22. April 2006 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Tonight is opening night for the Opera San Jose production of Don Giovanni. It is the final opening night for a good number of the young artists in residence that OSJ has had for the past four years. (You can read about them here in a Mercury News article.) I always enjoy seeing the singers grow musically through those four years, and I wonder where this batch will wind up. Some former artists in residence have gone on to successful opera careers on stage. Some have gone on to do other things in opera. I wish these soon-to-be-gone ones the best!

Don Giovanni is sure one fine opera. One fine long opera. And, for the oboists, there is some sitting time. I often time the tacets, especially if there are a number of them in a row, so that I know when to start to rouse myself. The longest is a whopping fifteen minute sit. In the old hall I could watch and hear the opera, so I’d enjoy these long sits tremendously. Now I can’t see anything, and can’t hear much of the singers either. So it can be a struggle to keep attentive, although hearing just the orchestra can still be quite the treat.

In some operas I play so much I have to figure out when I have enough time to even swab out the instrument, and I actually write in “swab” so that I remember that I finally have, and must take, the opportunity to swab out. There’s nothing worse—well, except for a bad reed sound—than the sound of water in an octave vent or the gurgle we can get from water in a key. When one plays in a cold-ish (or sometimes freezing) pit, water is even more of a problem; the instrument is cold on the outside and we blow hot air through a very narrow bore and the water accumulation can be abundant. Sometimes we wind up with what we call floods. That can make for a rotten time, and once we get a flood it’s very difficult to stop it until the instrument has time to completely dry out.

With Don G I have to remember to keep the instrument warm for those long sits, or I get water issues because of the lack of playing; the instrument gets pretty darn cold when it’s resting on my lap because our pit is so cold. (I know because I have a thermometer on my music tray.)

Speaking of water … have I told the story of the time in college when I was playing a suite from Handel’s Water Music and the principal oboist got water in a key? Cool he? Water music + water in the key. Every time he hit—and had to hold— a particular note in one oboe solo for two full beats the oboe gurgled. It was pretty darn hysterical. Since it wasn’t my problem. When I played Secret Garden I once managed to get water in my top octave right before I had to hit a solo (I mean completely alone) long high C. I can’t tell you what an awful feeling it was to hear what came out … the ugliest miked long C I’ve ever had to play. Definitely NOT hysterical. Because it was my problem.

Funny how that works.
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