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  • Writer's picturekatherinelerner


Opening night. How incredible, strange, and sheerly, blazingly lucky to have actually made it to this point. I feel like I have been stumbling, hurtling down a rocky path, fleeing the invisible hunter. Last week, a star of the Don Carlo at the Bolshoi infected some of his cast. Closer to home, a 46 case cluster due to a Vienna production of the Merry Widow. Daily new cases in Austria this week are TEN TIMES what they were in late July. It's official; the second wave has fucking arrived.

I awoke to the news that RBG had died. California, where my dad lives, is still burning. I am missing my mom's hug and the heavy canopy of white-green hydrangeas that shelter her garden path. I am missing the curve of my sailboat-specked harbor and the briny smell of shells and seaweed on the shore. We have been cut off from our families for a vast and indefinite period of time. Travelers from America continue to be banned. At home, our country's comity and democracy are threadbare or hurtling towards nonexistence. I don't know what has been harder psychologically -- the loss of personal freedoms or the loss of my sense of safety and security. 2020 is weighing heavily on me, and this month was particularly crushing for our little family. And so I mourn for tragedies both large and small; I grieve for losses both public and private. I grieve for the spring I envisioned (so clearly!) that will no longer be. A collection of bulbs wait forlornly on my window sill --snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, tulips, muscari, but I can no longer bring myself to plant them. I grieve for the loss of dreams and plans and the hand I will never hold.

And yet, how funny, that in all of this, that having this role, this dark, dark role to throw myself into has been such a bright light in a seemingly endless night. Over the past 1.5 years something that has eluded me my entire professional life, a quiet sense of mastery and a confidence in my artistic worth, has finally developed within me. I will continue be unrelentingly hard on myself for every mistake and flaw I make, I will always be eagerly seeking ways to improve --this will never change-- but at a base level, I have found a self-belief that undergirds and supports me in every new artistic challenge I encounter. Having this new project on which to focus has allowed me to trudge on, has given me a small measure of hope, a vessel with which to pour my grief into, and an affirmation in something positive. I am not modern-music-averse, but I may be a bit of a modern-music-curmudgeon. I still have the unfortunate tendency to reflexively recoil from a lot of contemporary music because of huge amount of work and time it demands. If someone had asked to pick out a role for myself I would never had picked this. In short, because I didn't even know that it existed. I feel amazingly grateful that the artistic administration here in Linz saw something I could not, that they had this vision for and trust in me, and that I was given this incredible opportunity. I am in awe at the amount of care and thought and painstaking detail that's been put into this production and it's been immensely rewarding to work on something so unrelenting and intense and raw. I am marveling, in real time, in the supposedly staid world of opera, at finding something so new and fresh and horizon-expanding.

And so, here I stand, blood-spattered and bewigged, minutes before curtain. I am both excited and grateful and am anxiously waiting for the tide to swallow me. A big thank you to the amazing stage and production team and all my wonderful colleagues. I still have a voice, I still have art, however fragilely it all hangs in the balance, and I'm not taking this at all for granted.

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