Our family has been in a February flurry this year—not only am I and my big brother having birthdays, my oldest son turns 35 and my youngest just short of 30, presented us with the first grandchild last week, a bit early, but certainly welcome in any case. We’re in the rapture of this child’s sleepy gaze, marvelling at his long fingers, his exceptional nose and his beautiful little mouth. Nothing keeps us from dashing over to help with him if only to watch him nap while mom and dad do some laundry. No thoughts of pressing engagements can enter this circle.
Imagine my surprise then, chancing upon a newspaper, to see that a local composer in whose short opera I had been featured a number of years ago apparently jumped in front of a subway train not far from where I live, while I was patiently waiting at the hospital for my grandson’s birth. What a shock. He was depressed—had been for years. I know our production’s less-than-laudatory reception by the press didn’t drive him to it. I hope it didn’t. I remember laughing outloud at the Chronicle review (didn’t laugh later—it was only the half-drunken fervor that struck me funny at the time.)
That was a royal pain, that production; hardest work I’ve ever done and I was actually off-book at the callbacks, having taken the excerpts home, gone to my pianist’s house and taped them so that I could impress the director by knowing the stuff cold. Little did I know that the two brief bits I was given were the single most accessible ones in the whole work. The composer scored it for three grand pianos, onstage, and forty separate items of percussion in the pit, including some spare car parts upon which the orchestra members were instructed to beat, causing such clangor that the singers must need screech at the top of their lungs in order to be heard. It was going well, nonetheless; I was actually enjoying the challenge and my pitch-memory was top-drawer, as they say.
Only short six days before our opening weekend, my late-husband’s youngest brother was killed in his plane; bright, clear day—ran into a mountain side for no apparent reason except he didn’t expect it to be there, having gotten off-course—certainly not suicide. I spent Friday & Saturday with his widow, reliving my own widowhood & studying my score, flew back home on Sunday and hit hellweek rehearsals on Monday. By Thursday opening we blasted the walls off.
In the midst of my present joy, I look back and I want to say a hearty ‘Fuck You’ to that particular reviewer. I would like to say it to his face and obtain some satisfaction, but it occurs to me that he is either dead or doesn’t even recall the event. I don’t really care. His stink eye can’t touch me.