Almost all of this came to pass, though there were some spots where the devil got into each of us. But for the most part Joseph and I settled into the groove and interlocked our musical impulses. As the piece started to calm down, I realized that we were creating a sexy little tone poem together. And we were doing the tune in a slightly slower tempo, which took a lot of the stress out of the equation.
I can’t work in an abstract way at the piano, and in any case I don’t have the jazz technique to run all over the keyboard spewing a dazzling array of filigree. I need a story, an idea, a color, and as usual it emerged from the lyrics to the song. “Joseph, do you see what we’re doing? We’re painting a picture of Tunisia at night. Not the real Tunisia, where you could get your throat slit and your wallet stolen. No, an idealized Tunisia, an exotic, romantic place where everyone is beautiful and available, and drinks are on the house.” (NB: I’m paraphrasing what I actually said in order to keep my G-rating on this blog.) “Let’s not jab at the piano, let’s caress it. Let’s make a night full of stars and perfumed women.” (Again, paraphrasing.)
Over lunch Bénédicte and I made a plan B (the show without Colin at all) and plan C (the show with a couple of songs Colin might be able to sing by Sunday, cutting the heavy-duty numbers). One piece we chose as a replacement for our Ponchielli trio was “Chi il bel sogno” from Puccini’s “La rondine,” which Shelén offered. She and I gave it a run and it was pretty ravishing. “Oh wow, I haven’t touched that aria in years,” she murmured as I played the postlude. As last-minute substitutions go, you could do a lot worse.
We ran everything we could, and all the songs were in excellent shape. It was not the most comfortable Friday I’ve ever spent at Caramoor, but I was grateful to have some quality time with everyone, especially those crucial discussions with Joseph and Yihao.
Images, (from top down): Pianist Yihao Zhou, who has kept this somewhat unwieldy project on track (bless him); two extremely cool people: Joseph Parrish, with Caramoor’s President and CEO Ed Lewis in the background; Shelén Hughes, as captured by Vermeer/Steve’s iPhone.