Monday, November 21, 2005

Passionate Opera

I have been recruited for an opera based on Theodore Dubois's 1860s work, "The Seven Last Words of Christ" ('words' of course meaning 'sentences'.) The opera is being mounted as an international revival being re-entitled, "The Ninth Hour," of which the December 7th production is a pilot performance. It's to go on tour throughout North America and then returning to Dubois's homeland for a Paris premier. Dubois wrote it in Latin, and we're performing it in English, but the French have never heard it in their own language... until now. Now, to clarify, I do not plan to go on the international tour with the opera. But I am committing to the Ottawa area performances as a baritone soloist, specifically the Penitent Thief who sings a desperate duet with Christ as he is being pulled toward hell and pleading that Christ remembers him, until the Lord proclaims his salvation. I will also sing tenor in the chorus. The pilot will be venued at Dominion Chalmers United Church in Ottawa (see pictures), and it is a beautiful musical piece.
The director actually premiered it in Detroit (thus the mostly black cast on the Ninth Hour website) in the early 80s but now plans for the global stage. Because this is not a cantata nor an oratorio like Handel's Messiah, but an opera, we need to be off book so we can move and have emotion.
On the one hand, I've done plenty of Broadway musicals which were memorized and involved simultaneous acting and singing. On the other hand, I've never had to memorize opera music, which isn't quite as predictable as Andrew Lloyd Webber melodies. It should be fun.
Listen to this sample, Jesus' third word, in which he tells Mary to behold her son, John.