Last night was my first performance here in Warsaw of Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia - and my first performance ever of this role. It was sort of a strange night. While it was the first performance for me and the soprano, everyone else in the cast was singing their second performance, and second performances always have a different energy than firsts, so this was funny to begin with. The other weird thing was that because of the schedule, my dress rehearsal had been 4 days before and with the other tenor, so I hadn't rehearsed with this tenor in a week, and never with the full set (which made a big difference acoustically in our duet). So, there were factors to be dealt with. And in fact, I dealt with them fine for the most part in the first two acts and everything for me went pretty well.
But then, after the beginning of the second Act, I don't come on again until the beginning of the third act, and with the long intermissions they take here, there was about an hour between when I left and came on again - maybe an hour and a half even. So by the time I got back onstage for the last act, which was my biggest part in the opera, I felt kind of weird. Tired, but nervous, and kind of out of it somehow. I remember standing backstage and feeling really strange and thinking to myself, "I hope I don't have swine flu or something." The duet was fine but it kind of exhausted me, so when I got onstage for the last scene I didn't really feel centered. It's interesting - I really think that roles where you stay onstage for most of the opera are far easier than roles where you have to go away for a long time and come back - I tend to have such a great deal of energy on the stage that when I have to wait a long time in between scenes, it's difficult for me to keep it up. Especially in this situation where I have the first aria of the show, and then the bulk of the rest of my role comes at the end of the opera.
So anyway, when we got to the final scene, I think I was fighting against this lull in energy I was feeling, so I was doing way more physically than I should have, or than I needed to and actually wasting my good energy. By the time we got to my aria, my breathing was quite high and I just didn't feel like I could get centered on anything - on my voice, on my interpretation - it just felt like I was kind of flailing around and circling around the right feeling but not landing on it. Of course, there was plenty of muscle memory, and no one in the audience would have known anything was wrong unless they had seen me sing the aria before, and then maybe they would have heard me do it better. But I still felt annoyed that I couldn't get centered enough to make it what I wanted to. I find that in those situations usually not that many people can tell the difference between your good nights and your bad nights, but it's not as fun to sing and perform when you don't feel in absolute control because then you can't play as much.
It's always a learning process, this job. I know for the next performances that I can't expend so much physical energy in the scene right before my aria, and that I really have to stay focused in the lead up to the aria so I can do everything I want with it. This is probably something I needed to do a performance of the role to learn because my energy is often so different with an audience, and I'm glad I figured it out. When I came out and bowed I got a lot more applause and cheering than I was expecting based on a) how I thought I did and b) the fact that I didn't know a soul in the theater - but I couldn't help but wanting to tell them all to come back because I know it will be better next time. But I guess that's the beauty of live theater - you never know what you're gonna get.