The Don Carlo Marathon

Trip Start Jul 14, 2013
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Flag of Austria  , Austrian Alps,
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I still can't believe today was real. German class and voice lessons were canceled so that our entire program could attend the dress rehearsal for the upcoming production of Verdi's Don Carlo. We have a connection with Thomas Hampson (!!!) who will be playing Rodrigo when it opens on the 13th.

The rehearsal began at 11am. We were extremely fortunate to be allowed there at all, so we were instructed to become invisible and keep our mouths shut for the entirety of the rehearsal. It lasted until 5pm, and we were all there until the bitter end.

I was silently freaking out when I realized the Vienna Philharmonic was playing in the pit. At the beginning of Act IV, there is this fantastic cello solo (Verdi is so good to us cellists), and I was able to hear the principal cellist play through the part. I stood in the aisle as far away from the group as I dared to get a better look; although I could only see the top of the cellist's head, I couldn't be happier. His tone was smoother than silk and he made not a single mistake. I could have drowned in the legato.

Then... the soloists. The main soprano, Anja Harteros, was fantastic. Most of the cast did not sing full voice considering it was a rehearsal, but I didn't care. She sounded lovely-- just a bit soft. I couldn't blame her for that. Then, Thomas Hampson (who was born in Indiana!) was fabulous and didn't miss a beat either. I could just go on and on about him-- he seemed very funny and outgoing and spoke to our group very briefly, jokingly telling us to start yelling when he walked onstage for the first time. Of course, Dr. Hardenbergh threatened us within inches of our lives if we did anything close to that, so we abstained. In fact, throughout the entire rehearsal, we could not make a peep. In between the acts (where we had 20 minute breaks) we could stand up and go to the bathroom, but besides that, we were confined to the rows specifically laid out for us. I was dying to get a better look at the cello soloist, but creeping up to the front was far too bold for me to try.

However, we could only just barely manage to hold in our emotions when Jonas Kaufmann walked onstage.

Jonas Kaufmann.

I am not exaggerating when I say the following: I have never in my life witnessed such a flawless singer. His tone was clear and his vibrato confident and constant. No matter the vowel or the octave, Kaufmann's diction and clarity stayed perfect. He went all out for us, singing his arias and duets with the pinnacle of emotion. Not a single high note sounded strained. The moment he walked onstage, we all gaped at him, and I couldn't look away.

I absolutely adored being at the dress rehearsal as well because we were able to see how the operas are put together before opening night. Scenes were stopped periodic points to correct the orchestra or give instructions to the singers. A megaphone was used when speaking to a large group of people. The entire rehearsal was also a mixture of German and English, surprisingly. I did not expect them to use language I would be able to understand, but that made things much easier to follow. Kaufmann used mostly English with some German sprinkled in (that I could understand!) when he stopped, apologized, and stated that the orchestra was too loud. I was fascinated to see the singers actually act like real people. I know that must sound strange, but in a performance, all we see is the character. I loved witnessing the human side of the performers.

Kaufmann, specifically, was really great to watch. I loved that he didn't take everything so seriously and would act a little silly. For example, he pretended to have a machine gun at one point-- later on, he did the same with an imaginary sword. During the scene just before Rodrigo is shot, the two men were in the middle of the tragedy when they turned around, saw the gunman, and just burst out laughing. They couldn't even keep a straight face after Rodrigo was killed; as he died, Hampson popped a bag of fake blood on his own chest, and, though we couldn't see the package, it made a really loud noise and the two men could barely keep a straight face. Kaufmann and Harteros even made some mistakes but let them roll off, just apologizing quickly, laughing a bit, and starting over where the conductor indicated. I was thrilled to see that Kaufmann had a sense of humor and was a little mischievous during the performance. 

During one of the long breaks, Kaufmann also walked offstage and came into the audience. I resisted my urge to swoon when he walked by not 15 feet away from me to go and talk to his family, which sat in the next section over from us. He is just as good-looking 15 feet away as he is on the stage, which was quite a nice thing to realize.

After the six-hour rehearsal was done, we all exited the opera house exhausted but thrilled. We could not speak enough about the perfection that was Jonas Kaufmann. I am so, so grateful that this program allowed me to experience this. It was just amazing.

I realize that I don't know exactly what I'm doing for the rest of my life, but I would die happy if I could play a leading role for the Salzburg Festival. That one thing would make my existence complete.

Before I go on a rant, I'll continue my story of today. While we were still basking in our Kaufmann withdrawal, we hit the grocery store and went to the house of Courtney's host mother, Sissy, for a barbecue. Zack, Jennifer, Kate, Courtney, Michael, Charlie and I all spent a lovely evening grilling sausages, chatting with Sissy (who is a fabulously witty and kind lady), and eating tiramisu ice cream.

I will now sit here and study for German while listening to a certain tenor serenade me. Guten Nacht!
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Karin Raab on

I just dropped in to see what you've been up to. (The kids' godfather went to Vienna last week and hopefully will bring back some heirloom vegetable seeds.) I enjoyed reading this opera post, it sounds like you've had lots of up close and personal interactions with a lot of talented people! I'm going to take Colin to his first real opera in a few weeks: San Jose's Falstaff!

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