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Extended Family 2

October 26, 2010

I distinctly remember a day 8 years or so ago in Santa Fe, when I was on the Music Staff and was delighted to be Assistant Conductor on the American Premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin.  Peter Sellars was directing the production, which had originated in Salzburg and required the flooding of the Santa Fe Opera’s stage with thousands of gallons of water.  Robert Spano, whose work with the Brooklyn Philharmonic was of great inspiration to me as a musician and New York resident, was conducting.  The cast was Dawn Upshaw, Gerald Finley, and Monica Groop.

The day in question was the first day of rehearsal on the production, probably late June.  It was my fourth year with the company.  Bob Spano and Dawn Upshaw were there for their first times, and things fell out that after a morning of rehearsal, Bob and Dawn were headed for the Tesuque Village Market for lunch.  For whatever reason, they invited me to join them, and I was of course delighted to tag along.

Bob and Dawn had ever so much to talk about– past productions and concerts, shared friends, events and stories– and for the most part I sat, watched, listened, and thought “I don’t share this….”  It was somewhat disheartening, but also ever so understandable.  It took me a while to understand that those stories that they shared were exactly the stories that I was in the process of accumulating with my colleagues.  Bob and Dawn were already family in a way, and to a certain extent I would join that family by the end of our 6 weeks working together on L’amour de loin.  But more importantly– especially as each new production widens our extended opera family– these productions that we are making today, and these colleagues with whom we are working now, will be the stories and bonds of tomorrow.

Eric Fennell (Edmonton’s Rodolfo) has an older cousin, Alan Fennell, who was the music teacher at the elementary school in Pleasantville, the town where I went to High School, and where my family lived for 14 years.  I played piano in rehearsals and a couple of concerts for Alan when I was a high school student.  And now I am conducting his cousin in La boheme.  I did not know, back in 1985, that I was forming a bond that would cycle back around in Edmonton in 2010.  It is a small world, and a big musical family.


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