Adventures in the Scream Trade: Scenes from an Operatic Life

Overview

Charles Long thrilled opera audiences for more than two decades, performing on some of America’s and the world’s most famous stages and singing alongside some of the medium’s greatest stars. Now retired, Long vividly recounts many of those experiences in this insightful, frank, and humorous memoir. Sparing no one, especially himself, from his acerbic wit and keen observations, he sheds a bright light into a world many of us respect and admire but few of us have ever encountered in such intimate detail. In the ...
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Adventures in the Scream Trade: Scenes from an Operatic Life

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Overview

Charles Long thrilled opera audiences for more than two decades, performing on some of America’s and the world’s most famous stages and singing alongside some of the medium’s greatest stars. Now retired, Long vividly recounts many of those experiences in this insightful, frank, and humorous memoir. Sparing no one, especially himself, from his acerbic wit and keen observations, he sheds a bright light into a world many of us respect and admire but few of us have ever encountered in such intimate detail. In the process he illustrates why the word opera, which means work in Italian, truly is a labor of love for so many who have given their all to their art.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Long's book surprised me by its earthiness and honesty . . . . He spares no one in his narrative, least of all himself. . . .  [His] tone is downright irreverent, but it's beautifully written and easy to read; even the musical terminology is transparent." —Tom Glenn, washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com

"A good title is no guarantee of a good book, but Charles Long's Adventures in the Scream Trade is an uncommonly candid and opinionated account of his life as a starring operatic baritone." —Mark Kanny, triblive.com

"Music fans of all genres will identify with his trials, tribulations, and successes in the scream trade. Any reader who has ever screamed due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune will take heart in knowing that in Charles Long they've found a fellow traveler." —Chip Etier, examiner.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780981477343
  • Publisher: Mountain Lake Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2012
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Long has lived an eclectic life. A professional musician and Equity actor before age 20, he became a leading baritone at New York City Opera by age 30, a symphony conductor by age 40, and a published writer by age 45. He also has taught voice, piano, and music history at the college level. He divides his time between the pristine forests of Washington State and the expansive deserts of Arizona.

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Read an Excerpt

Child Musician

Have you ever wondered why a person, against the admonitions of his parents, would decide to go into music as a career? It is often the case that American musicians arrive at their early musical experiences through a school or church affiliation—not at all unlike the early careers of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and countless others. So it was with me and most of my colleagues. I began as a woodwind player at age nine and continued with a variety of instruments until I auditioned for music school at eighteen, as both oboist and singer.

I remember the first time I held an instrument in my hands: a shiny black B-flat clarinet, a cylinder of lacquered wood with glittering, silver keys. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Nature had endowed me with an embouchure more appropriate for the woodwind instruments than for brass. Percussion didn't appeal to me, and, sadly, strings were not an option.

There were no string programs in the schools nearby or string players to teach them. Otherwise, I probably would have become a cellist. I went home with the clarinet and a method book. My instructor expected me to decipher the first few pages by myself, but I didn't have the slightest clue how to decode those cryptic symbols.

At the first rehearsal the other kids started to play, while I sat there looking bewildered. The instructor, a wonderful man named Clarence Ebner, asked me why I wasn't playing.

"I don't know how to read music," I answered timidly.

This brought a hail of laughter from the others. Feeling like a dunce, I determined this would not happen again. I decided then and there to dedicate myself to this strange language of music.

I moved from clarinet to alto, tenor, and baritone sax. Then came flute, bassoon, and finally oboe. In this instrument I discovered an infinite beauty and more than enough repertory to keep me engaged for the rest of my life.

My oboe studies began with my first in a series of Italian mentors. Steve Romanelli played with the Pittsburgh Symphony. He also taught at Duquesne University and owned a music store nearby. He gave me lessons in exchange for my help around the store. After school, I worked the front desk, answered the phone, sold instrumental paraphernalia, and scheduled lessons for the several teachers. This was my first one-on-one experience with people who actually made music for a living. And what an eye-opener it was.

All the guys who taught in Steve's studio were active in the music scene in Pittsburgh and part of an elite subculture of professional musicians that exists in and around every major city. The larger the city, the larger this community. Pittsburgh at the time had a symphony with a modest season, an opera company that mounted a few productions a year, a well-established summer-stock company, and various clubs and cabarets. Not much work, only enough for a handful of musicians. Thus, the pool of local professionals was small.

So there I was, learning my craft from these working artists. I was in heaven!

At fifteen, in a desire to round out my musical education, I began piano and voice lessons and participated in community plays and school musicals as both singer and conductor/arranger. As is true for so many people drawn to the arts, this was a way for me to stand out from the crowd.

Good thing; I was never much of a student. My scholastic record was a constant frustration to my highly academic parents, so these previously untapped artistic inclinations provided redemption from outcast status in a realm where grades and achievement were everything. Exhortations of "You better get good grades or you'll end up digging ditches!" rang in my ears. Only the music drowned them out.

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Table of Contents

Prelude to a Scream 11

Andante Con Moto
Child Musician 13
The Language of Music 15
The Power of Song 17
Music School, an Experiment in Frustration 23
Summer Stock 26

Cantabile
New York 29
La Voce 33
Il Padrone 37
Church Jobs 38
Baritone Buddy 41
Early New York City Opera 45
Hong Kong 46
Back on Track 52
Italian Restaurants 53

Allegro Con Brio
My First AGMA Contract 57
It's Only Rigoletto 59
Managements 64
Louise 68
San Francisco 70
Houston 78

Cadenza
Auditions: Being Your Own Judge 84
NYCO Encore 88
Menotti and Barber 90
The Spoleto Festivals 92
Holland 102

Accelerando
When Opportunities Knock 110
It's Always Rigoletto 115
Sing, Herman! Sing! 117
Mental Preparation 121
Amsterdam versus Kennedy Center 124
The Smell of the Greasepaint 129
Under the Gun 132
The Conductor, Il Primo Uomo 136

Molto Vivace
Study, Study, Study! 140
Riding the Crest 143
Relationships: A Rocky Road 146
Manon Lescaut in Tulsa 153
Los Angeles 160
Galvani and Cincy and Sills, Oh My! 163
The Pearl Fishers in Milwaukee 166
Pagliacci in Beautiful Miami 168
And I Puritani at NYCO 170

Pi'u Grave
The Glory of Victory, the Agony of Defeat 172
Postlude to a Scream: Perdition 178
Epilogue 180
The Road Taken 183
Postscript 185

GLOSSARY 186
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 192

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