with some seriously cool credentials.
Approaching my 16th year in journalism, I’ve always had a hunch that the activity I’m most passionate about outside of the newsroom might be a little different than that of my cohorts — many of whom do normal things like garden, run 5Ks, coach youth soccer or baseball, or whip up a tasty batch of scotcheroos. (Shout out to TH senior photographer Jessica Reilly.)
I’m willing to bet that on any given night leading up to April, I might have been the only Woodward Communications employee who was rushing home to hone her German diction and put her operatic chops through the ringer at the end of her work day. (That was for both the opera and a Baroque Music Festival out of town, of which I also took part.)
The opposite also holds true.
Far from the glamorous life many associate with opera, a lot of singers my age find themselves immersed in a field that is over-saturated with talent, yet fewer opportunities as classical music adds itself to the list of those facing new challenges in an ever-evolving marketplace. And so, these singers teach music, while others might seek out temporary work to help them maintain a flexible schedule, yet supplement their income between performance contracts for things like rent, food, ongoing training and musical preparation, pricey musical scores, travel expenses and audition fees. (Yep. It’s tough out there.)
Some, but very few, are mad enough to juggle their musical lives with as equally a demanding career as something like journalism.
I count myself among the incredibly fortunate to have been able to carve out my little corner of professional performance pursuits — all the while, enjoying the perks of things like health insurance, a 401(k) and other benefits from something as rewarding as being able to simultaneously share the stories of my hometown. For that, I can thank our symphony, its maestro and many from our local musical and theatrical communities with helping me chart a course from local stages to regional opera houses and even a summer stint singing in Italy.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the TH, too.
There always is something particularly fulfilling about getting to do the kind of creative musical work that fills my soul to the brim, but frequently takes me far from home, in the place I call home. But it’s always a point of pride to be able to hang up my diva horns in exchange for a press pass when the curtain falls.