As we at AOP went forward with our recent production of Lera Auerbach’s “The Blind,” we encouraged our twelve incredible cast members to talk a little about what they experienced while being a part of this fascinating show. Rosalie Sullivan, one of the cast members we introduced you to in our “Meet the Cast” post earlier this month, gave some insightful commentary about playing “Woman VI.”
As an opera singer, there are certain things you come to expect when you show up for a performance at the theater: elaborate period costumes; the rich sonority of the orchestra supporting you and depicting the drama of the libretto; and, if you’re lucky, that perfect feedback loop of energy and engagement that occurs when you step into the light and know you have the audience in the palm of your hand. None of this prepares you for the day when someone asks you to sing an hour-long a cappella opera in the dark to a room of blindfolded strangers.
To paraphrase an old French proverb: In the realm of Lera Auerbach’s THE BLIND, the singer with perfect pitch is king. The rest of us must do whatever we can to carry his royal standard and follow where he leads.
That’s not to suggest that performing this piece is simply an exercise in maintaining intonation over the course of the night. Though the inherent musical and technical challenges of this opera are very real, singing for a blindfolded audience requires that we go even deeper within to communicate the journey of the piece. In one moment, we are individual characters with individual voices experiencing afresh the realization of our isolation. At the same time, as the ensemble of an a cappella opera, we are also effectively each other’s orchestra, providing a grounding of support upon which we each stand as the story unfolds. “We cannot touch each other,” our characters sing as they grapple with their experience of disconnection. And yet, I at least cling to the awareness of my colleagues as we collectively paint this vocal landscape, listening intently across the room for each cry or call as it floats up through the texture. We need each other even more when we are stranded alone in the dark.
At one point in the rehearsal process, director John La Bouchardière sat the cast in a circle and asked us to sing through the entire score blindfolded, that we might get a sense of what the audience would feel like in listening to the piece. Though we were far from musical perfection without the steady guidance of conductor Julian Wachner at the helm, still, my breath caught in my throat and my eyes filled with tears as we sang. It was an experience unlike any other – intensely powerful and intimate – that I will not soon forget. This is what it means to inhabit the landscape of Lera Auerbach’s THE BLIND; this is what we hope awaits those who attend.
Make the journey with us if you can. You will not regret it.