We are so lucky at MassOpera to have such talented singers who step out and perform in these beautiful mobile concerts. This past Labor Day, Katrina Holden-Buckley and Carley DeFranco performed a mix of opera and musical theater selections for an eager and distanced audience on the back of a truck! Yet again, proving to us all that we can enjoy our favorite music even in times where we can’t gather in a theatre or concert hall. Katrina and Carley have each written a brief account of their experience to share with you!
Katrina writes: What a complete thrill it was to sing with MassOpera on Labor Day! On my way to the gig, I was listening to WOMR’s fantastic Labor Day programming- full of historical songs by Americans about working Americans. I was on parental leave when the pandemic locked us down and I “returned” to my office job, working from home with two little kids afoot. While I had been studying and practicing my craft, I hadn’t performed for several months, even before live performances were canceled due to COVID. I wouldn’t be doing this post justice if I didn’t recognize how incredibly difficult this time has been for working families and I am privileged enough to still have employment. But to negate some of my performance anxiety, I decided to dedicate my performance to the American worker and to the generations of them before us.
It was incredibly exciting singing for real people again and getting immediate energy back. It was almost awkward at our first stop- an apartment complex in Brighton, not knowing who could hear us and with full sun glaring in my eyes. We had several people who’d been waiting for “the concert” though and the phones started coming to the windows as the program went on! The most memorable part of the day for me was leaning against the speakers of the truck as we rolled down Comm Ave. I tried to give Musetta’s Waltz a sense of casual ennui, while in reality, I was holding on for dear life while the truck was moving. We passed a Barber Shop that started emptying to enthusiastically record the aria on their phones and were met with the honks and waves of surrounding traffic. Best moment ever. We were all on a ride together.
When we arrived at NewBridge in Dedham, the independent living residents were waiting outside in (socially distanced) throngs. I pulled up in my car and called out that MassOpera had arrived when one woman yelled saltily; “You can’t pahk in this lot!”. I loved her amazing frankness. We loaded onto the truck in the next lot over….
Other favorite moments: discovering the beauty of Bernstein’s “Dream with Me” in our Zoom rehearsal process and re-visiting my teenage belt skills with the Judy Garland arrangement of “Come Rain or Come Shine”. It was a pleasure working on this program with Dan and Carley and I couldn’t be more proud of the eclectic music we brought to people that day.
Carley writes: How did it feel to perform from the back of a truck in East Boston, Chelsea and Roxbury? It felt freaking great! It was a most exhilarating, fun and rewarding experience and I wish I could do it every weekend.
We artists take concert curation very seriously: it’s our foot-in-the-door and the repertoire one chooses to present to an audience (especially an unsuspecting one), that is critical for creating immediate connection as well as lasting impact. It was a joy to be able to collaborate with Dan and Katrina to pick repertoire that all three of us believe in, with a nice mixture of old stand-by’s and some songs that were completely new-to-me. It was exciting to perform two pieces by women from New England (Gena Branscombe and Amy Beach), as well as a dynamite version of “Come Rain or Come Shine” made famous by Judy Garland. Both singers agreed: it was one of the rangiest, most dynamic programs we’ve ever performed!
I loved the challenge of belting out “a la Garland”, hopping to a sexy Spanish art song and Musetta’s waltz, and finding tender moments with Bernstein’s ballad and Amy Beach’s soaring art song. I think the range of content and genre captivated our audience in a very special way. I simply can’t thank Dan Ryan, Dana Varga and MassOpera enough for providing this experience for singers and audiences alike.
Again, we thank Carly and Katrina for sharing their talents and artistry with us and with our audiences!