Things that make me laugh about Sarasota Opera

March 3, 2009

Sarasota Opera is a very “special” place to sing. Every company has it’s quirks, but not every company is run by Maestro Victor DeRenzi and there’s really no one else on the planet like Maestro DeRenzi (think an extremely sarcastic Godfather, only the voice is about 2 octaves higher). Maestro, if you happened upon the internet and are reading this post, please know that I LOVE singing for your company. If I could sing in Sarasota the rest of my life, I would be a very happy singer (what is that on my nose?) But just as there are a litany of things that you find quirky about singers, there are definitely some quirks about you and your company.

1) No water bottles allowed. Maestro thinks that singers rely too much on water to sing, therefore, no water or any other liquid in rehearsals, or heck, in the building for that matter. Only trips to the drinking fountain are allowed during breaks.

2) All music staff are called “maestro”. It is not uncommon for someone to walk into a room and ask, “Maestro?” and you see 3 heads turn in that direction.

3) Obsession with chest voice. For you non-opera people, chest voice refers to the low part of a woman’s voice. You feel it rumble in your chest, hence the name. One must be careful in using chest voice because you can do some real damage to the voice if you don’t use it right. Maestro’s best quote to me, “Unless you want to sing Gilda (a high soprano role), I need more chest voice”. Thank you, sir. Point taken.

4) Don’t touch your throat. Or heck, any other part of the body that may come anywhere close to contact with your throat include face, neck, shoulders… I have knots in my neck because anytime I go to work them out, DeRenzi yells, “Quit touching yourself! Your voice is fine!”

5) No cell phones or electronic device of any kind in the building. I’ve managed to miss almost every phone call.

6) Voice teachers are evil. Just breathe and sing. “You young singers rely on your teachers too much!” Again, I get your point, but…really?

7) Don’t try and be witty with the Maestro…unless you got something good. That is his job. (Though I have managed to get a couple laughs out of him. Woohoo!)

8 ) The internet is bad. Apparently we spend too much time online, especially on Facebook and these stupid blogs.

In all seriousness, I love the man and I love this company. Yes, it is very quirky, but I love it. There really is nothing more inspiring than sitting in a chorus rehearsal or a master class with Maestro DeRenzi. He is so invested in making us sound great and be successful – he just has a very passive aggressive, odd, offensive way of doing it that drives you nuts – but it is very endearing.:) I love watching him conduct. I get so wrapped up in the music and his passion. Even though he is not a singer and doesn’t have a clue on how to teach a singer to sing, I sing better when I sing for him. I used to always get nervous singing for Artistic Directors, but I’m not the least bit nervous in front of him. On the contrary, I feel most free singing for him because he wants you to take risks and if you screw up he’ll make a rude, offensive comment, we’ll all laugh and I’ll try it again.

This is a good place.

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