Wednesday, April 12, 2006

With Beelzebub Playing the Accordion

Improvisation is second nature to a musician. The ability to deviate from the mundane and to turn the ordinary into something both extraordinary and unique is highly prized. These skills can be taught and honed -- to a point -- but without that innate sense of what works, improvisation can quickly turn into a big, nasty mess.

As a singer, I know improvisation. I can take a baroque aria and add flourishes, skips, trills and embellishments on the spot. I can take a jazz standard and make the notes jump and swing right off the page. I can take a contemporary atonal ditty and ... well ... approximate the pitches like a pro and sing my guesses with such conviction that nobody is the wiser.

This made me feel all the worse as I gathered materials for my student's Opera Workshop performance tomorrow night. One of their scenes is from Mozart's greatest, most venerable opera, The Magic Flute. It's a work that explores such themes as loyalty, fidelity and the grandeur and mysticism of the Masonic religion. I had to get some props for the scene, and since I'm fresh out of miniature rotating glockenspiels, I had to improvise. And now, much to my chagrin, the role of Papageno's magic bells will be played by a jump rope handle covered in tinfoil with a plastic multi-colored jingle-bell cat toy affixed to it with a garbage bag twisty tie.

I am going to hell.

No comments: