Sunday, October 5, 2008

Confessions of an Opera Addict, Part VII

The Case of the Missing Musetta

One Sunday, I was walking around Capitola after working on a chapter of Gabriella's Voice, when I spotted a big crowd outside the Bayshore Lyric Opera Theater. I ran into one of Jennifer's sisters, who told me that the San Francisco-based soprano playing Musetta in their La Boheme had gone missing, and that they were trying to figure out how to present the cafe scene without her. I asked if I could spy on the attempt, and found a nice place to stand in the back of the theater. What I witnessed was a little crazy, rather astounding and undoubtedly courageous.

Liliane Cromer, the company's principal mezzo, walked her way through the scene, score in hand, pantomiming Musetta's actions and even managing to get through Musetta's famed Waltz in reasonable form (she had never performed it, but like any singer had heard it dozens of times). Soon afterwards, as her character went comically back and forth between her sugar daddy and the jealous painter Marcello, she wasn't actually singing her lines, just acting out her motions - but a soprano voice was coming from somewhere to fill in her parts. It was then that I spotted my soprano friend Jenny, playing Mimi, sitting at a table with her Rodolfo. She was hiding her face in a menu as she filled in Musetta's parts (from memory) then popping back up whenever Mimi needed to provide a comment. The cast got through the scene relatively unscathed, received an uproarious ovation from the audience (opera audiences love this kind of thing), and then finished the opera with their actual Musetta (who, poor thing, had forgotten that the Sunday show was a matinee, and probably broke soprano speed records driving there). But those who were there that day had much better than an opera, they had a story to tell their friends - and I had another bit of testimony as to the musical prowess of my friend Jenny, who, in fact, could sing two roles at once.

Next: Opera reviews for the alternative lifestyle
Photo: The courageous Liliane Cromer.

No comments: