I came home from Washington, D.C., yesterday afternoon to find an e-mail from Paul Moravec. It contained a Sibelius sound file and the following message: “La commedia è finita…for now!” The play is over is, of course, the last line of Pagliacci, and the file Paul sent me contained the last scene of The Letter.
Paul has been sending me hot-off-the-press chunks of this scene for the past couple of weeks, and I expected it to be wrapped up by the time I got back from Washington. Even so, I got goosebumps when I saw the title of his e-mail, and much bigger ones as I listened for the first time to the shockingly intense music to which he set the concluding pages of my libretto. I immediately called him in Princeton and left a message: “I just listened to it. Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW!” As soon as I hung up, I called Mrs. T in Connecticut to tell her that The Letter was finished. Then I took a deep breath and listened to the last five pages of the score three times in a row.
Needless to say, The Letter isn’t anywhere near finished. Paul and I still have to grapple with a long list of as-yet-unfixed fixes that we drew up after the workshop performances that took place two months ago. Once they’re done, we’ll send the vocal score off to the Santa Fe Opera. At the end of July, we’re both planning to spend a week in Santa Fe looking at this year’s productions, one of which will be staged by Jonathan Kent, who’ll be directing The Letter. We’re thinking that we may want to make a few more changes to the score and libretto once we’ve seen what Jonathan does with The Marriage of Figaro. Somewhere along the way, Paul will compose the orchestral interludes that separate the eight scenes of The Letter. Then, toward the end of the summer, we’ll send in the final revised version of the vocal score, which will be distributed to the members of the cast. At that point Paul will start orchestrating the opera, and I’ll put The Letter aside until next summer, when it goes into rehearsal in Santa Fe.
We’re not done, not by a long shot…and yet it feels as though we are. I started drafting the libretto in November of 2006, and Paul started writing the music last May. Ever since then we’ve been in constant touch, and though both of us have had many other things on our plates, The Letter has never been far from our minds. Now we can catch our breath–briefly.
How does it feel to have reached this point in the making of an opera? I can’t speak for Paul, but I feel more or less the way Nuke LaLoosh felt at the end of this scene in Bull Durham:
INT. THE DUGOUT
NUKE PUTS ON HIS WARMUP JACKET and sits down next to Crash Davis, who’s taking off his gear, readying to hit.
NUKE I was great, eh?
CRASH Your fastball was up and your curveball was hanging–in the Show they woulda ripped you.
NUKE Can’t you let me enjoy the moment?
CRASH The moment’s over.
Again, I don’t know about Paul, but I didn’t break open any Dom Perignon last night. Better than anyone, we know how much work we have left to do between now and July 25, 2009, and none of it is going to be easy. So yes, the moment’s over–but as long as I live, I’ll never forget how it felt to open that e-mail and listen for the first time to the last five pages of The Letter. You don’t get many moments like that in a lifetime.