The Contract That Almost Was

I was sitting in my living room on Friday evening, going about my business and getting ready for dinner when I got a call from my agent.  An opera company on the other side of the country needed a tenor, and they needed one fast.  Their original tenor had died suddenly with no warning, and the last minute replacement that they had acquired was now sick.  The rehearsal process was already half over, the show opened in two weeks, and could I fly out there immediately for Monday’s rehearsal?

So this was a lot to take in.  I don’t know how any of your jobs work (unless you are an opera singer), but I feel like a lot of professions do not operate in this manner.  But an emergency is an emergency, right?  And I had done the show twice before, I knew the music (-ish), and after checking with my wife, I said I would like to do it.  That left my agent to negotiate the contract, and me to contact all of my obligations over the next several weeks to see if I could get out of them.

The first thing I did was to call my pastor, since my church job seems like the biggest outside commitment that I have going on right now.  He told me I should do it, and we would figure out later all of the little things like who was going to direct the choir, and the youth choir, and who would preach the Sunday I was supposed to be preaching in two weeks time.  Those were just details.  So I took a deep breath and got in touch with the college where I am teaching voice lessons.

Well, they were thrilled for me.  They said that my exciting and far-flung singing career was one of the reasons they wanted me as a teacher, and that I could make up lessons when I got back.  So now I just needed to find childcare for a few weeks, and then try to remember all of the social and personal events, gatherings, and appointments that I would need to cancel or reschedule between now and the week before Halloween.  One of my negotiating points was that, since the performances were only on weekends, I wanted to be able to come home during the week, once rehearsals were done.  The opera folks were fine with that, so I proceeded accordingly.

The last thing I heard Friday night was that they just needed to run this by the stage director and they would be in touch in the morning.  I started looking at flights and I pulled out my score and began to cram three hours of music back into my brain.  I mean, it was all memorized two years ago, so it will slip right back in there again pretty easily, right?

I woke up Saturday morning and called my mother.  My son was staying with her for the weekend, but if I was going to be gone for three weeks and not see my children, you’d better believe I was going to see him before I left.  We arranged to meet that morning so that I could bring him home and spend some time with him on what seemed like would be my last day at home.  My flight was leaving at 2 pm Sunday afternoon, and I spent the morning checking my phone every 23 seconds, waiting for that e-mail or text that would send me into a packing frenzy.

All morning, and I heard nothing.  Finally I got a message saying that the opera folks were meeting at noon (so 3 pm, my time), and would finalize everything at that time.  I kept on going over my music, and feeling guilty about all of my commitments that I would be leaving behind.  It’s one thing to plan to go away for a month, but it’s quite another to have it land in your lap last minute.  I mean, I had a lot of things in the works that now, well, wouldn’t work.  So I was nervous.  And excited.  And worried.

3 pm came and went, and still I heard nothing.  4 pm, and I e-mailed my agent, knowing that she would have called with any news, but needing to do something.  I started lining up child care, and I did all of the laundry so that I would have clean clothes to pack.  My agent wrote back that she had left them another voice mail and was still waiting to hear back.  I sat down with my music again and kept on plugging away.

At 6 pm I broke down and called my agent, wondering if she had the same thoughts I did.  I started thinking that if they had met three hours ago and wanted to hire me, they would have gotten the ball rolling as soon as possible, confirming flights, finalizing plans, etc.  The only reason that I could think of for them not to be answering any calls or e-mails, was if they were negotiating with someone else and waiting to see if it would work out before telling us anything.  My agent agreed that this seemed likely, but until we got word from them there was really no way to tell.  I stopped working on my music and made apple dumplings instead.

All evening long I sat and checked my phone obsessively as the hours slowly ticked away my chances for doing this job.  My wife went to bed and I sat on the couch trying not to think about it, and knowing that it was not going to work out.  At about ten minutes after midnight (so 9:10 their time) they e-mailed my agent and thanked us for being willing to help out, but they were “going in a different direction.”  I’m assuming that meant someone cheaper that they didn’t have to fly across the country, but maybe it meant that the audience would just sing along to the tenor’s parts with the words printed on a big screen.  Or perhaps they were able to program an operatic robot to do the role.  And I suppose it is plausible that they plugged an iPod into the sound system and whenever it was the tenor’s turn to sing they pressed play and pumped Pavarotti singing it into the theater.  But probably they found somebody cheaper.

After spending over twenty-four hours in a state of mental, musical, emotional, and physical clenching, I finally was able to let everything relax and discovered that I was exhausted.  And so many things were going through my mind.  In some ways this whole experience really made me realize what a life I have built here, and how much I have going on for me.  And in other ways it made me realize how much I miss traveling and performing.  As a giant purple tentacled woman once said, “Life’s full of touch choices, i’nn’it?”

So today’s post is not titled “Surprise!  I’m on the other side of the country!” like I thought it might be.  But the good news is, all of my laundry is clean.  And I have apple dumplings.  Well, sort of.  They didn’t turn out all that well.  I think I should have used smaller apples.  But they are delicious.  And my family and I ate them all up together.

Posted in Apples, Baking, Food, Laundry, Music, Opera, Photo, Singing, Travel.


  1. You need to go twice a year to NY City or Montreal and take in an opera … And then, come home and write a review! Budget for this. Travel. Sing in the car on the way down (or up) and back, write, become famous, eat in good restaurants, begin a concert series at First UMC Burlington, and keep working on those apple dumplings (maybe bring some to one of our staff meetings …). Yes?

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