Friday, September 18, 2009

Guest Writer: Wendy Nielsen

Are you ready for an escape from the beauty and tranquility of the Magdalen Islands? I have been challenged to be the 'guest blogger' today from my perch atop a high rise apartment building on the Upper West side of Manhattan Island. I have been a regular visitor to this island since 1995, spending upwards of two months here most years. Vacation? No, the W word!

To say that life in NYC is different than NB is like saying Mulroney is different than Mother Teresa. It is always a shock to me to come here directly from home, the Fredericton Airport is not quite the same as LaGuardia. But wait there are similarities: Cambridge-Narrows has The Pines , NYC has Central Park; Cambridge-Narrows has Nan's Country Store and NYC has...everything; Cambridge-Narrows has Bill Jeffrey and NYC has...well, no one can compare really.

I am here working at the Metropolitan Opera, the most famous opera house in the world. I have been singing here for many seasons singing several different roles but what I have done most often is cover. Here is where people get a little confused, covering is like understudying on Broadway for some reason we just use a different term. Ian explains covering in a unique way, he tells people that I am like the back up goaltender in the NHL. I play in the big league but I don't get a lot of ice time;however, I am expected to skate out there and perform when and if they need me.

In an opera house this big anything can happen. With seven performance a week, of seven different operas, it is a big operation. It can sometimes feel like an opera factory. The building itself is huge and whenever I have visitors and take them on a tour they feel that they should be like Hansel and Gretel and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way out. I know my way around pretty well by now though I discovered a new route to the pay roll office the other day.Colour me green and proud.

When I return here to work, especially in the fall, it truly feels like back to school. We have a corridor of lockers, a cafeteria, and rehearsals that can sometimes feel like classes.Welcome back to Met High School! While one can feel part of the great faceless herd in this city there are people at the Met who are old friends now and that is a great comfort to me so far away from home. We even joke that there is a Canadian table in the cafeteria. No small feat considering there are singers from most every nation at any given moment. The cafeteria is definitely one of the most interesting places hidden away in the bowels of the building. It is one of Ian and Julian's favs and it isn't just the cookies, it is the people watching! Seeing well known singers, directors, conductors, stage hands, cleaning ladies all munching on their sprouts is rather entertaining by times.

I consider myself fortunate and grateful to have worked here for as many seasons as I have. Not only have I developed personally as an artist but I really feel,more than anything, that it has been an education for me as a teacher. Watching rehearsals and performances has been a school like no other.

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