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October 29
Michigan Opera Theater

by Cami

The week before opening night when Jack found out there were still tickets available and that there was a dinner with the cast afterward (it was sold out by then but that never stopped Jack before!). He arranged everything and surprised me with the whole wild weekend.

The opera was astonishing to me. As big a fan as I am of Andrea, having seen him stand without moving a muscle in concert while he sings for more than an hour, I had serious doubts about his ability to actually move around a stage, let alone act...let alone do it at the same time as he was singing!! He had said he suffers from stage fright of mythic proportions and this would only be his second opera. But he moved on that stage as if he had been sighted all his life, and it seemed to me nothing short of miraculous. The man has courage and determination that goes straight to my heart like an emotional cruise missile.

One cannot ignore the power that is in his voice when you are in front of him. There were so many compellingly beautiful moments when his voice held those high, sweet, silvery notes. It was obvious to me that those in the audience recognized and connected with the beauty of his voice as well. At times you could have heard a pin drop when he held us all in thrall.

We did go back November 12. I am glad, because I was more relaxed . . . and so was Andrea I think. In several places it seemed to me I could hear more intense emotion in the singing. Also the interaction with Denyce was more intense and natural. I think our boy is in danger of becoming a ham! Clearly he is a natural actor. I find it interesting that he has said in several interviews that the acting and movement of his body was very difficult for him, as if there was some barrier of fear that he had to overcome in the beginning. But overcome he did!

And then when the magic was over and we were home once more. I wrote a long letter to the Detroit News in response to the very nasty Mr. Lawrence Johnson's review. But I think the critics will not make any difference. Andrea bypasses them and goes straight to the hearts of anyone who hears him. I am happy to have been there at the beginning

by Eileen

Andrea was wonderful. He was beyond wonderful. I cannot even begin to communicate to you the magnitude of his accomplishment. In the opening scene, when I saw this man sitting so majestically and proud upon that horse, I thought my heart would stop. He literally LEAPT off of it with such ease and grace, but the impact when he landed upon the stage reverberated right out into the theater with such a force... it was truly, truly a moment I will never forget! I just knew, KNEW then and there that all was going to be fine.

He seemed a little tight and uncertain at first. But with each passage of music, he became more comfortable and fluid. By the second act, he was in full stride. He was in wonderful voice and hit all the high notes beautifully and added such lyrical tenderness to all the arias. With all my heart I regret not staying for a second performance, as all my friends did, because I must say that I was truly in a daze and fear that I can't sufficiently recall all of the wonderful details. But here are a few memorable moments: at one point, Andrea was so overcome by his grief when he realizes Charlotte is betrothed that he literally threw himself down on the stage and laid there prone and sobbing. Another moment, when he and Charlotte have a heated exchange and he leaves her room in amorous frustration, he picked up a chair and HURLED it across the stage... Andrea did it with such force that it splintered in two! I felt so sorry for the baritone playing Albert, because he had to ad lib picking up the pieces when he entered in the next scene... it was one of those unexpected moments that make live theater so interesting and exciting.

But truly the element that will emblazon this performance in my heart and mind forever was the chemistry between Andrea and Denyce... it literally sizzled and leapt off of the stage. You could just sense the deep empathy and trust built between them over these last weeks. And I have to take a moment to give Denyce Graves her rightful dues... she was MAGNIFICENT! I simply cannot adequately express the caliber of her performance. And it was so evident that she and Andrea were real partners in every musical passage, throughout every difficult scene...it was really something to behold. By the time the fourth act came and he was lying in her arms, kissing her tenderly, and then breathing his last...my heart just simply broke. It was the most breathtakingly beautiful performance I have ever seen and one I shall never, never forget.

Afterward, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the candlelight dinner with the stars of the opera. Andrea entered with Enrica and looked so happy and so confident... you could just sense that he was pleased with his performance. He was so relaxed and animated and graciously made himself accessible to everyone. I shook his hand and told him that his performance was extraordinarily wonderful. He thanked me with such sincerity, as if he had never heard this before, and leaned down and gave me a kiss on both cheeks. Such a small moment in his life, but of course, one of the most momentous in mine. And I am convinced that this is what sets this extraordinary man apart... his complete unawareness of his effect on people, his true humility. At the end of the dinner, Dr. DiChiera, General Director of MOT, gave a wonderful speech and stated that what struck him so profoundly about this production of Werther was the atmosphere of love and concern and caring that flowed between the cast and crew... a true phenomenon that he stated he had never witnessed before in all his career. But of course this is what Andrea is capable of doing... of bringing out all the best in those around him, of creating a synergy of commonality in those who would otherwise be divided. And then Andrea himself took the microphone and spoke at length. He thanked the cast and crew for all of their support, for making him feel so comfortable. He stated that never in all his dreams did he ever hope to be accepted with such warmth and affection by his audience. And that because of this, he will surely return again and again. Amen... so be it!


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