Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1999
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APRIL 1999



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"Making Angels"
Author's Notebook
By Dale Keiger

For years, I've harbored the idea of writing a book about the making of a Broadway show. I'd begin with the composer--Stephen Sondheim in my rosiest fantasy--and narrate how he wrote the score and libretto, from the first mark on paper to the final double bar. Then I'd follow the casting, the financing, the set and costume design, the rehearsals, the marketing... all the way to opening curtain and first-night reviews in the New York papers. The whole thing, in my imagination, would be a long and engaging examination of the creative process. My working title is concise: Show.

When I heard last October that Peabody Opera Theatre had just begun rehearsing a new, full-length opera, I jumped at the chance to write a shorter version of my Broadway book. The casting had already taken place, but I started sitting in on vocal coaching and the first rehearsals. The librettist and director, Roger Brunyate, and the composer, Mark Weiser, retraced seven years of creative collaboration for me, and the singers patiently tolerated my constant watchfulness and eavesdropping. By January, I was hanging around so much one of the tenors warned me that I couldn't get sick because I was now the understudy for about five roles.

I ended up with a 20,000-word journal and a serious case of post-partum blues when the opera completed its four-day run at the end of February. The director graciously listed me in the opera's program as "chronicler," and were that an actual job, I wouldn't mind doing it for a few years.

The cast invited me to their party after the final performance. After a number of people were toasted by the singers, Brendan Cooke, the tenor who earlier had ribbed me about being an understudy, looked at me and announced, "Starting Monday, 20 singers are gonna follow you around for four months, and we're gonna write an opera about your job." A work, I assured him, that would drag badly in the second act.