“I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.”  – Julia Cameron

This picks up from a previous blog post.

I have reinvented myself a number of times over the years, both in my vocation and avocation.

It begins with me deciding what I want to be and then proclaiming it.

Previously, I said things like, “I want to be a…”

The energy changed when I stated it as an affirmation: “I am…”

“I am a stage director.”

“I am an opera conductor.”

Yes, I told people, “I am an opera conductor” and moved back to my hometown, New York City in 1990. I moved in with my mother, got a job with a company that gave out recommendations about classical music recordings by phone (before the World Wide Web, kids) and went back to the Amato Opera Theater. Tony Amato had agreed to teach me how to conduct opera. I had taken conducting classes at the university, and had conducted some symphony rehearsals and opera scenes. In high school I had conducted middle school string classes and the musical Godspell.

Suddenly, I was a opera conductor. Unbelievably, my apprenticeship began immediately. Tony insisted I sit behind him during rehearsals and observe. He would give my tips over his shoulder during the rehearsal. He would give me scenes to conduct while he worked on staging. He taught me his tempos and how he arrived at those tempos. He gave me tips on how to cue certain passages. He taught me the “traps” for coordination between the stage and the pit. I got one dress rehearsal to conduct my cast. Within two months I had learned and conducted a performance of Verdi’s Aida in a fully-staged production with piano and wind octet accompaniment. I also conducted off-stage chorus for the other 11 performances. Oh, yes. I also operated the lights. And I helped build and paint the scenery. And moved sets.

During the run of Aida we were already rehearsing Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. All the shows overlap in a repertory company like Amato. By the summer I had conducted five different operas and Tony gave me a great opportunity to direct an off-season show: his only attempt at a summer season in 1991, directing and conducting Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, composed when he was 17 years old.

I got an excellent review in the NY Times for my production.  Oh, yes. I cast my future wife in the production. I also translated all of the recently discovered recitatives (Tony had done a production 40 years earlier using the only extant German Singspiel version at the time, which had dialogue between numbers. The new Barenreiter edition was now published with the original Italian and the recitatives restored). And I painted scenery and designed the lighting.

All because in 1990 I said, “I am an opera conductor.”

To be continued… See Part 3