Nearly five years ago, I made the difficult choice to leave behind my then 15 years of training and experience as a solo pianist, and embark on a master’s degree in Collaborative Piano. Little did I know then that the huge amount of work, responsibility, and study that degree and my subsequent apprenticeships demanded would culminate in my current profession as a coach/accompanist here at San Francisco Opera. In searching for the skill set that would make me an ideal candidate for an Adler position here (I must confess here that coming here to SFO was a longtime dream of mine), I was lucky enough to get my hands dirty in the rehearsal rooms, orchestra libraries, coaching studios, and orchestra pits of Virginia Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Washington National Opera, doing my best to learn as much as I could experientially about every cog in this Rube Goldberg machine we call opera!
So, what is it then that I do, exactly? My day-to-day work requires that I wear many hats, whether or not we’re in season. This summer, I was lucky enough to be a member of music staff for our stunning new production of The Magic Flute. This entailed everything from playing rehearsals from the piano, working privately or in small groups with our principals on things like diction and musical interpretation, or being a (small) part of the effort to polish and improve the new translation so as to make it maximally singable for our cast, as well as comprehensible to the public. There was even a day where Maestro MacDonald and our assistant conductor, Dennis Doubin were needed at an orchestra rehearsal, so it was left to me to conduct the likes of Nathan Gunn, Heidi Stober, Alek Shrader et. al. – think of it like the presidential order of succession!
Additionally, I had the great fortune and challenge of reliving my past days as an orchestral musician (I played bassoon for the better part of a decade) as Piano II in the Nixon in China orchestra. Other duties include coaching our intrepid Adler Fellow singers, both on audition repertoire and their assignments of cover and comprimario roles, acting as accompanist for singer auditions on the War Memorial stage, and performing/speaking at various development events, concerts, etc. [Right: Robert Mollicone accompanies fellow Adlers Marina Boudart Harris and Renée Rapier. Photo by Kristen Locken.]
In a day’s work, I may be called upon to sightread music for a singer’s audition from the piano, wave my hands in a Merola staging rehearsal, and work on French diction with an Adler preparing a new role. If variety is the spice of life, I’m reaching for the scotch bonnets, and wouldn’t have it any other way!