I had opera tonight. I wasn’t stressed about it at all. When I’ve done seven rehearsals and three perfomances and things have gone fine what’s to worry about, eh?


I did a bit of warming up. Not as much as usual, though, because I was handing out music for the next Symphony Silicon Valley set (since I always like to go get my music I figure it’s just as easy to get other SSV folks theirs at the same time), and I also simply wasn’t worried; I really like a reed I’ve worked on, and several others are adequate.

So of COURSE you know how this has to go, right?

We start the piece. And something is terribly awry! Notes simply don’t come out. I think, “Oh rats, this reed must be cracked!” So I switch to another. And it’s doing something similar. At that point I’m guessing something is up with the oboe. There’s something that goes in and out … even the A-440 is sometimes rebelling. So I am in panic mode which means that my alternate fingerings for one solo went out the window. Fortunately the regular fingers flew in when the alternates flew out so I did those and they worked fine. But being panicked about Butterfly is no way to be … and especially since tonight was our first of two nights with our assistant conductor. He took some things so much slower and it was quite difficult to manage with a leaky oboe. (I also just disagree with changing tempi in such a major way when coming in as an assistant; he actually added at least five minutes to the opera and while that sounds like a short amount of time it’s really rather significant with something like this. I felt sorry for Butterfly in Un bel di … it was sloooooowwww.

The good news is that despite the turmoil and the panic and all my furor, someone sitting only two seats away was totally unaware that something was wrong. So while I was in HorrorLand™ I guess it was my own private place to be. (Well, okay, I think I “shared” my horror with the second oboist, as I muttered under my breath during the acts and then whined during the intermissions. I should ‘fess up, yes?)

After the second intermission I finally figured out that something is up with the top joint, and I think I can fix things using the Carl Sawicki book. I hope I can, because I can’t drive to Napa over the weekend (Mark Chudnow doesn’t work weekends and even if Forrests’ repairman does he’s not been terribly nice to me and pretty much refused to fix my oboes since I play on the Marigaux brand), and I would prefer to fix what has to be a very small thing—which causes big problems—myself. I do hope I can do it!

In Other News our son, Jameson, has selected UCSC as his next stomping ground! Today he and I went to the campus, he met a few instructors and some students, and we sat in on part of a vocal rehearsal for The Magic Flute. Fun!


  1. I do sympathize with you.  However, you don’t know how good it makes me feel to read about these kinds of things (including all the reed problems) happening to professionals like you.  I used to think that it was just amateurs like me having problems. 

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Well, I’m glad my trauma is helpful! 🙂

    Some oboists don’t seem to suffer as much as I … or maybe they just don’t yak about it as much, I dunno. I do know I’m not even close to being Queen of Reed Making!

    Reeds are a curse. And that’s the truth.