Well, at last the reason for my trip to Italy has become evident: to try all the flavors of Gelato. Just kidding, although I have a gelato story for later on in this blog. Actually, I finally got to sing today and luckily I pretty much remembered how even after a week of doing little other than stuffing myself with all types of carbohydrates. But I'll tell you, standing in a room full of only Italians, including one pretty important Italian conductor, and singing to them in their native language is daunting. I'm certainly not the first person to do it, but it's the first time I've done it, so it freaked the hell out of me. I was lying in bed last night thinking, "It's not likely, but it's entirely possible that after they hear me tomorrow, they'll say 'nope - sorry, her italian just isn't good enough to sing on a stage as important as this one. She must be fired.'" Like I said, unlikely, but there's always a possibility you won't be liked, even if you're not fired, so I had some trouble sleeping.
But the good news is that it went well. I started off pretty shaky because I sing the very first thing in the show and I felt like they were all LOOKING at me (well I was singing, so they were) and wondering how the hell this American ended up standing among them. But as we progressed in the opera (we did all the musical numbers first and the recits later) I relaxed as I realized that he had only given me one diction note and we were already in Act II! As we sang I was also happy to hear my colleagues for the first time, and to note how beautifully and musically they all sang because I knew we would have a good show. After we finished singing all the orchestral parts (and I got "Buono. Molto buono" from the maestro after both my arias thank you very much) we moved onto the recits and I started to feel nervous again.
It's one thing to sing arias and duets with an excellent fake italian accent, but it's quite another thing to sing recits. I also had a feeling that my recits were what all the Italians were wondering and maybe even a little worried about because they understand how difficult it is for a foreigner to sound natural in these parts. I sang through the first scene and the conductor had me do my first speech over, and listened extremely carefully with his head tilted and his eyes shut. I kept expecting him to stop me, and when he tilted his head the opposite direction for a second, I did stop because I thought, oh no here it comes. But he just looked at me and said "go on" and I did, and I finished the act, again with only one correction! That's it!!!! And after the rehearsal he told me that he could tell I had worked very hard and it showed.
The coda to this story is that my stage manager friend happened to be in the room when the conductor was discussing the rehearsal with the director, and overheard the following conversation: After telling the director that he was very pleased with the second cast, the conductor said "and I was totally stunned by the American. I was worried that she didn't understand italian and had no idea what was going on in rehearsals, but what a happy surprise to discover that not only did she understand what we were saying, she actually applied the things we talked about in rehearsal and her diction was excellent even in the recitatives." Of course when my buddy told me this (all via an IM session on skype and all in Italian - with me furiously looking up words to make sure stupido meant stunned and not stupid) my first response was: "He didn't say anything about my voice?" But I'm a singer, what can you expect?
As a treat for my first day of actual work, I decided to finally pay a visit to Grom, the famous gelateria that is part of the slow-food movement that originated in Torino. I say originated because we now have one in New York, although I've never been because I looked through the window once and saw that a gelato costs like nine bucks! Not kidding! The one here in Torino was only 2 euros 50 and it was three gigantic scoops of heaven with some kind of crazy cream on top. It's totally unbelievable stuff, and I'm not even sure what flavors I ordered because I didn't want to admit to the guy behind the counter who'd I'd insisted should speak to me in Italian (he's used to tourists) that I didn't really understand what he was saying. But I'll tell you it was damn good. And while I was walking home, I finally got accosted by an Italian man trying to chat me up, but since it was late and I was alone, I decided to tell him I didn't speak italian so he'd leave me alone. But I speak enough to know that he said "that's an awfully big ice cream cone. Be careful or you'll get fat." I'm not kidding, he said that. And probably he's right, but it's SO WORTH IT!