Entries tagged “Peabody”

05.04.11

Don't be boring

The first one-on-one conversation I had with John Lehmeyer took place during a rehearsal break for an opera he was directing at Peabody; I was a lowly undergrad in the chorus. Out of the blue he turned to me and asked: “Mr. Rogers [always on a last-name basis!], you’re a very intelligent person, aren’t you?” I stammered something modest and a bit defensive, trying to think where this line of questioning was about to go. “Yes,” he continued, “I noticed that about you.” End of conversation; time to go back to rehearsal.

That was vintage Mr. Lehmeyer: courteous, intimate, and disarming in the space of two sentences. In my mind’s eye I can see him calling out blockings at a rehearsal or overseeing costume fittings in a dusty back room at A. T. Jones & Sons like an unusually plainspoken oracle — a big man with a forceful, ungentle voice and startling, clear, intelligent eyes. He died eight years ago this month, but even now he’s stage-directed me — at Peabody and at the late lamented Summer Opera Theatre Company — in more productions than any one other director. (I took several opportunities, during those productions, to prove him wrong about my intelligence.)

The biggest impression he left on me was the conviction that music and opera ought not to be boring. The typical Lehmeyer production was a riot of color and action (usually featuring as much cleavage as the cast could show), all staged with a masterful visual imagination that I envied. But even his darker, moodier productions crackled with tension; they were never boring. This principle may seem obvious or oversimplified to you, but to a young guy with a tendency to overthink things, it was an important and a hard lesson to learn. “Don’t be boring”: it’s as simple, and difficult, as that.

This blog is where I mean to practice not being boring.