Can you believe that this year will be the 8th Ring Cycle Endurance Walk? Only two years until the 10 year anniversary of the fundraiser and KAOP! This club has blossomed into something so much bigger and more impactful than I could ever have imagined, and I am so grateful to you for your generosity in helping us grow so that we can bring opera to more and more people. Last year we managed to raise $6,154 for the Metropolitan Opera HD Live in Schools Program, which is fantastic! Every year we’ve been able to raise more and more and both the Met and I are so grateful.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if, due to the Coronavirus causing such financial uncertainty, I should even do a fundraiser this year. We almost decided not to, but then the Metropolitan Opera posted on their Instagram page a video from the orchestra musicians, chorus members, ballet dancers, stage directors and supernumeraries (background characters in an opera with no lines) asking for financial support, so this year I decided to raise money for them.
Chorus/orchestra members and supers are quite often overlooked as performers - they don’t have the rollercoaster character arcs and flashy vocals that the lead singers do, and they’re not making headlines or being fought over by international opera companies. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. In fact, these players are instrumental in creating the performance. In a performance the orchestra’s music isn’t merely background, the music itself is a character, creating tension, foreshadowing joy or conflict, introducing characters, and giving an opera its flavor. Imagine watching Jaws or Titanic without any background music! Some of the core essences of the film would be lost. In the same way imagine watching the final battle scene in Thor Ragnarok (where Asgardians, as well as a few members of other worlds, come together to battle Hela’s army) without any of the background actors. What an anticlimactic and disappointing showdown that would be. The opera stage is no different. Could you imagine watching a scene set in a tavern, a Paris street at Christmas, or a thriving party with no people save the lead actors?
One of the beautiful things about an operatic stage is that it creates a mini world for us to believe and participate in, and before even hearing a note, the minute we see other people we begin to connect with and empathize with that world. But how can we do that when other people are absent? And last, but not least, the chorus: those who show the audience the views of society, the hopes and dreams of the character’s family, the political climate, often who inform us of a character’s flaws or pasts, the necessary presence throughout the whole opera who is both omniscient and human. What would a performance be without them? Some of the most famous opera songs are sung by the chorus, for example The Anvil Chorus (Vedi la fosche) from Verdi’s Il Trovatore, The Children’s Chorus from Bizet’s Carmen, and my personal favorite, The Janissarie’s Chorus (“Bassa Selim lebe lange”) from Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Without any one of these members, the entire opera falls apart - in terms of a performance it’s all or nothing. Sadly, these performers only get paid by performance, so right now they have no money coming in. Normally they’d try to find a second job or work from home, but currently, that isn’t really an option. The Met is hosting concerts over Zoom, but only for the soloists, who will be accompanied by a personal pianist or may even play their own accompaniment.
I know that right now everyone is a bit strapped financially, but if you are in a position where you are comfortable giving, please give to these artists who have worked joyfully for years to give opera color and life. For the violinist who’s played at the Met for 30 years and remembers playing while Pavarotti sang behind him, for the new chorus member whose parent took them to the opera when they were young and dreamed of singing here their entire life, for the super who’s played the old artist in every production of La Bohème since Zeferelli debuted that production in 1981, please donate so that once our lives return to some state of normalcy they can keep playing, keep singing, and keep acting.
The Met Opera Orchestra and the Met Opera Chorus/Supers each have their own GoFundMe pages, so you can choose to donate to both or just one, I have written the links below. Thank you so much in advance for your generosity, I can’t tell you how much this will mean to them and to me.
I hope to see you again when we are able to see people more comfortably but until then Happy Halloween, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! Let’s hope for 2021 to be better than 2020.
Met Chorus Artists, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit run by members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.