The day of a show is full of decisions for mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich, important decisions like: Radicchio or porcini mushrooms? With sausage or without?
In her New York City apartment, Aldrich finds that making a pre-show risotto helps her to simultaneously take her mind off the performance at hand and get in the game. (What she cooks up before her performance as Romeo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi at Caramoor this weekend is still up in the air.)
And while Aldrich has made a name for herself singing characters with heated emotions and deep-seated conflicts—a 2007 performance as Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito in Prague is still seared into this reporter’s memory for its vehement pathos—offstage she’s surprisingly low-key. Becoming a mom nearly a year-and-a-half ago helped in that department, and now Aldrich’s show days are just as much about spending time with her daughter as they are about spending time with bel canto scores. Read on for how she strikes a balance between the two worlds in the latest edition of our Warm Up series.
Deep Sleep, Clear Mind
I have to absolutely have to have a good night’s sleep. That’s somewhere between nine and ten hours, ideally not more than ten because I can get a bit foggy-brained. I prefer to sleep in as late as I can, but since I’ve had a baby it’s become a bit more difficult to do that. But she’s a real sleeper! She’ll sleep as late as 9:30 sometimes. What I do is just try to go to bed by midnight, but I’m kind of a night owl so that’s hard for me.
I’m not a huge breakfast person, so I might nibble on something while giving my baby her breakfast. I have a large meal at 3:00 or 4:00. Until then, I’m just grazing. Coffee—coffee’s very important for me.
Before [motherhood] I was a lot more self-thinking and self-planning. Everything was leading up to my going to the theater. Nowadays it has to be a little bit divided, but I find that it works better for me. Sometimes you can get too focused and too concentrated too early for a show. And your concentration can get burned up if you get that geared up too soon. So since I’ve had a baby, the morning time is hers.
A Walk Worthwhile
I try to stay away from working out, that makes me too tired. Depending on the show, I’ll maybe do some stretching. But I like to get out of the house before getting into the whole stage mentality, so I’ll go take a walk with my baby or go to the park with her in the morning.
I really like to cook before a show; I think that’s my first routine gearing up towards curtain. I love to cook in general, so it’s sort of grounding for me. You have to concentrate on something else. You’re creating something and that in itself is satisfying. I used to make pasta—a lot of pasta—but I’ve actually found that I like either doing a risotto or an omelet with lots of different vegetables in it. With a risotto, I go between radicchio—maybe with sausage, maybe without—and porcini mushrooms.
I’ll do vocalises at home first — say a half hour before going to the theater — and then another warm up at the theater after hair and makeup.
In the Zone
I like to get to the theater pretty early. If I have a makeup call an hour-and-a-half before, I’ll go two-and-a-half hours before to be there, vocalize again, walk out on stage, check out the set, just sort of be in the space and get the concentration where it needs to be. I find if I get there too late I don’t have the time to really get grounded before the situation and then the nerves hang above me. It’s hard to get into the moment when I’m in that kind of situation. So I prefer to have plenty of time to sort of digest the situation and get calm and get into a Zen state. So when I go into makeup and do wigs, I can just concentrate on the role and the performance.
At the Gate
Usually what ends up happening, especially on an opening night, is that your makeup call is finished a half-hour or 45 minutes before. But that’s when everyone starts to get to the theater—your general managers, your agents, your friends—and everyone’s coming backstage to wish you good luck. It’s usually a hectic last 30 to 40 minutes. So usually there’s not a whole lot of time. But if I’m feeling like I’m vocally ready and we still have another 20 minutes, I’ll go out into the hallway and talk to my colleagues. As long as I feel ready, I can get social.
A Constant Duet
My husband is also a musician. Sometimes when I have a show he’s not with me, so we always check in: How’s it going? How’s it feeling? How’s your warm-up sounding? I don’t really like to talk to a lot of people on the day of the show, because you get all these questions: “How are you feeling?” And sometimes you don’t really want to go there—at least I don’t.
Intermission is almost always a costume change for me; there might be a makeup touch-up. But in operas like bel canto operas, usually in the pause you might want to look at cadenzas in duets. In Capuleti there are really no cadenzas in the second half. I like to do this, and most conductors do as well, to go over the cadenzas. They are not conducted, but they’re together, and if you’ve created a great duet and the cadenza doesn’t go well, it can sort of crash the moment.
Usually I have such a big meal before the show that I’m too excited to be thinking about food. But afterwards I love to go out, have something to eat, have something to drink. Usually a glass of red wine, sometimes a beer. It depends on the country.