Librettist’s Performance Journal: Thursday

cross-posted from

26 April 2018

I live-tweeted the dress rehearsal of the full program.

7:15 pm We’re rolling! Charity kicks off the dress rehearsal with the “Shout Dirge for Lady Macbeth,” the only one of the four songs that is about the real Lady M rather than Shakespeare’s Lady.

7:25 Now “The Song of the House Martin”–amazing duet for voice and clarinet, dirty and sultry.

7:30 Now “Lady, Maid, Invocation.” Lady M’s maid hasn’t slept in days & decides to do something about it: Come, you spirits!/ Tend to me and this my charge,/ this cruel and murdering woman./ Make steel my bones/ and smoke of hers/ that she will be/ gusted away/ over the parapets.

7:37 Once Lady M is dead, her maid can sleep “not tempest-tossed/but charm-wound with peace.”

7:38 The last of the 4 is “Cradle Carol for Lady M.” It begins attaca from the previous song w/cello tremolo on a harmonic. Where the house martin is snide, the narrator of this song has compassion for Lady M.

7:43 In 2 songs, narrator commends Lady M to heaven; in the others, death is her comeuppance or a relief.

7:56 Next up is Trigger. Today’s Bill Cosby’s news has emotions high–we’re all pleased by the verdict–and the case is referenced in this production of the piece.

7:58 Jennifer Sgroe has performed Trigger several times. It’s a difficult role, and she is excellent.

8:01 Trigger asks: “Did she deserve to get hit?/Did I?”  The answer is always no.

8:09 Short break before @MarieCurieOpera proper begins.

8:17 @HICOrchestra is warming up and tuning up. @MarieCurieOpera uses piano, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and percussion.

8:18 @MarieCurieOpera cast and director taking some selfies on stage as everything gets set up for the final dress rehearsal.

8:28 Sound-checking Irene Curie’s aria, the loudest part of the opera… And now @MarieCurieOpera is off and running its final dress.

8:33 Marie and Irene are at the shore, where Irene is trying to convince Marie that they need time off.

8:39 @MarieCurieOpera sounding good! The balance is good; sitting in back to tweet, I can hear the orchestration better than last night when I was in the middle of the room.

8:46 Claudia Rosenthal’s Irene Curie expresses the character’s desire to relax & to get her mother to take a break really well, combining affection & a bit of pleading & frustration.

8:48 As Older Marie (Susan Yankee) watches, Younger Marie (Lizzy Hayes) & Pierre (Mark Womack) enter as a memory to sing about their meeting, courtship, & work together. Their excitement builds from here to the line “We won the Nobel Prize!”

8:52 Curies have good chemistry (sorry, I couldn’t resist), & the lab set-up looks great.

8:54 Hayes & Womack are hitting a home run in portraying the Curies tonight. They have great communication in their duet & the staging is solid. I am so happy with this.

8:55 Prob not a good idea for me to give them a huge thumbs up at the end of the scene, but I wish I could.

8:56 Here we go: Pierre’s aria. He’s so excited about what he thinks radium can do and sells it like Harold Hill.

8:57 I guess singers don’t really plan on careers singing about radium burns, but, you know….

9:00 They look at glowing radium (sourced from glow sticks) like a beautiful baby. In a way, it was.

9:02 Pierre’s death: Older & Younger Marie sing together, then share text between them, a dialogue between the past & present, a memory that has never faded.

9:04 Solo piano as the Maries circle each other on stage, Older Marie watching Younger Marie, then the quote from Marie’s own autobiography about the flowers Pierre left behind.

9:05 Now Older Marie sings of losing hope after Pierre’s death, but she ultimately finds continued purpose in her work.

9:09 Susan Yankee as Older Marie, remembering, compares the period after Pierre’s death to floating, unsure of what to do.

9:09 And now for my obligatory Shakespeare reference: Irene cites the seven ages of man.

9:12 Now for my favorite aria: Marie’s “I take my life in measurements/obscure to other women”! We’re slowing a bit tempo-wise, but I’m sure it’ll pick up a bit as this aria moves forward.

9:15 The textures here–sul pont on the cello, mallets–has a spare beauty that captures Marie’s sorrow well; then fuller ensemble returns as Marie discusses how she survived and continued her career.

9:23 Marie & Irene sing together in a lovely duet but to different ends: Marie wants to go back to work, but Irene knows they need rest.

9:26 Now it’s time for Marie’s rage aria! She rails against the conservative French press, cronyism, antisemitism, xenophobia, & sexism, but ends w her triumphant win of a second . Sing it, Marie!

9:27 Clarinet & cello at the bottoms of their ranges: deep, long-held anger, the kind that pushes you to show your oppressors that you are So. Much. Better. Than. Them.

9:29 Terrific emotional and musical anguish as Marie recounts how her lover’s estranged wife told the press that Pierre had killed himself.

9:34 Marie on her isolation of radium: “The little stars I had found had turned me into one.” Susan Yankee’s Marie is proud but exhausted.

9:37 Nearing the end, approaching Irene’s big aria about her fears that radium is hurting them. She & her mother both died of leukemia caused by exposure to radium.

9:42 Last tweet of the night: My heart beats fast w happiness & joy right now. I am very fortunate to have my work performed by such good musicians, & am grateful to everyone working on this production. <3

Friday we’re dark and we all rest (I hope). I may have a short post but will likely be back on Sunday with some final thoughts.