Bénédicte and I had a master plan for the day that involved working on every song in the show. Since Love Songs in 176 Keys is a slightly longer program than usual, our idea was wildly ambitious. Still, it is always smart to front-load the work, tackling as much as possible in the first few days of our short rehearsal period. I’ve known most of these songs for decades, while the cast has known them for a few weeks. But my dream—and Bénédicte’s—is to elicit performances from them that rival the ones we have in our memories, in our ears, in our imaginations.
A cheval, as Béné might say—let’s get to work.
Sometimes one simple word can unlock a song. In Roussel’s “Sarabande,” the singer is addressing a woman using “tu”—the familiar form of “you,” of course. The story in the song falls easily into place when a man is the singer, but for our soprano Mer Wohlgemuth it would necessitate a decision. Something was missing in her performance, which was absolutely lovely but too innocent for Béné’s and my taste, too sweet.
The song talks about a sexual encounter outdoors—pretty hot stuff, in a French art song way. So to whom is she talking—who is this “tu”? And for that matter, who is Mer going to be in this drama? Is she playing a man, or is she a woman hooking up with another woman? Both are possible, but I came up with a third idea: what if she were speaking to herself, fantasizing about an affair, imagining the details, observing herself in a deliciously compromising position? “You will wear this, you will do that…” It struck me as the strongest choice.
A small accident led to an interesting result today. I am somewhat allergic to pepper, and occasionally it bothers me—not reliably enough to expunge it from my diet altogether, but something I need to watch out for. I managed to inhale a bit of pepper at lunch and it took about two hours of coughing and sneezing and throat-clearing to calm my body down. It was really my fault for being inattentive. (I should add that the food has been wonderful at Caramoor—there was a sensational mild vegetable curry today that rocked my world.)
At lunchtime Ellie Gisler Murphy, a member of the Caramoor artistic team, showed up to say hello. She’s out on maternity leave, and she brought her two-month old baby Rowan with her. Bénédicte brought her five-week old son Aenéas over. The two tykes had a summit meeting, and the world was a sweeter place.