Living La Vida 'Lorca'
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If Stockhammer is anxious, the young musicians and
singers would never know it. During rehearsals he wears a Buddha-like
smile and seems possessed of a preternatural calm. Orchestra rehearsals
are in Schoenberg, in a high-ceilinged room with a tiered floor
and big acoustic tiles on the walls. The string instruments are
to Stockhammer’s left, the winds to his right. There are drums,
tam-tams and a xylophone in back, and a big, shiny tuba behind the
clarinets. Stockhammer perches on a stool, his left leg outstretched,
right knee bent, a baton in his right hand. The score is on a stand
in front of him. Krouse’s music is rhythmically complex so
the pages are heavy with notes. Stockhammer cautions the musicians
to avoid the temptation to “play with gusto” this first
time around. “Stay as relaxed as possible and listen more
than you normally would,” he says.
Stockhammer does not push but coaxes. On one afternoon,
León and Dastoor are practicing the love duet, along with
Kalil Wilson, 23, with whom León shares the role of Leonardo.
León’s singing is achingly beautiful, which for Stockhammer
is a problem. He wants less beauty and more grit.
“You do that aria very nicely,” Stockhammer
says softly. “What you can add to that is a little more poison.”
“Poison,” León repeats, narrowing
his eyes and nodding his head slightly.
“Yes. It’s an ugly, ugly moment. Maybe
you could make it a little more ugly.”
“A little more ugly,” León repeats.
ON A WARM AFTERNOON, the singers meet in Schoenberg
Hall for rehearsal. The girls wear spaghetti-strap tops, jeans and
flip-flops. One sings “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies
as she settles into her chair on stage. “OK, folks. We’re
going to start with Act II, Scene III,” says Daniel Cummings,
the assistant conductor, raising his baton to signal the rehearsal
pianist, Myhang Thi Huynh.
Krouse slides into a seat about 10 rows back to watch. There are
about two dozen students rehearsing, but the stage this afternoon
belongs to Chy. The singer’s casting as Yerma, who yearns
for a child in her womb, was inspired. When she sings, motherhood
“just radiates from her,” says Lands, the accompanist.
At the time she auditioned for the UCLA opera program, Chy was hugely
pregnant with her son, Elliot, now age 2.
“The only thing that fit her was her Korean national costume,”
Gondek recalls. “So she came in wearing this gorgeous, silk
sort of kimono, and she looked like a million bucks. She opened
her mouth and out came this beautiful sound, and we said, ‘Ooh,
we gotta have her.’ ”