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Wednesday | Apr 08, 2009

David Ward, Benoit & Alcindoro in La Boheme

Greetings from the character bass, or basso-buffo! I sing character bass roles, or funny, comic roles in so many different operas like the Sacristan in Tosca and Osmin in Abduction. They all of which have one thing in common – they are all funny men who resolve or capitulate via comedy. I usually have left the theater by the time people start dying in Bohème or Tosca. I am sort of like the Dick Van Dyke or Red Skelton of opera. In fact, I grew up watching Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball, Dick and Red, and I think they heavily influenced my sense of comedy and how one is funny. Comedy comes naturally to me, so it is a good fit.

I play the dual roles of Benoit and Alcindoro. Benoit is the cranky landlord in the first act who arrives demanding the overdue rent. Alcindoro is the wealthy sugar-daddy woo-ing Musetta with a night on the town in the second act, until her buddies, Rodolfo, Schaunard and Colline conspire with her to get Marcello and her back together again. I am left with nothing but the check!

It is my first time in Omaha and I am enjoying it greatly. I spent my day today schmoozing with stage management while my colleagues worked. Did you know that every opera has at least two stage managers to keep things running smoothly?

Kate Williams is our Stage Manager and her Assistant Stage Manager is RaShelle Bradley – both of Omaha. They give us our cues, make sure our props are ready to go on stage and answer questions about the production. They make sure the coffee pot is brewing, offer us advice on where to get a manicure or a good sandwich, and they become our friends. I worked with RaShelle at Opera New Jersey in February on a production of Die Fledermaus – she helped me do a costume change backstage and was always ready with a smile and a hug. In fact, I start each rehearsal day here with a hug from RaShelle. The stage management folks are our link to the outside world! Best of all, when they aren’t busy, and you are bored in the wings, they are great sources of back stage gossip. Trust me on that one.

Stage managers keep lots of lists: props, costume pieces, entrance cues, and timings, which make our work so much easier. In Bohème, I have to deal with plates, bottles, glasses, flowers, packages, and the Stage Management team knows where every prop is, who has it now, who had it last and who gets it next. Life savers! Only the truly organized can be stage managers. And a good stage manager can make or break a show. This Bohème will definitely be MADE!

I hope you’ll join us at the Orpheum – this production is just lovely and the singers are wonderful. At our first sing-through with Maestro France, Rodolfo’s aria had me in tears because it was so beautiful and heart-felt. And I have heard this aria sung hundreds of times. I can say the rest of the cast makes the same impact on me. There won’t be a dry eye in the house come the end of the opera.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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