DAY 4: August 20, 2015
In a short rehearsal period like this, Wednesday is the last day I can really work on the music in a substantive way. After that I can feel the ice forming, and soon everyone turns into Ethel Merman, who described herself before an opening night: “Miss Birdseye–my performance is frozen.” I leaned on everyone pretty hard yesterday. But it’s hard to be a martinet when you’re trying to get people to swing rhythms, loosen their musical hips, relax their music-school training, and go native. Sometimes I try to do it just by the way I play, which is great if the singers are actually able to listen and absorb the almost aggressively Caribbean schmooze of my piano stylings. The current generation seems to be weaned on Handel and Stravinsky, very vertical composers, tidy and mathematical. When it comes to singing Villa-Lobos and Lecuona, you need to strip down to a musical bikini and have a few imaginary caipirinhas if it’s going to work. I’ve supplied the musical swimwear. Let’s see if they don it.
The day ended with a Skype session with Victor Torres, an Argentinean baritone whose CDs are a touchstone for me in this repertoire. We met in New York through a series of amazing coincidences a few years ago, but I hadn’t seen him for quite a while. The cast and I had carefully amassed a series of concrete questions about the poems and the musical style, just to make sure we had something to talk about. Victor didn’t actually answer any of them–he was baffled by the same things we were. That alone was comforting; it meant we could go with our own imaginations. We weren’t missing something that “only Argentineans could possibly know.” But Victor’s spirit, his dyed-in-the-wool Buenos Aires personality, the occasional phrases he sang for us, and his amazing, quintessentially Argentinean accent were a lesson in themselves. There is saying about the greats, “So-and-so has forgotten more about this repertoire than anyone else ever knew,” implying a depth of knowledge so great that even when the details are patchy, they are still a fount of understanding. That’s my Victor. I really hope he’ll come to New York again. He gave us a big lift.
After the Skype session, the cast headed down to my pool for an evening dip. From the sound of it, they were having quite a good time. I’ll bet I can get them to swim in the music today.
In three hours we get our percussionist. No matter what, things will be heating up.
— Steven Blier
Come see the product of all this hard work! NYFOS@North Fork: Latin Lovers, August 22 and 23rd >