Less than two months to go before I head to Oregon for the Astoria Music Festival this summer! Which means less than two months to learn the role of Despina in Così fan tutte!
Little did I know after singing Bastienne this past February that Despina would be my next Mozart role! Since this opportunity is a bit of a milestone for me — first full-length Mozart role, staged and with orchestra — I thought I would chronicle my progress and the process of getting to know this character and this opera.
Of course, I was absolutely thrilled when I got the news about Despina — I jumped up and down and hugged Baritone Boy (who didn’t know at the time I would be hijacking his Così Bärenreiter) — but by the next morning, the enormity of what I’d gotten myself into was settling in:
Just a week prior I had committed myself to singing Susanna in selections from Le nozze di Figaro. This concert is scheduled for mid-May, with Cornerstone Chorale’s Mozart Requiem literally the next day and the Musical Merit Auditions three weeks later. A week and half after that, Vocal Apprentices for the Festival are to arrive in Astoria.
A partial role, a requiem, a competition, and my first full-length Mozart role — what have I gotten myself into?!
If I’ve gotten myself into trouble, I suppose this is the best kind of trouble: too much wonderful music to sing.
Within 48 hours of getting the email from Astoria about the casting, I raided the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and started highlighting the Bärenreiter I’d gotten Baritone Boy as a Christmas gift (no time to order one — I’ll make this up to him!):
I have a lot of work to do, but saying no never crossed my mind. Astoria is too enriching of a festival to pass by, and Despina is too amazing of a role to turn down. I just have to find a way to manage my time and get it all done (and done well).
One of the biggest contributors to the anxiety is that this is the most significant amount of music and recitative I have had to prepare. I don’t actually know how long it will take me, so the big question constantly being asked inside my head is “Can you really do this in less than two months?” With all the other music I’m learning and polishing, while working full-time, taking care of Dante, and trying to fit in yoga and quality time with Baritone Boy, I’m slightly nervous.
I definitely had mild panic attacks every two hours for the first two days. A week later, the panic attacks occur less frequently and — more significantly — I have also memorized the recit and translation for Despina’s first two scenes and have a working knowledge of both arias!
I had such a beautiful and eye-opening experience in Astoria last year, and it is an honored to have the opportunity to participate again. I’m looking forward to the fabulous masterclasses, concerts, and workshops (check out all the events and artists they have lined up!!), not to mention the breath-taking scenery and the new friends I’ll make. I need every minute of the next 49 days to prepare my music, but I also can’t wait for the Festival to get underway…
Stay tuned for more Chronicles of Despina!