There’s a great 30 Rock episode where Kenneth joins Jenna and Kelsey Grammer, of all people, in a con job syndicate called the Best Friends Gang. After cheating a Carvel Ice Cream Cake store out of hundreds of dollars, Kenneth is in too deep and suggests a “long con.” Grammer responds by trying to grift Kenneth out of fifty bucks.
This is the best way I can explain my experience of being an opera composer on the push to develop new projects. I’ve written about the long game before (seriously, compared to the development of an opera project, tectonic shift seems rushed), but the deeper I get into it – and keep in mind that it’s only been about four years since I went Pro – the more I’m drawn away from the fifty buck grift, and embrace the “get hired as a pool boy and get the rich heiress to fall in love with you so she’ll secretly write you into her will without telling her adult children” long con.
The pitch meeting was, as I put it in the last post, just another audition – I wasn’t expecting to walk out of that room with a commission; I was going to put it down, and see if they’d pick it up. But as I’ve said before – and where composer “auditions” differ from other auditions – the purpose of this interaction was to secure the possibility of further interaction. I met with the general director and the conductor, with the conductor’s assistant looking on. My pitches were fine – I stumbled where I had stumbled in practice and stumbled in some new places, but kept my head and tried to focus on not sweating. My visual materials were well received and I got to draw attention to the page I had set up for the pieces I was pitching.
We talked about co-commission possibilities (wasn’t expecting that), my flexible casting and orchestration options (which have become a signature piece of my opera pitches) and it was reinforced that the conductor is really supportive of my work, which I will take any day of the week. And that was it. The meeting, which lasted maybe fifteen minutes, ended how I wanted it to – with a chance to revisit after the summer.
I think I’m a finalist for the pool boy job.
Two months ago, this meeting wasn’t even in the cards. It took a lot of my emotional and creative energy, and today feels like a mix between the release of a pressure valve and post-show blues. I’m glad I can move on to other things that got pushed to the side while preparing for this meeting, but I know I’ll start preparing for a follow up after the summer, so, you know, the hustle never ends.
A little more than a year ago, I was in Fort Worth for the Frontiers Showcase. In preparation for that, I wrote about The Brand – “I am becoming a better opera composer.” The chess match of the long con demands something more concrete and driven. Simply put, if this will go in the directions that I want it to go, I have to acknowledge that big things could be coming at me, and I will be prepared for them.