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Maestro Botstein

October 7, 2009

We had our first rehearsal with Leon Botstein, ASO’s music director, last night, which meant it had a very different rhythm than previous rehearsals. He was there to give us an idea of how the whole would come together, and what he expected in terms of dynamics, tempi, and other finer details past simply learning the notes.

Between acts, he gave us a little summary of the plot, which was sort of useful. As a solo singer in opera you would never prepare for a performance without translating every word and knowing not only your part, but everyone else’s, let alone not knowing the basic plot. Yet, the opera chorus is not so burdened. Obviously, it would be better if everyone knew exactly what was going on at each moment, and exactly what each word means, but for a performance that must come together in the span of 10 days, it is unrealistic to expect choristers to execute all that background work at the same level as the soloists.

Being Jewish himself, Mr. Botstein made a lot of Jewish jokes, mostly as they pertained to him not understanding some aspect or another of Christianity, since this opera is very much a story about war between two countries of different faiths. As he tossed off each progressively ridiculous plot point as jokes, I couldn’t help thinking how sad it is that we are so easily drawn into battle, and about how many awful, unnecessary wars we have fought. Yet this was all topped by the realization that Vincent D’Indy was anti-Semetic, and here is Mr. Botstein premiering his work in the U.S. anyway. I wonder how the maestro really feels about it. You can’t separate the artist from his art.

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