2020 started off with a bang! In January, Stephan and I visited Disney World and especially enjoyed the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area. Also in January, I presented at the National Opera Association National Conference on “Challenges and Solutions for the Developing Collegiate Opera Program” along with my colleague, Dr. Jon Truitt. I loved the conference so much because it was excellent to attend so many informative panels and meet other opera directors, composers, and singers. It is easy as an opera professional in a small program to feel alone, and I came home energized with so many great ideas and really feeling part of a community. I was happy that some of the solutions I’ve developed over the past three years at TAMU-CC were also helpful to others directing collegiate opera programs.
Then I returned to Corpus Christi and got right to work directing Carmenella, a wonderful piece using mostly the music of Bizet’s Carmen with a very clever and funny script by my former Indianapolis Opera colleague, Denise Page Caraher. The students made me proud by getting their music and dialogue learned in record time. They even voted to come in on a Sunday and have an extra dialogue rehearsal to make sure they were prepared for the memory exam. We started blocking and learning some dance choreography. I just knew this was going to be the best opera yet—talented cast, great preparation, beautiful music, excellent script, students really taking ownership of their roles and creating well-rounded and interesting characters—pretty much everything you could want for a production.
In late January, I found out I was a national semifinalist for the American Prize in stage directing not only once but twice—in the Opera division with Pinocchio and the Musical Theatre division for Pinstripe Harry’s Tea Room Cabaret. This was amazing news! At the same time, I was submitting my three-year review binder for my academic position, and there is nothing like seeing a big stack of your cumulative teaching, creative, and service work to make you realize that you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
In February I was hired to join the faculty of the Druid City Opera Workshop for the summer, and I was really excited to have the chance to work with opera professionals in a prestigious young artist program.
For Spring Break, Stephan and I went to the Texas Hill Country and had a wonderful time hiking, exploring, and eating at some great restaurants. We knew that COVID-19 was out there, and were a little worried, sure, but we kept washing and sanitizing our hands and planned upon return to hunker down for a while of social distancing.
I don’t really need to explain what happened next, because it is a familiar story. My situation is not unique—I am better off than most, because I have been able to work from home and haven’t needed to put myself at risk. The May version of me looks back at the January version and just has to laugh. I remember feeling that things were going in such a positive direction. Now, there are so many bigger things to worry about. I worry most about my students, because I still want to give them the best learning experience possible, and while this is certainly not impossible via Zoom and other virtual platforms, it comes with its own set of challenges. Students, like all of us, are distracted with thoughts of worry for the future. I believe in the power of art in general and opera specifically to help us through this. On a bad day, I worry about how we will ever put on opera again. On a good day, I trust that our creativity as artists will help lift up all of us and someday soon we will make music together more beautifully than before.